The Custom House of 1902 was given a significant location in Timaru – guarding the entry and exit to the port, and clearly intended to be a sentinel.
The architectural treatment using a combination of classical elements from ancient Greece and Rome makes a firm statement about the authority of the realm – the very name on the building HM Customs reinforced this point. Indeed there is a small encyclopaedia of classical motifs on display. The oversize doors and windows with tympana above add to the impact of the north columns supporting the high pediment.
Although ventilation grilles on the building clearly state D West Architect there has always been the suggestion that an architect from Oamaru or Dunedin may have been involved. Certainly the building fits the genre of neo-classical architecture so prominent in Oamaru. In general those buildings were the work of RA Lawson of Dunedin together with local architects Forrester & Lemon.
Having ceased to operate as a Customs office, the building was converted to a restaurant. That conversion took place before the enthusiastic Roberto Lombardi arrived in Timaru so keen to establish his Italian restaurant Casa Italia. No building could have been more appropriate. Roberto's energy and flair gave this building a genuine new life, presenting a compelling case for the preservation of character buildings in the city.
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