New Zealand Elevator Company’s Building (Former)

Itchen Street, Intersection Humber And Tyne Streets, Oamaru

  • New Zealand Elevator Company’s Building (Former), Oamaru. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: J Witkowski. Taken By: J Witkowski. Date: 22/08/2010.
  • New Zealand Elevator Company’s Building (Former), Oamaru. Steampunk Headquarters, Oamaru. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Andy king50 - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Andy king50. Date: 8/12/2011.
  • New Zealand Elevator Company’s Building (Former), Oamaru. June 2012. Image courtesy of Bill Caelli.
    Copyright: Bill Caelli.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed - Review Initiated List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4881 Date Entered 25th September 1986 Date of Effect 25th September 1986


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 9 DP 285 (RTs 349401 and 482832), Otago Land District, and the building known as New Zealand Elevator Company’s Building (Former) thereon. (Refer to the extent map tabled at the Heritage List/ Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 12 November 2015).

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Legal description

Lot 9 DP 285 (RT 349401 and 482832), Otago Land District


Originally a massive five storey grain store, the New Zealand Elevator Company’s Building, designed by Oamaru architectural partnership Forrester and Lemon in 1883, has historical and architectural significance. The former grain store stands as a testament to the booming grain-based economy that saw Oamaru flourish in the 1870s and 1880s.

The New Zealand Elevator Company’s grain store was built at the northern end of Tyne Street, close to the junction of Itchen and Humber Streets, a location conveniently close to the railway line. The five storey building was completed in May 1883, and was a massive building twenty metres wide and sixty metres long, with a floor space of 5,100 square metres. It used the latest technologies; two worm gears operated conveyor belts carried grain to the bins seventeen metres deep, allowing only a handful of men to run the operation. The North Otago Times gave an in depth description of the building and its operations. Its innovation was that instead of storing grain in sacks, the store adopted the new American practice of bulk storage. The paper described the main body of the store as divided into 68 large bins (of two sizes – holding 1200 and 600 bushels respectively) – providing storage for 280,000 bushels. Five men could work 50 tons of grain per hour. The two elevators could each handle 25 tons an hour.

Art historian Conal McCarthy writes that the Elevator was ‘devoid of ornament on all but the two angled facades facing the streets’, with paired round-headed windows running through to the fourth floor. The mansard roof had pedimented dormers. The ‘restrained, Neo-Classical style gave the building a monumental simplicity that successfully expressed its nature and function.’

In January 1920, the store was gutted by fire. The design of the building encouraged air flow, the grain fuelled the fire, and soon the roof fell in and the rear portion was gutted. The top floors were removed. The building was remodelled, and J. and T. Meek continued to use it as a grain store until the 1950s. In the 1950s, it was sold to foundry owners G. T. Gillies Limited.

In 2015, the New Zealand Elevator Company’s Building has been reincarnated as home to Steampunk HQ.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Forrester & Lemon

The architectural partnership of Forrester and Lemon was established in Oamaru in 1872.

Thomas Forrester (1838-1907) was born in Glasgow and educated at the Glasgow School of Art. Emigrating to New Zealand in 1861 he settled in Dunedin and worked under William Mason (1810-97) and William Henry Clayton (1823-77) and later Robert Arthur Lawson (1833-1902). In 1865 he superintended the Dunedin Exhibition and from 1870 he became involved with the supervision of harbour works. Some time after 1885 he became Engineer to the Oamaru Harbour Board and in this capacity designed the repairs to the breakwater following storm damage in 1886 and later the Holmes Wharf. On his death in 1907 he was still in the employ of the Harbour Board.

John Lemon (1828-1890) was born in Jamaica and travelled to England before emigrating to New Zealand in 1849. He settled in Oamaru in 1860 and with his brother Charles established a timber merchant's business. By 1869 he was in partnership with his father-in-law, George Sumpter calling themselves "Timber and General Merchants, Land and Commission Agents". This partnership was dissolved in 1872 and Lemon entered into partnership with Forrester. Lemon had no architectural experience at all, but had a wide circle of business contacts and was an efficient administrator.

Buildings designed by the partnership of Forrester and Lemon include St Paul's Church (1875-76), the Harbour Board Offices (1876), Queen's (later Brydone) Hotel (1881), Waitaki Boys' High School (1883), The Courthouse (1883) and the Post Office (1883-84), all in Oamaru. Forrester and Lemon contributed greatly to Oamaru's nineteenth century character. On Lemon's death in 1890 the practice was taken over by Forrester's son, John Megget Forrester (1865-1965).

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1883 -

1920 -
Fire destroys rear of the building. Top two floors removed.

Public NZAA Number


Completion Date

17th September 2015

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

McCarthy, 2002

Conal McCarthy, Forrester and Lemon of Oamaru, architects, Oamaru, 2002

North Otago Times

North Otago Times

North Otago Times, 27 Apr 1883, p. 3.

Other Information

This registration is also included in the Harbour/Tyne Street Historic Area (Record no. 7064).

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.