Hall of Science (Former)

124-132 Dee Street, Invercargill

  • Hall of Science (Former), Invercargill.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 29/09/2013.
  • Hall of Science (Former), Invercargill.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 29/09/2013.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2453 Date Entered 24th November 1983

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Sec 14 Blk LXXII Town of Invercargill (CT SL103/118, SL103/119 and SL103/120), Southland Land District, and the building known as the Hall of Science (Former), thereon.

City/District Council

Invercargill City

Region

Southland Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 14 Blk LXXII Town of Invercargill (CT SL103/118, SL103/119 and SL103/120), Southland Land District

Summaryopen/close

Designed and built by self-proclaimed professor James Hanan in the late 1870s, this pair of Victorian buildings housed Hanan’s Temple of Science. Serving as shops, a public hall and in its early life a very Victorian educational foray into the wonders of science and the arts, these buildings have historical and architectural significance.

Ireland-born James Hanan (c.1820-1885) trained as a coach maker and painter, settled in Invercargill in 1863 where he established his own business. By the late 1870s, he was successful enough to design and build this pair of buildings to show case his enthusiasm for science, particularly geology and astronomy, and use his artistic talents to create a display of the planets and the solar system for public viewing, Hanan himself providing lectures on these topics. A self-taught enthusiast, Professor Hanan attracted public curiosity, and his Temple of Science was described in detail in contemporary newspapers. His efforts took a heavy blow in 1882 when fire swept through a block of Dee Street buildings, but Hanan rebuilt and continued his work. After his death in 1885, his wife took over the running of what became known as Hanan’s Hall, and later as Hanan’s buildings. Hanan’s obituary describes him as ‘an enthusiastic and well instructed votary of Science. He had a strong dash of genius, and his genius lay towards everything of a scientific nature’. He had a particular interest in astronomy and ‘never wearied of expatiating on the characteristics and movements of the heavenly bodies.’ His Temple of Science reflected his enthusiasms – ‘a quaint but vivid representation of astronomical and other objects.’

Hanan’s interest illustrates the Victorian enthusiasm for natural sciences, which had broad appeal, particularly to the middle classes. Amateur scholars amassed private collections and formed scientific societies. There was considerable coverage in contemporary newspapers about scientific topics. Hanan’s ‘Hall of Science’ displayed this wonder at its most idiosyncratic.

After Hanan’s death his wife Sarah ran the premises as a public hall, and it became known as Hanan’s Hall or more generally as Hanan’s Buildings. In later years Hanan’s Building housed book makers, barrister’s chambers, merchants and plumbers. Between the 1940s and 1960s the link with the Hanan family continued when dentist G. Ryland Hanan occupied rooms in the building.

The paired shopfronts, with their two and a half storey façade to Dee Street and their ornate veranda posts, make a notable contribution to the streetscape. The Hanan family retains ownership of the property which in 2018 is occupied by retailers and a gallery.

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Construction Professionalsopen/close

James Hanan

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

James Hanan

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1877 -

Reconstruction
1883 -
Rebuild after fire

Completion Date

22nd January 2018

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Southland Times

Southland Times

Southland Times, 6 May 1885, p. 3.

Bruce Herald

Bruce Herald

Bruce Herald, 17 May 1878, p. 7.

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 Otago/Southland Area Office of Heritage New Zealand