Commercial Hotel (Former)

35 Sunderland Street, Clyde

  • Commercial Hotel (Former).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand.
  • Commercial Hotel (Former). Image courtesy of
    Copyright: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 20/02/2013.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2369 Date Entered 24th June 2005


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the land in certificate of title OT18C/415 and the building, fixtures and fittings thereon. See Plan in Appendix 4 of registration report.

City/District Council

Central Otago District


Otago Region

Legal description

Secs 1, 2, 3, 4, 61 and 62 Blk XXVI (CT OT18C/415), Otago Land District


The former Commercial Hotel (1903) stands on the corner of Naylor Street and Sunderland Street, in the small Otago town of Clyde. It is a square-fronted two-storied stone building, "U" shaped in plan with a hipped corrugated iron roof. Its façade is faceted at the Naylor/Sunderland Street corner, with a door in the angled wall, and a small balcony above. The building replaced an earlier hotel which traded from this prominent corner site. Shortly after the new building opened it was gutted by fire, and the interior was rebuilt. The Commercial Hotel had many leasees in its century of operation. In 2006 it continues to operate as a hotel, trading as the Dunstan Hotel.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Socially and historically, as the histories written by Gilkison and Veitch, for example, demonstrate, the Commercial Hotel played an important social role in Clyde's early years. It was the focus of entertainment by nineteenth century celebrity entertainers the Buckinghams, who included the well known Bully Hayes amongst their group at Christmas 1862, and it supplied a meeting place for miners who lived an isolated existence on distant parts of the gold fields. Hotels like this one were also important for providing accommodation and meals to nineteenth century travellers, who required shelter during long slow journeys to and from Central Otago.

The site of the present building has archaeological values associated with the first European settlement of Clyde in 1862. Although this was constructed in 1903, it was built on the same site as the first hotel on this corner, dating to 1862. Both Gilkison and Veitch repeat stories associated with the first year of this hotel.

Architecturally the building demonstrates a simple vernacular style common in Central Otago towns of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, using local stone schist. While this is a simple square-fronted structure, it is architecturally imposing, built to sit squarely on a prominent corner of Clyde's main street. It was built by local craftsmen well known for their skills, Thomas Wilkison, Albert Fountain and John Holloway, who all worked on a number of other buildings in Clyde and elsewhere in Central Otago.

(a) The former Commercial Hotel reflects important aspects of New Zealand's history. It is a building that was constructed as an integral part of the infrastructure of an early Central Otago town, associated with all the phases of gold mining in the province.

(e) The local community hold their historic buildings, including the Commercial Hotel, in great esteem, it is included in a locally-produced pamphlet outlining the important local attractions.

(k) This building, situated on the prominent corner of the main street, is one of the more outstanding of these. The Commercial Hotel forms an integral part of the wider historical and cultural landscape of the town of Clyde and is built on a site that has been continuously occupied by a hotel since 1862, associated with the earliest development of the town. The central architectural fabric of the early town remains intact, especially in the main street, Sunderland St. The Commercial Hotel forms an integrally important part of this historical fabric, standing on its central corner location. The use of schist construction material provides a significant linking feature with other historic buildings in the town and throughout the province of Central Otago. This is particularly evident with other buildings in the main street. The former Commercial and neighbouring Dunstan Hotels, built of the same material and of a similar design, together form a significant feature of the cultural landscape of the street, standing above their single-storied neighbours and blending into the surrounding rocky background of the town.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Wilkinson, Thomas

Thomas Wilkinson the stonemason lived at St. Bathans and had worked on the restoration of Edinburgh Cathedral before coming to New Zealand in search of gold.

Holloway, John


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The history of the town of Clyde (known also as Dunstan and Hartley's in its early years) is intrinsically linked with the history of the discovery and mining of gold in Central Otago. Gold mining began in Central Otago with Gabriel Read's discovery of gold in Gabriel's Gully, near present-day Lawrence, in 1861. The following year Hartley and Reilly left this gully and travelled further into Central Otago. They spent the winter prospecting in the now-flooded Clutha Gorge between present day Clyde and Cromwell, finding enough gold in the area to travel back to Dunedin and lodge 87 pounds with the Gold Receiver.

The 1862 discovery precipitated a rush to the area. A ragged canvas town quickly sprang up, and by December of that year between six and seven thousand miners and settlers occupied Clyde and the surrounding areas. Sunday afternoons would see up to 4000 men congregate in the town. At Christmas 1862, 320 people sat down to dinner at one of the "innumerable" hotels. While Clyde was itself the centre of mining activity in 1862, as gold was quickly discovered in other parts of Central Otago such as Arrowtown and Queenstown it was also the source of supplies for those travelling on to other areas. By the late 1860s photographs show a row of single-storied wooden buildings running cheek-by-jowl along the main street, now known as Sunderland St, hotels prominent amongst them.

