Historical Significance or Value
As the base of production for The Southland Times for over a century, the Southland Times Building has considerable historical importance and is notable in New Zealand for the longest ongoing relationship of a newspaper and the premises erected for it. The longevity of the Times, which was established in 1862, and the expansion of its building, is linked to the business consistently being at the forefront of newspaper production technological innovations beginning with the installation of a rotary press, the first outside of the main centres, at the completion of the Southland Times Building. Later, the Southland Times Building developed the first fully computerised newspaper production system in New Zealand, significant in the history of printing and publishing in New Zealand.
Architectural Significance or Value:
The Southland Times Building is a good representative example of an Edwardian Italianate commercial building with associated defining features, such as the bay and round-headed windows, and decorative aspects including pilasters, acanthus motifs, and plaster garlanding on the front façade. Italianate influence is an important tradition in New Zealand commercial architecture which was established in the closing decades of late nineteenth century. In the early twentieth century the scope of New Zealand architecture was broadening, and the Southland Times Building is significant because the steadfast use of Italianate features is indicative of the strength of this convention and its longevity.
Social Significance or Value:
Prior to the advent of radio and television, newspapers were the key sources of disseminating local, national, and international news and views, and as such, the Southland Times Building, as the home of the longest standing of Southland’s newspapers, has considerable regional importance. The newspaper was established with the purpose of being a forum for local people and as such it is intimately linked to the sense of identity of Invercargill and Southland. The output from the building is also indicative of social change in New Zealand due to technological advances, for example the cessation of the Times evening edition was indicative of the growing popularity of television, and the evening news broadcasts. This newspaper still maintains a substantial regional readership in its printed form, but it has also embraced the internet, and therefore as headquarters for this important local information dissemination sources, the Southland Times Building has social value.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
In the mid nineteenth century newspapers were the main source of news with their social importance being demonstrated by the fact that even relatively small settlements expected to have their own newspaper. Despite the growth of other media throughout the twentieth century, newspapers retain a key place in the everyday lives of New Zealanders. Therefore, the Southland Times Building, the legacy of one of the longest standing newspapers in New Zealand being established in 1862, has importance as indicative of these aspects in New Zealand’s history.
The progress of the company based in the Southland Times Building also contributes to its value as it is indicative of trends towards general commercial and media industry rationalisation and centralisation in New Zealand. This representative aspect was pronounced by the mid to late twentieth century and the Times was party to it, acquiring its main rival, then in turn being purchased by a larger national, and subsequently international, interest.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The nature of the business operated out of the Southland Times Building since its inception in 1908 has meant that for many generations of Southlanders the building has been associated with both major and minor local, national, and international events. This was especially the case prior to radio and television, when newspapers were the predominant source of news.
Closely associated with the Times, and its achievement of longevity, are the Gilmour family. Beginning with Robert Gilmour, the newspaper was developed to the point where they required larger premises built between 1907 and 1908. The Southland Times Building then became the headquarters for this newspaper and successive generations of Gilmours, who correspondingly hold a notable place in New Zealand newspaper history. In particular, Ian Gilmour is renowned for instigating the 1972 computerisation of newspaper production at the Southland Times Building, the first such system in New Zealand.
Many leading local, national, and international journalists also have an association with the Times and the Southland Times Building. These include R. J. Gilmour, Monte Holcroft, and Pulitzer Prize winner, Peter Arnett.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place
The Times has been an important mainstay source of news and views within Southland since 1862, and has been based in the Southland Times Building since 1908. Therefore, as well as being a considerable local employer, generations of local people have had an association with the Southland Times Building as the place where this newspaper continues to be produced.
Summary of Significance or Values
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, e.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.
Ancient stories tell the origins of southern Maori, with the waka of Aoraki becoming Te Wai Pounamu (the South Island), and its sternpost, Te Taurapa a Te Waka o Aoraki becoming Bluff Hill (also known as Motupohue). The Maui traditions are told in the south, with Maui arriving in his waka Maahunui, and pulling up the stone to be used as an anchor - Te Puka o Te Waka a Maui (Rakiura). Maui's achievements are recognised in place names in the south, including Omaui near Bluff, and Te Tapuwae o Maui and Te Rereka o Maui in Fiordland (Maui's footstep and Maui's leap).
