The town of Oamaru is distinguished by its large contingent of historic buildings, built in the heady days of the Otago gold rush (in the 1860s to 1890s). Fortunately, since these buildings were built of the local limeston (aka “Oamaru Stone”) they have survive into the present day, but it would be fair to say that they require a fair deal of maintenance to retain their original lustre.
Happily for us, Oamaru has a large contingent of talented and conscientious people who look after these grand buildings, and who keep them open as part of a range of enterprises. One of the lovelier of these buildings is the former Australia Mutual Provident (AMP) Society building on the corner of Itchen and Tees Streets, more or less the gateway to the Oamaru Historic Precinct. Today this building houses the North Otago Club, as well as a second-hand bookstore and, a new addition to the Oamaru scene, Annie Baxter’s Victorian Tea Rooms.
Recently the building underwent a major facelift, bringing it back close to the way it would have looked soon after it was first built, in 1889. The architect, Ian Butcher, has been recognised for his efforts, together with Peter Garvan, whose idea it was to restore the building, with two awards at the recent New Zealand Architecture Awards in Invercargill.
Visitors to Oamaru (and residents, for that matter) can now enjoy a cup of tea and a piece of cake in Annie Baxter’s tea room and experience a true Victorian experience in true Victorian surroundings!
You can read more about the award, and the building, here.