McLean’s Mansion, built in 1900, which stands next to St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Manchester Street, is now scheduled for demolition. It’s listed as a Category 1 heritage building by the Historic Places Trust, and in 1900 was believed to be the largest wooden residence in New Zealand.
(photo courtesy of Christchurch City Libraries)
It seems the demolition is not because the building is unsafe, but because repairs would be too expensive. I wonder how many more heritage buildings will be lost for this reason. I’ve heard the old Post Office in Te Ripeka/Cathedral Square is also at risk.
From 1955 to 1977 the building housed the Dental Training School. When I attended St Albans Primary School I remember cycling to McLean’s Mansion for dental treatment. There were two clinics there, which we understood were the A and B clinic, and it was rumoured that one had the more skilled student nurses – I can’t now remember which. What I do remember is a room full of pedal-operated drills that were viewed by us children as instruments of torture.
In 1987, the building was taken over by the Academy, a private training provider. Soon after it opened I applied for a job teaching clerical skills. My experience was in accounting and office administration, and at that stage the only tutoring I’d done was to train office workers, one-on-one, but that wasn’t a problem. I was told my wide clerical experience was just what they wanted, and I got the job. I was faced daily with a group of twelve students of extremely varied abilities and ages, and given no resources at all. I sat up till midnight each evening preparing lessons which some students completed very quickly, while others struggled to comprehend a simple task. I soon decided this was not for me, and resigned after two weeks. However, I enjoyed the privilege of working in such a beautiful building. Other classes, training for hospitality, etc, kept the woodwork polished and staffed the reception area.
Do you have memories of McLean’s Mansion?
“So sad to see this building go
with yet another earthquake blow.”