Stories of the original explorers of the south are also told. The explorer Rakaihautu journeyed through the south with place names recalling his journey.
After Rakaihautu came the Takitimu waka with Tamatea Pokai Whenua. The waka was overcome by three waves O-te-wao, O-roko and O-kaka, coming to rest near the mouth of the Waiau (Waimeha). The three waves continued across the low lying lands and ended up as features of the landscape.
The early generations learnt about the land and its resources: stone sources were found, and stone (especially pounamu) became an important trading item. Kaika were established close to resources. Rights and resources and places were established, and traditions established which protected the manawhenua.
When traditions were written down Kati Mamoe and Kai Tahu dominate the history after Waitaha, with stories of war and peace, and intermarriage that spread through the south. In the early 1820s there was further fighting, with muskets first being used at this time, with major sieges in the more northern area of the South Island leading a retreat to the south. Ruapuke Island became the centre of leadership in the south, its isolation giving a measure of security. The final fight with the northern taua of Te Puoho and his followers at Tuturau in 1835-1836, where Te Puoho was defeated, saw the end of warfare in the region.
According to the Ngai Tahu Statutory acknowledgments in the settlement important villages along the south coast included: Te Wae Wae (Waiau), Taunoa (Orepuki), Kawakaputaputa (Wakapatu), Oraka (Colac bay), Aparima, Turangiteuaru, Awarua (Bluff), Te Whera, Toe Toe (mouth of the Mataura River) and Waikawa. Mokamoka (also known as Mokemoke or Mokomoko) was a settlement at the Invercargill estuary sustained by the rich resources found there. Tauranga waka occur up and down the coast linking land and sea trails with mahinga kai resources. Whaling boats plied the waters from the 1820s leading to changes in settlement patterns and resource use.
1853 saw the Murihiku purchase which left Maori south of the Waitaki (excluding the Otakou Block) with only 4,630 acres, the start of a long quest by southern Maori for justice questioning the legality of the purchase as well as the inadequacy of the land reserved.
Invercargill Township was laid out by chief surveyor John Turnbull Thomson in 1856, Thomson choosing the location for its centrality for both sea-based and land-based traffic, though the surrounding low lying swampy ground made the new settlement practically inaccessible. As with Dunedin further north, the development of the town was given an enormous boost with the gold rushes of the early 1860s.
The Establishment of the Southland Times
By the 1860s Invercargill’s population numbered around 1000, and continued to flourish reaching 2400 over the next 15 years, by which time Invercargill had overtaken Riverton as the main town in Southland. As elsewhere in the world, in mid to late nineteenth century New Zealand newspapers were an essential communication medium and the main source for dissemination of news and views locally, nationally and internationally. This demand was demonstrated in Southland, which despite its relatively meagre population featured a number of newspapers from early in its period of European settlement, although many did not last very long. It was not until 1861 with the first editions of The Southern News and Foveaux Straits’ Herald, later becoming the Southland Daily News that this demand began to be satisfied. Although Invercargill’s population was burgeoning at this point, it was not uncommon for communities of around 1000 to have one or two firmly established newspapers founded by or in the 1860s. Indeed, it has been said that although New Zealand’s ‘cultural topsoil was deficient in monographs, it was enriched by the newspaper printing press from the very beginnings of European settlement.’
Soon a rival to the News was founded in November 1862: The Invercargill Times shortly to become known as The Southland Times. This meant that Invercargill now had both morning publication and evening papers. The Times was set-up and run by editor G. C. Fitzgerald who was the brother J. E. Fitzgerald (1818-1896) the first Premier of New Zealand and founder of The Christchurch Press (1861), office manager C. H. Reynolds and printer John T. Downes. For the first few years these men operated the newspaper with only one staff reporter. The Times grew out of the opinion that Invercargill should have its own distinct voice, but the early continuance of the newspaper greatly relied on the generosity of its competitor, because when the Times’ building was burnt down on two separate occasions, the News allowed them to use their presses. It was following a brief respite in production in 1864 after the first fire that the newspaper was renamed The Southland Times for its 2 June 1864 edition.
