With news today that the Christchurch Cathedral may indeed be demolished, other buildings of historical significance are being given a new lease of life thanks to a healthy cash injection by Fletcher Building Limited. The company has announced it will donate $1 million to help preserve Christchurch’s McKenzie and Willis building façade as part of a $6 million pledge by the company towards earthquake and recovery efforts.
The three-storeyed Edwardian style building on the corner of High and Tuam Streets was severely damaged after the earthquakes in February and June and building assessments have deemed it too unsafe to retain. Engineers have however recommend its facade be saved due to its significant heritage value.
With its original unpainted stone façade, the building is a modern interpretation of the more traditional classical commercial type with large window openings, leaded fanlights and an oriel window at the corner. As one of the last prominent corner buildings left on High Street, the facade is a category II historic place and was designed by 19th century architectural firm England Brothers. The former A.J Whites building was purpose-built for the leading furniture manufacturer and retailer in 1910. The business remained there until it was bought in the 1980's by Christchurch furniture retail firm McKenzie and Willis.
The McKenzie and Willis building joins the Excelsior Hotel, Victoria Black and Alice in Videoland (the old Post Office) on the growing list of buildings in the High Street area that are to be retained.