169 Victoria Street, Christchurch
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 2
Private/No Public Access
26th November 1981
Extent of List Entry
Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 11570 (CT CB486/172), Canterbury Land District and the building known as Santa Barbara thereon.
Lot 1 DP 11570 (CT CB486/172), Canterbury Land District
Constructed in the late 1930s to contain a pair of flats, the building known as Santa Barbara at 169 Victoria Street in central Christchurch has architectural and aesthetic significance as a Streamlined Moderne styled building designed by architect H. Francis Willis.
The site where Santa Barbara sits was originally part of a larger area known as Town Reserve 26. Early town maps show that there were structures on this specific site, then known as Whatley Street, by 1877. Now described as being 169 Victoria Street, the property has had a range of owners and in 1930 it became part of the estate of John Galletly. Through a mortgagee sale, the property was purchased in December 1937 by Henry Montgomery Hobson, pastry cook. It would appear that Hobson had Santa Barbara flats built shortly afterwards, in circa 1938.
Santa Barbara is a Streamline Moderne building built to the designs of Christchurch architect, H. Francis Willis. Willis had worked for the Christchurch City Council before establishing his own architectural practice in 1928. He was a versatile and innovative architect, well known for a range of buildings, including the Spanish Mission style buildings at New Regent Street, built in the early 1930s. Built set back from the pavement on the west side of Victoria Street and now flanked by modern buildings, Santa Barbara has an irregularly shaped footprint that matches that when first built. The building is two storeyed with rounded forms and a flat roof, typical of the Streamline Moderne style. Windows are steel frame and the walls are cavity concrete. The name of the dwelling ‘Santa Barbara’ is spelt out in lettering on the front of the building.
While it is likely that Hobson and his wife, Ida, would have lived in one of the flats at some time in the late 1930s and early 1940s, both seem to be associated with other addresses during this time. An advertisement in 1941 to let the upper flat of 169 Victoria Street read ‘LUXURIOUS MODERN FLAT. SUNNY, NICE GROUNDS. WHOLE FLOOR. LARGE LOUNGE, 2 BEDROOMS, BREAKFAST-ROOM, KITCHENETTE FURNISHED, SUNPORCH, COCKTAIL BAR, SHOWER, BATH, FRIGIDAIRE, LAUNDRY, GARAGE’. The contact number for that advertisement was 665 Colombo Street, which is where Henry’s Little Duchess Cake Kitchen operated and possibly where the Hobsons actually lived. In 1945 Hobson sold the property to Ivan Barbaric Rich, who sold to John William Lister in 1951. The property has changed hands numerous times since then. The building now functions as commercial premises, containing a clothing store on the ground floor and the first floor is awaiting new tenants. In 1994 the entrance porch was enclosed and the ground floor door replaced by a floor to ceiling window for display purposes.
Francis Willis read architecture at St John's College, Cambridge, before training as an architect and engineer with the Christchurch City Council. After travelling to Europe following World War One, Willis worked for the City Council and then established his own practice c.1925. During a career which spanned nearly fifty years, Willis designed a wide range of building types, including a number of Roman Catholic churches and local fire stations, but his speciality appears to have been the design of motion picture theatres.
Cinemas designed by Willis were erected throughout New Zealand for both the Amalgamated and Kerridge Odeon chains. The State Theatre (1934-5) in Christchurch was a particularly good example, revealing a readiness to experiment with decorative building design which distinguished his work from that of other local architects in the late 1920s and 1930s. Other notable Christchurch buildings designed by Willis include Santa Barbara, an art deco style house on Victoria Street and the Repertory Theatre (formerly the Radiant Hall, 1929). he is also well known for the design of the Spanish Mission style New Regent Street Terrace Shops (1930-32). During World War Two Francis Willis worked for the Public Works Department and in 1960 he was joined in practice by his son, Gavin. Francis Willis finally retired in 1969 at the age of seventy-seven.
Conversion to commercial premises
Entrance porch enclosed
15th June 2017
Report Written By
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.