The site of the former Commercial Hotel is associated with the first canvas town days of Clyde, when a canvas structure by the name of United States Hotel Saloon (according to Gilkison ), or Hotel United States (according to Veitch ) was standing by the end of 1862. Secondary sources report that in 1868 a Mr Cox built the Port Phillip Hotel, a single-storied weatherboard structure, on the site of the Hotel United States. Land Information New Zealand records confirm that in January 1872 John Cox, hotel keeper, received a Crown Grant of 3.3 poles, the site of his Port Phillip Hotel. In June 1893 ownership of the hotel was transferred from John Cox to William Allan, a blacksmith. An undated nineteenth century photograph of the Port Phillip hotel held in the Hocken Library is captioned "This hotel was built by Mr. Cox and was later taken over by his son-in-law, Allen. It was built on the site upon which the Commercial Hotel now stands." Allen does not appear to have run the hotel as he leased it for a term of four years from 1893, and sold it in 1898 to Henry Hart. In 1904 Hart leased the hotel to William Pitches for three years, but only two years later Pitches transferred the lease. These transactions are interesting as Veitch reports that early in 1903 the Port Phillip was destroyed by fire, "but Pitches immediately engaged a St. Bathan's builder and contractor, Thomas Wilkinson, and the new hotel was soon underway." Stonemason John Holloway, who built many of the structures in Clyde, also worked on the building.

According to Veitch the new hotel was completed and re-opened as the Commercial Hotel on 21 December 1903 but had a very short life as only three days later, on Christmas eve, the interior "was completely gutted by fire." As the economy at the time was buoyant, Pitches decided to rebuild the interior, engaging the same workmen as before, who also worked on the neighbouring Dunstan Hotel.. The stone exterior was not damaged. It appears that Pitches may have built the stone structure prior to his lease actually being recorded in land title deeds.

Photographs taken after the turn of the century from the hill above the town show a different streetscape following the construction of the stone two-storied Dunstan and Commercial Hotels in the main street. While a number of early stone structures still survive, these two buildings stand out above the other single storied buildings, and the town has taken on a more substantial appearance.

Henry Hart continued to own the hotel until 1934, although there were many changes of leasees in this time. Other transfers of the property as well as leases have continued through to the present. In 2006 the property continues to trade as a hotel..

Physical Description

The Commercial Hotel stands on the corner of Naylor Street and Sunderland Street, Clyde's main street. It is a square-fronted two-storied building. It is a "U" shaped plan with a hipped corrugated iron roof. Its façade is faceted at the Naylor/Sunderland Street corner, with a door in the angled wall, and a small balcony above. Its main entrance is now on Sunderland Street. There is a further doorway on Naylor Street.

In the 1960s, under the ownership of Bill Annan, the Commercial Hotel expanded into the neighbouring Bell's Bakery and Biscuit Factory. The bakery was demolished and "a very spacious and up-to-date" lounge bar was erected in its place. Other renovations of the 1903 structure were also carried out at this time, although the original entrance and impressive staircase still remain.

Several doors along Sunderland St. another similar impressive two-storied hotel building, the former Dunstan Hotel (now Dunstan House) can be seen. Both the buildings are constructed from the same local schist and were built by the same craftsmen. Other buildings in Sunderland Street still stand from its early days as a frontier town and retain the character that can be seen in 1860s photographs. While some of these buildings leave sufficient space between them for alley ways to the rear, access to the back of the buildings is provided by Miners' Lane, running along the back of Sunderland Street above the Clutha River.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1903 -

Construction Details

Schist with corrugated iron roof, timber joinery

Completion Date

22nd June 2006

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Clyde Promotion Group

Clyde Promotion Group, n.d. Walk Around our Historic Town Clyde (updated version of Sullivan n.d.). In NZHPT Clyde general file.

Gilkison, 1978

R. Gilkison, Early Days in Central Otago Whitcoulls, Christchurch, 1978

McCraw, 2003

J. McCraw, Gold on the Dunstan, Square One Press, Dunedin, 2003

Sullivan, nd

F. Sullivan, An Historic Town set in the heart of Central Otago's Goldfields Park (Guide to Clyde buildings), nd.

Veitch, 1976

B. Veitch, Clyde on the Dunstan, John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1976

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Otago/Southland Area office

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.