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Our Environment: Issue 24 Spring 2000

Our Environment: Christchurch City Council's Environmental Newsletter

Hereford Street Offices Rise Phoenix-like From The ashes
No 15 In Our “still Standing” heritage Building Series

167 Hereford StLike the proverbial phoenix, the handsome little late Edwardian building at 167 Hereford Street has literally risen from the ashes and now, completely (and lovingly) restored, it is assured of a permanent place in the architectural heritage of this City.

On 31 December 1996, the building, known as Americano’s at the time, was badly damaged by fire. Boarded up and left to the elements over the next three years, the future of the building looked grim. New co-owner Mike Pero states: “Like many other pedestrians in the area I wondered  what was to become of the site ... so what if it was ‘slightly tarnished’ by flame marks ....surely it wasn’t ready to be bulldozed. It had stood there for almost 100 years! I for one could not stand aside and watch this happen.” Mike said he saw a real challenge and an opportunity to buy some prime heritage real estate in the inner City.

167 Hereford Street was built around 1910. The building appears to have functioned as a later office addition to the 1880’s building to the rear. Site  history reveals that Wood Mowing and Reaping Machine Company and the Mercantile Finance Company had operated from this site in the 1880s.

By 1911 The Royal Exchange Assurance Company and the New Zealand Plate Glass Insurance Company were based here. It is probably at about this date that the Hereford Street building was erected. The building was later occupied by the law firm J A Flesher. The principal of the firm, James Arthur Flesher was Mayor of Christchurch between 1923-25. Thefirm continued as a family firm with James’ son Hubert and in turn Hubert’s son Roger.

When erected the building, of brick construction with limestone detailing, would have made a handsome neighbour to W B Armson’s Renaissance-style National Bank Building also constructed in brick with limestone detailing. The latter building, despite public opposition, was sadly demolished in 1982.

Mike Pero and Gavin Cook purchased 167 Hereford Street in the December of 1999, complete he says, “...with embers and ashes” and in January 2000 began the task of conservation and restoration. From the beginning Mike, who admits to being a little naive as to the finer points of heritage building conservation, sought the advice of the Council’s heritage planners and immediately found himself on a steep learning curve.

While the exterior fašade was essentially only scorched, much of the interior had been extensively damaged. Where possible all original material such as the original timber flooring has been restored. Materials fire damaged beyond reuse have been recreated to the original profiles.

Conscious of combining the needs of modern office requirements and retaining the heritage aesthetic, Mike has reconfigured some of the interior space. This has been successfully achieved with an interesting blend of ‘old’ and ‘new’. Careful interior planning has enabled a dual use of the building to encompass both Mike’s business and a cafe at ground floor level.

Aware of conservation issues, Mike has carefully documented the restoration process with a photographic and video record. He has also established a web site documenting the project www.mikepero.co.nz/restoration

The project, as Mike states, “provided a stream of challenges - it was more costly and time consuming than I could have imagined.” He is, however, quick to add: “What we have achieved has made it all worthwhile - the personal satisfaction is overwhelming.”

Sitting with Mike in his elegant office and boardroom, furnished with carefully selected period pieces and prints, as he described the restoration process, was a heritage planner’s delight; one can’t help being affected by the pride and enthusiasm he exudes in not only saving this building but in being part of the revitalisation of inner City heritage.

Jenny May
Senior Heritage Planner


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