Like the News, the Times officially became a daily newspaper in 1875 under the ownership of James Walker Bain (1841-1899). This followed the establishment of daily newspapers in the main centres of Dunedin, Auckland, and Wellington in the 1860s. Bain sold the newspaper in 1878 and in 1879 a share of the Southland Times Company was acquired by Robert Gilmour (c.1831-1902). It was around this time that the New Zealand Press Association was established and the Times was amongst the initial group of members. Gilmour, who was a talented journalist and manager, retained his share in the Times for only a brief period before buying into its competitor. However, he soon after sold that interest and returned to Scotland upon the death of his wife. He later returned to New Zealand and in 1896 Gilmour became the owner of the Times, commencing the long involvement of the Gilmour family in the newspaper.
The Southland Times Building
From its inception the Times had been based at various locations in the vicinity of Esk Street and in 1908 it moved into its large new Southland Times Building. On a site towards the Kelvin Street end of Esk Street, this grand building was the work of Dunedin-trained architect, Charles H Roberts (1869-1942). Roberts had established his Invercargill practice in 1895 and was responsible for a range of buildings in the area including the Waipahi Presbyterian Church (1896), the Y.M.C.A Hall (1896), Southland H. and C.A. Board Home (1898), Victoria Memorial Home in Tweed Street (1903), as well as the Royal Arcade between Tay and Esk Streets (1904). The builder of the Southland Times Building was A. Bain, and construction began in late 1907, being completed late the following year.
There were a variety of styles popularly in use for buildings the scale of the Southland Times Building at the time of its construction in the first decade of the twentieth century. For example, Edwardian Baroque buildings were being constructed in Invercargill, such as the Invercargill Town Hall and Civic Theatre (1905-06), and other examples also include Wellington’s Public Trust Building (1909). The civic and governmental characteristic of many Edwardian Baroque buildings may explain why the Italianate style, which is traditionally associated with commercial buildings, was preferred by the Southland Times Building’s architect, Charles H. Roberts. This style had been dominant in New Zealand’s commercial buildings, especially banks, from the late nineteenth century because of the associations that this style had with the grand residences of successful Renaissance merchants.
An example of a contemporary newspaper building is the Press Building (1907-1909) in Christchurch, a multi-storey building with Gothic features, perhaps inspired by its site opposite Christchurch Cathedral. The Chicago Style influenced the architects responsible for the Lyttelton Times Building (1902-04) in Christchurch. However, Roberts seems to have been perfectly comfortable using the Italianate architectural vocabulary and well established building construction methods, such as brick, and was not tempted to try innovative styles, like the Chicago Style, which at the time were just being introduced into New Zealand.
The need for the new, much larger, premises reflected the expansion of the newspaper. The newspaper’s press was upgraded from a flatbed to a rotary press, which allowed for greater speed in the printing process, and also meant the Times could become an eight page daily. This technology was still in use at the Times in the 1960s, but at the time of its first edition on 9 January 1909 it was the only newspaper outside of the four main centres which was using a rotary press. With this publication date, the Times narrowly pre-empted the first edition of the Christchurch Press from its new building on 2 February 1909, and therefore the Southland Times Building has the longest history of consecutive use by the newspaper which originally inhabited it, and which is still doing so today.
The early use of this press technology by the Times is evidence of the popularity of newspapers in the early twentieth century. The new technology facilitated further growth in the coming decades. Newspaper historian, G. H. Scholfield, states that: ‘…fast rotary printing machines enabled the stronger papers to increase their size and extend their circulation over the wider radius made available by improved transport.’ Indeed, soon after the move into the Southland Times Building the development of the business meant that it was necessary for it to become a limited liability company.
The more than a century old competition between the News and the Times only ceased when the Times purchased its counterpart in 1967, with the News publishing its last edition in the subsequent year. The Times also inherited ‘iconic Southland journalists,’ including Fred Miller (1904-1996), who was famous for the witty verse he wrote in every edition of the News, and then the Times, between 1945 and 1976. The Times continued the separate tradition established between it and the News, producing both a morning and evening edition. However, by the 1970s the increase in viewership of the evening television news meant that the evening edition’s circulation dropped to the point where it was uneconomic to continue.
