Ballarat St Bridge

Ballarat Street, Queenstown

  • Ballarat St Bridge.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Melanie Lovell-Smith. Date: 19/06/2002.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Melanie Lovell-Smith. Date: 19/06/2002.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 7097 Date Entered 17th December 1993

Locationopen/close

City/District Council

Queenstown-Lakes District

Region

Otago Region

Legal description

Adjacent to Lot 1 DP 20875 Blk V and Lot 1 DP 20964 Blk XXX Town of Queenstown.

Summaryopen/close

The following text was prepared as part of an upgrade project and was completed 3 July 2002:

This stone arch bridge was constructed in 1882. It provides access across Horne Creek, (once known as Town Creek) which wends its way through the northern edge of Queenstown's commercial centre. It was erected by local stonemason James McNeil, whose work also survives in the former Lake County offices and his own cottage in Church Street, now open as a bar and small brewery. McNeil had immigrated from Scotland in his teens and worked as a stonemason in Oamaru and Alexandra before moving to Queenstown in 1882.

The bridge consists of a single arch, constructed from the local schist, topped with a stone parapet. The bridges which were first constructed in Queenstown in the early 1860s tended to be of wood and generally needed to be replaced after 20-odd years. Controversy surrounded the building of the Ballarat Street Bridge; the council argued over which should be built first, it or the bridge in Shotover Street. The design was also contentious; the local paper questioned whether the low arch would be strong enough for the traffic. During construction the building inspector complained about the size of stone being used (his report was eventually over-ridden), about the length of time it was taking to construct the bridge, and about the steep approaches to it. While the council agreed with the inspector's last comment, they decided that the contractor had complied with the plans provided to him and therefore the council should spend an extra £20 on building up the road. The bridge was mostly complete by 6 June 1882, with only the pointing and coping to do. It was not entirely finished because of the 'loss of the stonemason' who appeared to have disappeared. The whole was finally complete on 7 July 1882.

Stone arch bridges are relatively unusual in New Zealand and the Ballarat Street Bridge is unusual within that small group because it is constructed from coursed rubble schist rather than from the more common ashlar blocks of limestone. Schist was a common building material in Central Otago due to its availability and the relative lack of timber in the area. The Ballarat Street Bridge is a picturesque element of the Queenstown streetscape and a reminder of Queenstown's early days.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Proposal for Classification report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

The Ballarat Street bridge serves as a visible reminder of the town's long history as a gold mining service centre and more recently as a major tourist attraction.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Proposal for Classification report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

ARCHITECTURAL QUALITY:

In comparison with other forms of bridge construction used in New Zealand during the nineteenth century, arch bridges built entirely from stone are rare. The Ballarat Street bridge in Queenstown is even more uncommon because it is built from coursed rubbe schist masonry rather than the more usual ashlar blocks of limestone (G.G. Thornton, October 1990). The scarcity of timber, the abundant supply of schist and the ease with which it could be extracted encouraged the stone's use for a wide range of building types and structures in Central Otago last century.

TOWNSCAPE/LANDMARK VALUE:

Standing on one of Queenstown's principal thoroughfares, the bridge is a picturesque element within the streetscape of one of New Zealand's leading tourist resorts and therefore complements the more conspicuous and much admired former courthouse, library and Lake County Council buildings nearby.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

McNeil, James

Stonemason.

The text below is from the original Proposal for Classification report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

James McNeil was a local stonemason, who also built the Lake County offices and a cottage for himself in Church Street which is still extant. He was a Master of the local Masonic Lodge on a number of occasions and lived in Queenstown from around 1882 until his death in 1920.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Proposal for Classification report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

DESCRIPTION:

The bridge was built for the Queenstown Borough Council in 1882.

Physical Description

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Proposal for Classification report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

ARCHITECTURAL DESCRIPTION:

Built of coursed rubble masonry construction, the Ballarat Street bridge spans the Horne Creek just north of Queenstown's commercial centre. Running north-south between Camp and Stanley Streets the bridge provides motor vehicle access across the creek. Between the abutments a single broad arch with voussoirs is terminated by a solid stone parapet with a string course close to crown and a coping of a harder stone. The approach walls of the bridge, which is slightly elevated above normal street level, are curved and a plaque attached to the east side reads "Ballarat Street Bridge - Horne Creek - Erected by Queenstown Borough Council - 1882 - ".

MODIFICATIONS:

None.

Notable Features

The bridge's construction is its most notable feature.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1882 -

Construction Details

Central Otago schist with a mud mortar infill.

Completion Date

3rd July 2002

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

Information Sources

Borrell, 1973

Marion Borrell, 'Old Buildings of the Lakes District', Dunedin, 1973

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1905

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 4 Otago and Southland, Cyclopedia Company, Christchurch, 1905

Hayward, 1987

Bruce W. Hayward, 'Granite and Marble: a guide to building stones in New Zealand', Geological Society of New Zealand Guidebook, No.8

Clifford, 1989

R.D. Clifford, The Historic of Lake Lodge of Ophir No.85 - 1864-1989, Lake Lodge of Ophir, Queenstown, 1989.

Queenstown Courier

Queenstown Courier

E.C. Mills, 'The Ballarat Street Bridge', 56, pp.15-17

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Proposal for Classification report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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.