Another one of Timaru’s Heritage 2 listed gems is this building, The Atlas Chambers, tucked away on Beswick Street. It was originally erected by the Atlas Milling Company in 1910. Considered right at the cutting edge of construction when it was built, it featured fire-proof construction, the floors and partitions being of ferro-concrete. Light and ventilation were requested by the owners and the architects, Dunning and Black designed it with this in mind. The builder was a Mr P Foster, who had come to Timaru as a young child of 3 when his family emigrated to NZ from England.
The style of the building is the modern English renaissance architecture, it was faced with Oamaru stone and red brick. It is currently painted and I imagine that various owners over the years have had lots of fun choosing colour schemes. The facade of the building has large and neatly-planned windows, relieved with hood-moulds, prominent cornices, an effective centre gable, and small Ionic columns supported on an outstanding pediment and having carved ornaments nicely distributed all over and adding to its glamourous appearance. It was set back from the street front a little.
The chambers are entered through a porch and a flight of stone steps descends to the basement floor, which was intended for either a cafe or a restaurant, I understand that at one time it housed ‘The Austrian Café’. The other floors were designed to be used as Office space with the top floor being intended for use as an apartment or studio.
Originally the stairway was in the centre of the building and reputedly quite something, creating lots of local interest. It featured an artistic stair-case, set off by square-turned newels, and chastely finished handrails and bannisters in kauri and rimu. I’m not sure if it’s still there today but it must have been lovely in its time.
Beautifully maintained over the years, it’s a great find on your strolls and wanderings about town.
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