From 1972 the Times again underwent a series of innovative modernisation measures under Ian Gilmour (1927-1994), the grandson of Robert, who had become one of the newspaper’s managing directors in 1964. This programme effectively brought the newspaper into the computer age and Gilmour’s ‘commitment to the new technology was years ahead of his contemporaries.’ Indeed, the installation of digital computers, software, and phototypesetters meant that the Times ran ‘New Zealand’s first fully-computerised newspaper production system’, a significant moment in the history of New Zealand publishing.
The changes at the newspaper continued with the construction of a new building to the east side of the existing Southland Times Building in 1981. This building was designed by L. F. Simpson and expanded the available office space, as well as created a new press hall. A Goss Urbanite offset press was bought for the new building, costing $2.2 million, and installed in 1982. At the time this was the largest offset press in New Zealand, and greatly increased the Times’ print-run capacity, as well as giving it full-colour capability. These two buildings were connected with a two storey glass roofed structure in 1986.
This building and modernisation programme was substantially completed by 1984 when the newspaper was sold to Independent Newspapers Limited (INL). The gradual consolidation of New Zealand’s newspapers into the ownership of a few companies began after World War Two. Indeed the Times merger with the News was symptomatic of this trend. Under INL several free weekly community newspapers were developed which are still printed at the Southland Times Building, including The Mirror and Newslink distributed in Central Otago and the area from Balclutha through to Edendale, respectively. The newspaper seems to have gone from strength to strength in this period because in the 1990s the Southland Times Building’s PABX was described by its service provider as ‘the busiest telephone exchange in Southland.’
Gilmour stayed on as a local director of the Times until his death in 1994, which was also the end of the family’s 115 years of unbroken involvement in the newspaper. Later, INL, with its group of publications which included the Times, was sold to the Australian media empire, John Fairfax Holdings, in 2003. The newspaper remained a standout performer during this period because, while most other newspapers lost revenue and circulation dropped in the face of internet competition, the Times actually increased its sales. The Times has also continued to be one of the area’s largest employers and can boast a readership which encompasses 75 per cent of all Southlanders 15 years old and over.
The nature of the newspaper business has meant that the Times has been associated with many events through its reporting of them. One of the biggest stories to appear the newspaper was coverage of the 1881 sinking of the SS Tararua off of the coast. This tragic event caused the deaths of 131 people, and was described as ‘the most terrible maritime disaster this colony has known…’ because of the ‘appalling loss of life.’ Into the twentieth century the newspaper reported on key events such as royal tours, floods, and wars. In the pre-radio period, the public relied heavily on newspaper coverage of the events in Europe during World War One. At the Times the difficult task of interpreting events on the other side of the world during this period fell to R. J. Gilmour (c.1876-1954). Described as ‘probably the finest journalist Southland has produced,’ the quality of Gilmour’s coverage and his intelligent comment is said to have been widely acknowledged, even outside of Southland.
Indeed, the Times has a strong journalistic tradition. Among the prominent journalists who gained experience working for the newspaper are: Monte Holcroft (1902-1993), who served as editor from 1936 before moving onto become the editor of the New Zealand Listener for 18 years; Tom Butson, later the owner of New York’s The Villager and responsible for turning that publication into an award-winner; and Peter Arnett (b.1934), who went on to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1966 for his coverage of the Vietnam War.
In 2011 the Southland Times Building remains the base for the production and staff of the Southland Times.
The Southland Times Building is located at the east end of the Invercargill central business district block defined by Esk, Kelvin, Tay, and Dee Streets. For approximately half of its history since 1908, this three storey main building was among the largest and tallest buildings within this area characterised by two storey commercial and retail buildings. However, since the mid twentieth century it has been in the shadow its neighbour, the Kelvin Hotel, on the corner of Kelvin and Esk Streets.
There have been several periods of construction at the Southland Times Building: the original building was constructed between 1907 and 1908, an addition was made to the rear in the 1950s, and buildings were constructed alongside the main building in the 1980s. Each of these phases also saw periods of change throughout the existing buildings, and generally included major interior refurbishments, and minor interior alterations. Therefore, there are very few remnants of the original layout in the interior of the main building.
