Monday, March 12, 2012

The Royal Arcade - Timaru

Town Improvements.
The Royal Arcade.
It is now some months since it was announced in these columns that the foundations for the pile of new buildings in the centre of Ross' Royal Arcade had been laid, and as the Arcade is most convenient to the public, everyone has had an opportunity of watching operations as they proceeded from day to day. Building has been briskly carried on, and it now remains for us to note the fact that the block at present is complete, and is one more substantial addition to the handsome business places in Timaru.

Turning in from the Main thoroughfare of the town, towards the Government buildings, the splendid warehouse occupied by Messrs Priest and Holdgate, towers above on the southern corner, and walking on to a neatly asphalted way the "long gallery lined with shops on both sides" is entered.

Coming to the new premises, and entering by the main doors, the visitor bent on seeing everything inside and out, is first of all conducted to the cellar. Suggestive word which at once makes one smack his lips at the prospect of receiving a glass of Speight's light sparkling XXX., or Ayala's "leading wine," but in this case such "refreshers" are wanting the cellar is to be merely used for documental and other storage. Rising in the centre of this cellar are the foundations of the strong room, sunk to the depth of 15 feet from the ground line, and built of solid bluestone masonry and concrete. Cross drains are cut and the drainage from above is led down to the sewer and is most complete.

Ascending to the ground floor, the large office in which the business of the Timaru Building Society, the Victoria Insurance Society, and other commercial and commission branches are carried on, is entered. The furnishings are all first class, the desks, tables, &c, being most conveniently arranged. The lighting of the arcade frontage is good, and the back wall is pierced with large lights, inside of which is fitted the customary vertical iron bars. The walls are plastered throughout, the deep cornice being especially handsome, relieved as it is in the interior bressummer by massive and beautifully carved cedar brackets.

Facing on this office is one of Howard's Safety strong rooms, the door of which is 5ft by 4ft. This room was specially designed by Mr Ross, and is exceptionally strong and fire proof. It is laced with bolts and T iron braces, the iron shelves being formed of heavy wrought iron plates from the ill-starred ship Benvenue, whose history is linked with that of the "fatal and memorable 14th May."

Three feet of concrete has been put in as a crown to this room, the unity of iron, bluestone and concrete, thus making a strong room, which is, in the absence so far of the crucial test, justly reckoned to be among the finest in the colony. Glancing aloft as this office is vacated it is seen that a Wenham lamp has been hung for use at night, this, like other equipments, being well in keeping with the whole.

Passing out to the entrance hall to the left of the main doors, Mr Ross' suite of offices is entered, wherein is conducted the Timaru agency of the Public Trust, Land Transfer, etc. The waiting room is small but compact, and a petite slip panel on the door indicates whether Mr Ross is engaged or disengaged. If the latter the visitor goes straight in, and finds himself in about as cosy a room as can well be imagined. The furniture is excellent, and complete and small private safes built into the strong room, are evidence that the various documents of an important business are kept in places of perfect safety. This office is also in touch with the public offices, by means of a large door in the strong room, a door in the partition walls being thus done away with. Like the other offices the ventilation and lighting are perfect.

Going out once more to the entrance hall, the staircase to the first floor is reached, and the information elicited that Mr Ferrier, the well-known photographic artist, has taken a lease of the southern flat. This comprises a spacious reception room, and a studio, 30 feet long by 21 feet wide. As to size it is among the best in Canterbury. The area of ground glass in the roof is 24 feet by 14 feet, and this glass is so laid on the rafters that leakage is impossible, each timber in the roof being so grooved as to effectually act as a drain if necessary.

Off the studio are a dressing and dark room, the former of which will be tastefully furnished, and the latter so arranged as to do excellent work. Near by are a work room, and a printing room, which are to be fitted with the most modern appliances that have made the art of photography so very popular in recent years. The printing room has a large special ceiling light, so that printing can be successfully done in all weathers.

Divided from the rooms just described, by the staircase, the well of which is by the bye remarkably well lit by a large skylight, are two other offices which complete the suite at the command of Messrs Ross, Sims and Co. One of these is to be used as a Board room by the directors of the Building Society, and other bodies with which the firm is associated. The room is comfortable and should answer its purpose admirably. Crossing the Arcade the shops on the southern frontage next claim attention. One is being specially fitted up for Mr Toshach, teacher of music, and should be most convenient the others are in a delightful state of chaos, and will not be out of the hands of the artisans for some days.

The buildings have a frontage on the Arcade of 43 feet, and run back a depth of 30 feet. The walls are of brick, with the exception of that to the offices, which are of bluestone, and two feet thick on the ground floor. A special feature of the buildings is that the whole of them are almost absolutely fireproof. It is Mr Ross' intention to have the Arcade arched with glass, and to have its name Royal Arcade prominently displayed. Possibly in the very near future other buildings will be erected, and as they will be in keeping with the present block, the Arcade will be something for Timaru to be most proud of.

Certain it is that more complete premises as regards structure, drainage, ventilation, lighting, etc, are not to be found in the colony. In concluding it is worthy of note that the buildings were planned and carried out under the personal supervision of Mr Ross, who has all along spared neither trouble, time nor expense.

The stone work was entrusted to Mr McBride the bricklaying to Mr Emil Hall the plastering to Messrs Oldrey and Guthrie the joiner's work to Messrs Tooth and Pearson the painting to Mr Murdoch; the plumbing to Mr Forbes, and the signwriting to Mr Dickenson, all of whom carried out, their duties in a manner that has given the greatest satisfaction.
Timaru Herald, Volume XLVI, Issue 4281, 6 July 1888, Page 4

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