Commercial Building

26 Esk Street, Invercargill

  • Commercial Building.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 29/09/2013.
  • Commercial Building.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 29/09/2013.
  • Commercial Building. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Natalia Volna - itravelNZ®. Taken By: itravelNZ®. Date: 4/12/2011.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2469 Date Entered 24th November 1983


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lots 1-2 DP 3266 (CT SL147/100), Otago Land District, and Commercial Building, thereon.

City/District Council

Invercargill City


Southland Region

Legal description

Lots 1-2 DP 3266 (CT SL147/100), Southland Land District


This two-storey commercial building, designed by Invercargill architect E.R. Wilson and completed in 1905, was built for general merchants Matheson and Co. with a shop front, offices on the first floor (including that of Wilson himself), and a large store at the rear associated with Mathesons adjacent Dee Street shop. The building has historical, architectural and aesthetic significance.

Matheson and Co. were general merchants who operated stores in Invercargill and the wider Southland district. The business was founded in 1863 under the style of Matheson and Cameron. Farquhar and John Matheson conducted the business from 1895. Mackenzie and Wilson tendered for the ‘erection of business premises, offices, etc, in Esk Street, for Messrs Matheson and Co.’ Invercargill builder Malcolm Robertson won the tender.

Wilson’s handsome new building replaced what had been a ‘decrepit and unsightly building used as a fish shop.’ It is a two-storey building with Classical Victorian façade. It has three pairs of round-headed windows, divided by engaged pilasters which support a triangular pediment. The building covered 165 by 34 ft [50.1 by10.4 metres], the whole of the available site. The front part of the ground floor was occupied (and designed especially for) hairdressers and tobacconists Messrs Double Bros. The upstairs was offices for architects McKenzie and Wilson, and solicitor C.S. Longuet. The back portion of the building was a ‘spacious store’ for building owners and grocers Messrs Matheson. The opulence of the ground floor salon was such that it merited a detailed description in the Southland Times. A stair led to the generous first floor hall (notable for the use of native timbers). One the left hand side of the landing was McKenzie and Wilson’s suite of offices – with three rooms: a draughting room, an office for Wilson (including a strongroom) and a contractor’s room, in which architectural drawings could be examined. Across the hall was Longuet’s office and private rooms.

The rear of the building housed Messrs Matheson and Co.’s ‘large storeroom.’ The storeroom had a ‘light steel trussed roof’ with a 34 foot [10.4 metre] span. The greater part of the ground floor was covered by a’a staging of a convenient height for the unloading and loading of drays. Beneath the staging is a basement for the accommodation of empty cases of goods, close at hand is a packing room, where stores are prepared for sending out to customers.’ The store was connected to Matheson’s main premises on Dee Street. The Southland Times described how the ‘street frontage of the building is finished with a glass and iron verandah of light and artistic design, similar to that in front of the Dee street shop.’ ‘The building as a whole serves as an indication of the stage of development that the town has reached.’

E.R. Wilson had his offices in the building until the 1930s. For many years it was home to a succession of hairdressers or beauticians. In 1940s the property was purchased by Bruce Woollen and Manufacturing Company and housed their retail premises. Goodall and Sons, footwear specialists were another significant long term owner. Goodall’s was a family footwear business, begun in Winton in 1910, before setting up an Invercargill branch.

In 2017, it remains a significant element in the streetscape.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Wilson, E R

Edmund Wilson was born in Invercargill, the son of Henry Fitz Wilson, a merchant and Dorothy Eleanor Richardson. The Wilson family was prominent in Invercargill: Henry Wilson was chairman of the Hospital Board, the Bluff Harbour Board and the Invercargill Savings Bank. He was a warden and choir member of St John's Church. Edmund Wilson served a seven-year apprenticeship with the local firm of McKenzie and Gilbertson. He may also have served some time with noted Wellington architect Frederick de Jersey Clere. In 1902 he married Elizabeth Alice Mary Dickinson. They had three sons and two daughters.

Amongst Wilson's commissions in Invercargill were the Town Hall and Civic Theatre (1906), St Catherine's Girls' College, the fire station, and various retail stores. He designed many churches, both in Southland and elsewhere. These included St John's Anglican Church, Invercargill (1913), St Mary's, Merivale (1927), St Andrew's in Southbridge, Mid-Canterbury, and St Michael's, Kelburn, Wellington (1920). He designed town halls in Otautau and Bluff. Kew Hospital, which came near the end of his career, was among his most important commissions. Edmund Wilson was also a vestryman, lay reader and choir member of St John's. Two of his brothers were Anglican clergymen. Wilson was a President of the New Zealand Institute of Architects. Wilson died on 13 October 1941 and was buried in St John's Cemetery, Waikiwi, Invercargill. His wife, Elizabeth, died in 1955. Wilson's practice was inherited by Baxter Hesselin McDowell, now McDowell Architects, who retain his original plans.

Malcolm Robertson

Malcolm Robertson was a British-born building contractor who moved to New Zealand in 1862. He was involved with domestic and commercial work. Major projects included J.H. Kirk and Co.’s premises on Don Street, Southland Girl’s High School and the commercial building at 26 Esk Street.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1905 -

Completion Date

19th September 2017

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Southland Times

Southland Times

Southland Times, 29 Jan 1906

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 Office of Heritage New Zealand.