The Nelson Club

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The Nelson Club, 61-65 Selwyn Place, is a Gothic Victorian purpose-built clubhouse,  built approximately 1903. It has a Category 2 Heritage listing.

The Nelson Cub was formed in 1874 and in December 1903 it moved into its new premises on leasehold Maori land, built by building firm Leaper Bros (a £1432 contract).

Nelson Club

Nelson Club. Drawing by C. Chisnall. Image supplied by Nelson Cancer Society

Three years after the Club entered its new building, the Marlborough, Nelson and West Coast Section of the New Zealand Cyclopedia wrote of it:

“The Club House, a handsome two storeyed wooden building was erected in the year 1903 and was opened on 19th December of that year. The ground floor contains the smoking rooms, visitors’ rooms, billiards room fitted with Alcock and Co’s table, dining room, kitchen and lavatory. The second storey includes two card rooms, reading room and a periodical room. The bathrooms and lavatories are situated outside the building. The Club House is well appointed and a popular resort with its members, who number 113.”

The Club’s first bar was built in 1908. Before that, liquor was kept in, and served from, the Steward’s pantry.

The advent of motor cars raised parking problems as early as 1910, not that it was really anything new because in the 90’s members were asked “not to put their bicycles in the passage way.” Now, more than 100 years later, lawns and trees have been sacrificed for this purpose and even the dog kennels had to be re-sited.

Nelson Club1

Nelson Club. Image supplied by Nelson Cancer Society

The dog kennels had been a useful accessory. Many a dog taken for a walk ended up with a lengthy stay there!

At the AGM in January 1909, it was decided that it was time that the 119 members had a second billiards table. No action was taken until 1913 when the billiards room was enlarged, and a second billiards table was added. At the same time the lavatory was brought into the building and joined to the city sewer.

In 1920, a £700 contract was signed for the installation of electric light. Prior to that the building was lit by gas. In 1925 a steward’s quarters were added and three years later a third billiards table was added, and the room extended to its present size.

Around 1930 the dining room was extended, and this made it possible to enlarge the lounge. Major internal reconstruction was undertaken in 1950 when the stairway, which originally faced the front door, was re-sited. The bar was then enlarged, as
was the lounge.

In 1969 it became possible to freehold Maori land and the committee, at a cost of Government Valuation plus 10 percent, freeholded their lease for $13,475. In 1973 they paid off the mortgage against this transaction and left the Club property freehold and debt-free.

More recently, following the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes, the club has removed its brick chimneys for safety reasons. At the same time, bifolding doors were installed that opened the bar lounge to dining room area to accommodate larger gatherings.

This information was prepared for the Nelson Cancer Society Heritage Homes Tour 2019.

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