Following on from the previous article on the Royal Arcade, this image shows the exterior of a staircase in the arcade that is not well known. However in its day it was the public thoroughfare to a very popular place - the Arcade Cafe. The Arcade Cafe was on the top floor of the 1906 Priest and Holdgate extension, and designed by the architect J. S. Turnbull.
The cornerstone tenant for the new building was the Cafe, run by Mr Budd, who was expanding from smaller premises next door. The staircase was ascended after walking past the glass display cabinets of the large ground floor confectionary and cake shop, and the stairs opened out to a large dining room that could seat 120 people. Upstairs also contained an alcove for an orchestra, and a ladies’ dressing room and mens’ smoking and coffee room (as well as lavatory ’conveniences’). From the stamped steel ceiling to the linoleum floor with thick under-felt it boasted the most modern features. All new crockery and metalware was inscribed with “Timaru N.Z. Arcade Cafe”. The dining room had two fireplaces so that it could be partitioned into two rooms if required. And although there was a kitchen and scullery upstairs, most of the food preparation was done downstairs in the original premises.
The Arcade Cafe was opened almost 110 years ago on the 9th October 1906, with 400 people dining during the day and a large banquet that evening for the Builders’ Association Dinner.
However the Arcade Cafe has long gone, and the only people now who ascend the staircase with its outstanding art nouveau stained glass window are those who are going to the Bronz Beat Studio of Dance.
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