Courtenay Place is one of Wellington's oldest streets having been created by the 1855 Wairarapa earthquake, previously being part of the harbour with a canal running off it towards the Basin Reserve.
Over the years, the area developed as a major industrial hub with the first gasworks based where Chaffers New World is now, and other large businesses like Todd Motors and Stewart Timber, before it headed down a more retail orientated route at the turn of the 20th century.
Courtenay Chambers was designed by Llewellyn Williams, who was also responsible for much of Wellington’s skyline including the Embassy Theatre (formerly the De Lux Theatre), Kelvin Chambers on The Terrace, and the Inverleith apartments in Oriental Bay.
The building itself has been home to a number of interesting tenants with Martin’s Shoe Store occupying the ground floor from 1927 to the 1960s. During that period, the store had to make room for an emergency air raid shelter in 1942, with records stating that it was required to “adapt space in the ground floor where suitable, for persons living and working in the building”.
There’s a Council record of a W.N Marsden in 1946, who’s tenancy description includes dentistry and oddly enough, mechanic! It was also home to Ocean Commodities, a coat and frock maker, and the Time Out zone which was host to arcade games and Lazerstrike – in the days before high-tech home entertainment centres were more de rigueur!
Level five of the building saw the success of a wee dog called Hairy Maclary gain worldwide fame thanks to Mallinson Rendel Publishers Limited, and out back, Taki Rua and Depot theatres flourished in the Alpha Street section of the building.
Alex likes the Capital’s pockets of heritage buildings like in Courtenay Place, Thorndon, and Cuba Street, as he believes it keeps the areas appealing with clusters of similar styles – and 15 Courtenay Place contributes to that now, and in the future.
“The work we’ve done is a long term investment, and it’s good to give the old girl a bit of a makeover that should see at least another 150 years left in her.”