New Zealand Clothing Company Building

New Zealand Clothing Company Building

New Zealand Clothing Company Building (1883)

Hallensteins’ headquarters

Hallenstein Brothers, or ‘HB’, as almost everyone called the firm, began in 1873 when German-born merchant Bendix Hallenstein (1835-1905) established the New Zealand Clothing Factory in Dunedin to supply his stores. That led to the opening of the first Hallensteins store proper, in the Octagon, offering shoppers, as they boasted, ‘a single garment at wholesale price’. By 1900 there were more than 30, initially selling women’s clothing as well as men’s.

Hallenstein was very proud of this building. Designed by the architect who created the Union Company building, David Ross, it was finished in 1883 on Dowling Street, near the edge of Bell Hill. It is built of plastered triple brick on a base of Port Chalmers breccia. Apart from ground floor offices, the entire building was used for garment manufacturing and warehousing. A 6-hp Otto gas engine powered the machines used by the 300 workers. The turn-of-the-century Cyclopedia boasted that ‘should the building ever suffer the ravages of fire, the proprietary would not know how they could improve any portion of the premises, and would at once rebuild on the present model’. Hallenstein could be excused for a bit of self-authored puffery. He was an enlightened employer, supporting Rutherford Waddell’s anti-sweating campaign and arguing for a tailoresses’ union. He once declared that he ‘would prefer to abandon our business rather than carry it on, if it can only be remunerative by starvation wages’. He also founded the DIC retail chain.

Most cities and towns have at least one Hallensteins shop but their products mainly come from China, not Dowling Street. In 1988, 103 years after moving in, the Hallensteins head office shifted north to Wellington. The old building is now called Milford House after an art gallery on the premises.

Further information

This site is item number 63 on the History of New Zealand in 100 Places list.



  • Charles Brasch and C.R. Nicholson, Hallensteins: the first century, Hallensteins, Dunedin, 1973

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