The Elevator building was the largest commercial building undertaken by the design partnership of Forrester and Lemon. The exterior constructed of locally quarried Oamaru stone, was completed in 1883 and rose to a height of five stories. It was the first elevator building in the Southern Hemisphere. It had the specific purpose of handling and storing grain, based on the American principle of self-emptying bins.
Image Courtesy of North Otago Museum
The Elevator is a significant example of the development of Oamaru as the gateway for exported produce from the developing colony. It was built during a period of sustained growth and its design embodied the optimism of the period. No others exist making this a rare and important survivor of Victorian investment, innovation and enterprise. Almost as soon as it was completed its role and purpose was diminished as the volume of grain grown was significantly reduced as the export trade in frozen lamb was promoted over grain.
Streetscape of Itchen St with Elevator Building in Background Image Courtesy of North Otago Museum
A disastrous fire in 1920 saw the top two stories removed with the remains reroofed and utilised as a store. The adjoining wing with grain bins was completely destroyed. The surviving south wall is a tangible reminder of the event and the scale of the original building. Reduced to three stories the building retains an imposing and commanding presence and position. It is a prominent reminder of Oamaru’s industrial heritage.
Meeks Elevator Fire, 20 January 1920 Image Courtesy of North Otago Museum
The building has survived to the present day due to geographical factors & a declining economy. In recent years, a commitment by the Whitestone Community Trust to restore the town’s Victorian heritage and architecture has led to an increase in tourist activity that has rejuvenated the Historic Precinct.
Opened to the public in November 2011 The Elevator has taken on an entirely new life form and function as the headquarters for Steampunk.
Meeks Elevator as Steampunk HQ 2015
The Elevator, once a time travel craft, has now settled permanently on the shores of a small town on the coast of New Zealand. This location is an ideal inconspicuous resting place for a once mighty inter-dimensional time travelling vessel.
Alien creatures and strange contraptions inhabit Elevator Building today.
Its Pilots are human, yet, weathered and evolved by constant travel through alien worlds. It is speculated that they still meet deep in the building, and that it is now their headquarters. From here, they conduct reconnaissance, scouting and protective missions to undisclosed locations. Many of their travels are recorded – esoteric footage of unusual creatures, places and machines can be accessed in the building at different data entry points.
Even today The Elevator building continues to exude a sense of mystery.