The original and main part of the Southland Times Building consists of the structure which was built between 1907 and 1908. Constructed primarily from brick, the building represents a conservative form of Edwardian architecture which was a continuance of Victorian Italianate commercial architecture. This is expressed in the front façade of the building, particularly in its symmetry and plaster decorative features. The only exception to this symmetry is the positioning of the set of double glazed and timber-framed entrance doors with fanlights on the west corner of the building. This entrance not only has the name of the newspaper above it, but this information is also on curved brass plates on either side of the doors. It is unclear when the entrance awning was added, but was in place by the 1960s.
The façade is divided into three horizontal and vertical sections. Each flanking couple of round-headed sash windows is unified by an encompassing hood-moulding supported by simplified Corinthian columns. On each level, defined by a heavy entablature, these window sections are gradually foreshortened to create vertical emphasis. For example, the ground level windows begin above a sizeable marble faced section; the subsequent level windows surmount a thin decorative balustrade, with the third floor windows stemming directly from the entablature.
These windows flank one of the central features of the façade, the centrally placed scallop shell above the parapet. Below the shell, continuing through the first and second floor facades is a shallow bay. The main windows within the projecting bay are round-headed with moulded keystones and semi-columns which abut pilasters. The bay is completed by slim square-headed sash windows. Interspersed between all of these fenestrations are plain pilasters with acanthus capitals, and garlands.
The main building stretches back behind its façade. The brickwork has been plastered. The front section has a lateral gable, with the rest of this long narrow building having a lengthwise gable roof. While the front section has housed press offices since its inception, the rear section initially housed the press and other production equipment. This southern part is still used as a production area. However, other print department functions have been moved elsewhere within the buildings. The ground floor windows in the rear section seem to have been enclosed in the late 1960s. The upper levels of the entire main building are currently used by publishing staff and largely consist of open plan office space, although there are instances of enclosed spaces, mostly located on the west side of the building.
In 1986 and 1987 structural work was undertaken on the original building. This included the re-roofing of the main building and further renovation work in the interior. Refurbishments have continued in the subsequent decades, although these do not appear to have included significant structural alterations.
The interior has been extensively modified. Without further investigation it is appears that there is little original interior fabric remaining in the 1908 building. The spaces have been repartitioned on the ground floor and the upper floors are partly open plan or repartitioned into office spaces.
There seems to have been substantial works at the building through the 1950s, including strengthening of the framework and interior alterations. This period also saw the construction of a three storey extension at the rear of the original building, to house a new store and loading area on the ground level, and additional work space on the upper floors. Construction on this addition appears to have begun circa 1954, and the building was extended back to the southern boundary of the property, so that it directly abuts the small late nineteenth or early twentieth century brick building on the neighbouring property. The exterior surface of this section is plastered.
The first floor of the addition is divided into several production work spaces, while the whole of the upper level is occupied by the staff room and associated facilities. In the mid-1980s a stairwell was added to the west side of the extension to improve fire egress.
In 1981 a new building was built on the adjacent section. The bulk appearance of this building is sympathetic to the 1908 building but it is not significant in itself, and it is not included in the registration.
Link between the main building and press hall constructed
1907 - 1908
Multi-level addition to rear of main building
Construction of adjoining office building and press hall. Interior alteration and renovation in main building.
Brick, concrete, corrugated iron, glass, steel, timber
22nd February 2011
Report Written By
M.H. Holcroft, Old Invercargill, Dunedin, 1976
An Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Government Printer, Wellington, 1966
P. Sorrell, (ed) Murihiku: The Southland Story, Southland to 2006 Book Project Committee, Invercargill, 2006
Jane Thomson, (ed)., Southern People: A Dictionary of Otago Southland Biography, Dunedin: Longacre Press/Dunedin City Council, 1998.
J O P Watt. Centenary Invercargill 1871 - 1971. 1971
G H Scholefield, Newspapers in New Zealand, Wellington, 1958
F.G, Hall-Jones, Souvenir of Invercargill and Southland, Invercargill, 1949
R. Harvey, Books and Print in New Zealand: A guide to print culture in Aotearoa, Wellington, 1997
J. Saunders, Dateline – NZPA: the New Zealand Press Association, 1880-1980, Auckland, 1979
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.