Excelsior Hotel, Christchurch

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Excelsior Hotel
Excelsior Hotel, Christchurch.jpg
Excelsior Hotel in March 2011 with significant earthquake damage
General information
LocationChristchurch Central City
Address120 Manchester Street
Town or cityChristchurch
CountryNew Zealand
Coordinates43°32′05.5″S 172°38′23.5″E / 43.534861°S 172.639861°E / -43.534861; 172.639861Coordinates: 43°32′05.5″S 172°38′23.5″E / 43.534861°S 172.639861°E / -43.534861; 172.639861
Demolished10 April 2016
Technical details
Floor countthree
Design and construction
ArchitectWilliam Armson
Designated16 November 1989
Reference no.4390
"Excelsior Hotel". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 7 August 2011.

The Excelsior Hotel in 120 Manchester Street, Christchurch, originally the Borough Hotel,[1] in recent years known as Excelsior Backpackers or New Excelsior Backpackers, was a Category I heritage building in central Christchurch. It was designed by then most prominent architect, William Armson, and was one of the few remaining examples of his work in the city. It was heavily damaged in the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, and all but its western façade was demolished after the earthquakes. The remaining part was demolished in April 2016.


A hotel was first built on the site in 1865, called the Harp of Erin. It was renamed the Borough Hotel in 1870, and was subsequently known as Barrett's Family Hotel after it was purchased by John Barrett in 1878.[2] On Boxing Day in 1879, Protestants who paraded along Manchester Street on their way to the railway station were attacked by Irish Catholics outside Barrett's hotel, resulting in several hospitalisations.[3] A similar attack happened in Timaru around the same time. Rumours started that the attack was planned at Barrett's hotel and that he himself was involved[4] and he was arrested on 30 December.[5] Barrett lost his liquor licence over the affair and, in order to restore his reputation, had the old building pulled down.[6]

Barrett engaged William Armson, then one of the foremost architects, to design a new hotel. He had employed Armson before for the Durham Arms, a building at 328 Durham Street demolished sometime after 2000.[2][7] The new hotel was built in 1881 or 1882, and in 1906, the name changed to Excelsior Hotel.[2]

The building was purchased by the Christchurch Heritage Trust in 1997 to save it from demolition.[6] It was heavily damaged in the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, but there are plans to rebuild it. It was again bought by the Christchurch Heritage Trust in July 2011 so that it might be restored.[8] The western façade of the historic building was to be retained.[9] The Christchurch Heritage Trust sold the site to developers Miles Yeoman and Craig Newbury as they needed the money to concentrate on the renovations of the Trinity Congregational Church and Shand's Emporium. The new owners had the remaining façade demolished on 10 April 2016 and plan to build a replica of the Excelsior Hotel.[10]

Architecture and fittings[edit]

The brick and plaster building was three-storey, with balustrades and a rusticated stonework façade. Its exterior window frames were decorative. Those on the first floor facing north were a three-window grouping that features a centralized segmental pediment.[1]

Heritage registration[edit]

The Excelsior Hotel was registered as a Category I heritage building by Heritage New Zealand (previously known as the New Zealand Historic Places Trust).[2]


  1. ^ a b Robert McDougall Art Gallery (1983). "W.B. Armson Colonial Architect Rediscovered" (PDF). christchurchartgallery.org.nz. pp. 15, 35. Retrieved 12 August 2011.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b c d "Excelsior Hotel". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  3. ^ "Murderous Assault upon Holiday-Makers". The Star (3653). 26 December 1879. p. 2. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  4. ^ "Saturday, December 27, 1879". The Star (3654). 27 December 1879. p. 2. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  5. ^ "The Late Disturbance". Star (3657). 31 December 1879. p. 3. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  6. ^ a b "History of the New Excelsior Backpackers, Christchurch". New Excelsior Backpackers. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  7. ^ "New Excelsior Backpackers". Christchurch Central City Business Association. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  8. ^ Heather, Ben (4 August 2011). "Excelsior Hotel to rise again in heritage style". The Press. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  9. ^ "Quake CBD demolitions in full swing". The New Zealand Herald. 29 July 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  10. ^ Murphy, Emily (11 April 2016). "Time called: Excelsior Hotel facade demolished". The Press. p. A1. Retrieved 12 April 2016.

External links[edit]