Empire Hotel, 396 Princes St, Dunedin

### ch9.co.nz December 8, 2011 – 6:22pm
Historic Empire
Established as the Queen’s Arms in 1858, the building now known as the Empire Hotel has been nominated as a Category 1 building with the Historic Places Trust. Category 1 is the highest listing a building can achieve, and has benefits especially for aging structures.

NZHPT Nomination for Registration:
EmpireHotel.ashx (PDF, 1.38 MB)

Empire Hotel, 2008. Photo: Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Architecture, Construction, Design, Economics, Geography, Heritage, Inspiration, Politics, Project management, Site, Town planning, Urban design

8 responses to “Empire Hotel, 396 Princes St, Dunedin

  1. Hype O'Thermia

    Well worth a visit. Besides its history and style, it’s a place you can have a conversation without shouting. Occasionally there are musicians using amplifiers, not acounstic, at which times the above does not apply but mostly it is calm enough for appreciation of the surroundings. The upstairs bar, not normally in use except for special functions, is amazing especially when you think how many years this building was “just an old pub” whose old-fashioned features were more of a disadvantage than an attraction, see the removal of the “old fashioned” front of Stewarts Fish Shop / Canton Restaurant presumably to achieve a streamlined modern look (!) at the time.

  2. Hype O'Thermia

    Disturbing development, John Fogarty ended his reign at the Empire with a brilliant St Patrick’s day and then next week… see this comment from Blarney Bar at The Empire, Dunedin, N.Z. on Facebook by Graham Woodhead:
    “This is getting serious. Friday night and no local. Two nights of coro will push me over the edge for sure.
    March 23 at 5:15pm”
    Has anyone heard what’s going on? I hope it will reopen as a bar/entertainment venue and continue to be valued as a splendid building with a great history.

    • Elizabeth

      No idea Hype, he had been trying to sell it. No capital to strengthen, restore and redevelop the building? Bought in without due diligence? Who knows. Has it sold? Been bought by Mr Prista next door? Again, who knows.

    • Elizabeth

      ### ODT Online Wed, 9 May 2012
      Empire one of six top Historic Places listings
      By Allison Rudd
      It may be an unassuming building, but music academic Dr Graeme Downes says to those who know its significance in music circles, heritage recognition for Dunedin’s Empire Hotel is “a pretty amazing thing”. The Princes St hotel, one of six Otago buildings or sites to have been given Historic Places Act category 1 registration, was throughout the 1980s home to the “Dunedin Sound” and the place where dozens of musicians from bands such as the Verlaines, the Chills and the Bats made their musical debuts.

      The other Otago buildings or sites to have new category 1 registrations or to have their registrations upgraded to category 1 are the former Dunedin synagogue in Moray Pl, the Seacliff Lunatic Asylum site at Seacliff, Cargill’s Castle at St Clair, the Hayes Engineering Works homestead and the Bullendale gold mine and settlement near Queenstown.

      Read more

      Changes (via ODT)

      New category 1 registrations
      ● Former Dunedin synagogue, Moray Pl: New Zealand’s oldest synagogue; completed 1864. Became Temple Gallery 1992.
      ● Empire Hotel, Princes St: Hotel on site since 1858; renamed Empire Hotel around 1898; home of the Dunedin Sound in the 1980s.
      ● Seacliff Lunatic Asylum site, Seacliff: Includes Truby King Recreation Reserve, asylum grounds and remaining buildings.

      Registration reviews
      ● Cargill’s Castle, St Clair: New Zealand’s only castle ruin; built for businessman and politician Edward Bowes Cargill 1876; variously used as private home, restaurant and cabaret, and worship centre; registration now upgraded from category 2 to category 1.
      ● Hayes Engineering Works, Oturehua: Collection of mud brick farm buildings and workshops dating to 1880s; given category 1 registration 1981, registration extended to include homestead.
      ● Phoenix Mine hydro-electric plant, Bullendale settlement, 27km north of Queenstown: Gold mine originally known as The Reefs and later the Phoenix mine; first hydro-electric power used in New Zealand industry 1886; registered as an archaeological site 1985, registration upgraded to category 1.

      Source: New Zealand Historic Places Trust register

  3. Hype O'Thermia

    Latest information for what it is worth:
    “I stopped outside it to take a look at the notices on the door in case there was something new, but there wasn’t. So I went into the comics shop next door and the guy there said, “It’s been sold. The new owner’s going to open it as a venue.” …. “When?” I asked. He said he didn’t know but the guy had said he was in no hurry.”

  4. Elizabeth

    Empire Hotel redevelopment announced

    One of five projects spread across the central city – together worth close to $7 million in private investment – are poised to receive rates relief from the council next week. A confirmed plan to restore and reopen the Empire Hotel, under the new ownership of Dunedin businessman Jon Leng made the list. Mr Leng, the owner of Chapel Apartments, said he planned to begin work restoring and earthquake-strengthening the Empire Hotel later this year. The bar itself would not reopen for another two years, once work was complete and an operator was signed up, he said. He was committed to reopening the hotel as a tavern and live music venue.

  5. Hype O'Thermia

    I couldn’t be more delighted! It’s a lovely, lovely building with atmosphere in every pore. I hope Mr Leng doesn’t have to alter it too much, the spaces were such comfortable shapes to be in and the acoustics worked, downstairs you could see at least 4 conversations going on at once without people having to yell – even with some musicians playing un-amplified. It was a truly sociable place during John Fogarty’s reign.

  6. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Wed, 30 Dec 2015
    The Empire strikes back
    By Craig Borley
    ….A boat builder turned property developer, Mr Leng bought the [Empire Hotel] earlier this year. He expected to spend about $1million on strengthening, restoration and fit-out. The two first-floor two-bedroom apartments and the sole second-floor three-bedroom penthouse would make the building financially viable, he said. Retaining the ground-floor bar was more of a “tribute” to the building’s heritage than a business-minded decision.
    Read more

    The Empire Hotel (visit HNZ List No. 9548 for more information)

    • Heritage New Zealand category 1 registration.
    • The first hotel on the site was JW Feger’s Queen’s Arms Coffee and Dining Rooms which opened in 1858.
    • Part of the consolidation of settlement in Dunedin saw the early timber structures replaced by buildings constructed of permanent materials such as brick or stone. In 1879 the Queen’s Arms was rebuilt in brick. The architect was Thomas Bedford Cameron. [Proprietor Daniel Galvin renamed the business the Empire Hotel in 1900].
    • The upstairs bar became the centre of the Dunedin Sound in the 1980s, hosting bands including The Verlaines, The Clean, The Chills, Sneaky Feelings and The Bats.
    • [In 2011 the Empire Hotel was still open for entertainment and a drink. It had three bars plus a three bedroom manager’s flat. The ground floor bar was themed as an Irish bar, a second bar, upstairs, had a blue’s bar theme. The third bar (also upstairs) was the ‘Legendary Dunedin Sound’ bar, which was advertised as being seen in band videos and in the movie Scarfies.]

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