Dominion Hotel

334-336 Stafford Street, Timaru

  • Dominion Hotel. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: 68bones - Graeme Partridge. Taken By: Graeme Partridge. Date: 6/04/2010.
  • Dominion Hotel. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: PhilBee NZ (Phil Braithwaite). Taken By: PhilBee NZ (Phil Braithwaite). Date: 6/04/2012.
  • Dominion Hotel. February 1993. Original image submitted at time of registration.
    Copyright: NZHPT Field Record Form Collection. Taken By: Pam Wilson.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2053 Date Entered 23rd June 1983


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Lots 136-137 DP 1 (CT CB727/40), Canterbury Land District, Canterbury Land District and the building known as the Dominion Hotel thereon.

City/District Council

Timaru District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Pt Lots 136-137 DP 1 (CT CB727/40), Canterbury Land District


The current Dominion Hotel opened in 1912, though a hotel has stood on the corner of Stafford and Sefton Streets in Timaru since the 1870s. It has local social and historical significance as a popular venue for entertainment and tourist accommodation and has aesthetic and architectural significance as a prominent contribution to the Stafford Street streetscape. The building has archaeological value as the site of a nineteenth century hotel.

The land on which the Dominion Hotel is situated was formerly part of Rural Section (RS) 730, granted by the Crown to George Rhodes and another, probably William Rhodes. In 1853 the Rhodes Brothers had RS 703, and adjoining RS 7555, surveyed as ‘Rhodes Town’ and subdivided sections were sold for commercial and residential occupation. The subject land was within lots 136 and 137 of RS 730, transferred to Charles Thompson in 1865. Thompson built a house on lot 137 by 1869 and had this extended in 1872. In April 1872 Thompson opened an accommodation house named Melville House and was granted a license for wine and beer in May 1873. Melville House was leased to Michael Mullen in 1876 and transferred to him in 1877. Mullen had the land area of Melville House subdivided from the balance of Lots 136 and 137 in 1881 which shows the footprint of the building on the Stafford Street boundary.

A photograph from around 1880 shows the first Melville Hotel from the rear. It was a large brick or stone two storey building with white stone detailing. The building featured square turrets on the southwest and northeast corners. In 1908 the property and license was transferred to John Reilly of Timaru. In 1912 Reilly ‘entirely remodelled’ the Melville Hotel and renamed it the Dominion Hotel. The redevelopment of the hotel was prompted by the improvements to the north end of Stafford Street and the formation of the Caroline Bay Association in 1911 to develop the bay as a tourist destination. Principal among their concerns was provision of high standard accommodation.

The extent of modification to the building is difficult to determine from the documentary record which reports the work as ranging from ‘remodelling’ to ‘completely rebuilt’. It is possible that the extent of work grew as the modifications progressed. In June 1912 bricklayers working on ‘additions’ to the building were injured in a scaffold collapse and in July the bar was relocated to alternative premises during the ‘extensive alterations’. By October 1912 the change of name was necessitated by the extent of alteration to the building which was described as a ‘new hotel’. At the time of the Dominion Hotel’s public opening in December 1912 it was described as ‘completely rebuilt and refurbished’. The current building may incorporate components of the earlier building such as external and internal walls or foundations.

The Dominion Hotel is a substantial brick building with three storeys and a basement. The modifications (or rebuilding) expanded the building with an additional storey and extended the building on the street frontage to the full width of the land parcel. The architects for the redevelopment were Lusk and Moriarty of Timaru. The prominent façade is the street frontage built in an ‘English Renaissance’ style in plastered brick with Oamaru stone detailing. The façade features a centrally-positioned recessed entrance and balcony on the two storeys above, flanked by two columns. The windows on the street façade were of the ‘latest casement’ type. Pediments at the northern and southern ends of the façade contain cartouches showing the date of the building’s construction (‘1912’) and the names ‘Dominion Hotel’ and ‘J Reilly’ are featured in relief below the cornice.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Lusk and Moriarty

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1872 -

Additional building added to site
1912 -
Original construction of second building or extensive modifications to pre-existing building

Completion Date

14th September 2016

Report Written By

Christine Whybrew

Information Sources

Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand

John Wilson. 'South Canterbury region - Timaru and its port', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 21-Sep-12, URL:, accessed 25 July 2016

Button, 2011

John Button, A Century of Carnivals: The Caroline Bay Story, Timaru: The Caroline Bay Association, 2011

Dawson, 1968

Timaru Centenary 1868-1968, Timaru: Christopher E. Dawson, 1968

Other Information

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Southern Region Office of Heritage New Zealand.