Home is where the heart is for a Dunedin software company.
Willis White and Co recently bought Stafford House, where it
was founded in 1989, and started a comprehensive renovation
of the prominent building this week.
The three-storey building, on the corner of Stafford and
Manse Sts, is better known as ''Barton's Building'' after it
served as a butcher's shop for more than half a century.
It was distinguished by a string of neon pink pigs on the
veranda, green lambs on the parapet, a large bullock and a
''It is a Dunedin landmark building. It's part of Dunedin's
history. I remember it as a kid,'' director Andrew White said
''Most people still associate it with Barton's, with the pigs
going around the corner and the bull on the roof. I hope
people continue to refer to it as 'Barton's Building'.''
The distinctive neon signs were lit up in 1946, when George
Barton jun returned from World War 2 and joined brother Reg
at the business.
''After the war, all of the town was dull and dreary. We
thought the place needed brightening up, so we decided to
make a statement,'' he reportedly said at the time.
The building also houses an air raid shelter, built after the
Japanese bombing of Darwin in 1942.
The location was a good fit for the expanding software
company, Willis White and Co director Chris Willis said this
''We looked at a number of buildings and, from our point of
view, it was ideal. It's got good bones. It's also in a good
central location, it's got big spaces and some character,''
''It is a vote of confidence in the area. We're seeing a
renaissance in the Exchange.
"It just needs more people to invest in these sorts of
buildings. That's one of Dunedin's things; it's got great
heritage buildings. But a lot of buildings have been let go
and get in a downward spiral.''
The company has undertaken a comprehensive renovation of the
Scaffolding went up this week, with plastering work and
painting (''an elegant grey, with white highlights'') to
''We're bringing it up to the 21st century and putting in
ducted air heating, fibre optics, LED lighting and the latest
technological things in it.
"You can have the best of both worlds: old and modern at the
same time. It's going to take a couple of years to do it
right but we want it to be here another 100 years.''
Mr Willis declined to reveal the cost of the refurbishment,
but said it was ''well into six figures''.
Accountants G. S. McLauchlan and Co bought the building in
1988 and spent a year redeveloping it.
''It had been badly neglected and there were rates owing on
it. We took away 90 demolition truckloads of rubble when we
gutted it. We had to put quite a bit of money into it,''
Gordon McLauchlan recalled this week.
Mr Willis said the previous owner had been ''a very good
''They rebuilt the building behind the facade, which is
listed in the district plan as a significant structure. It's
all reinforced with steel and is up to 100% of the earthquake
''It's a very good design on a very prominent corner,''
Dunedin historian Peter Entwisle said this week.
''It's not badly compromised. It's very much as it was when
it was built in 1928.''
Hocken Library archivist David Murray, who wrote a history on
the building, said it had resonated with him since childhood.
''It's got such a rich history. It's partly the architecture,
partly the nostalgia and partly the social history. I was
always fascinated by the neon signs. Parents would slow the
car down so the kids could look at them.''
Barton's closed for the last time on January 29, 1980.
The top-hatted pig now resides in Toitu Otago Settlers Museum
and some of his porcine playmates trot along outside Miller
Studios, in Anzac Ave.
Formerly Barton's Building.
Architect: William Henry Dunning (1872-1933).
Builder: G. Lawrence and Sons.