Stegga’s City Emporium

Stegga’s City Emporium survives today (2019) at 517 to 529 Hunter Street, Newcastle.

I visited Antiques on Hunter at this address some time between 2001, and a few years later they moved to King Street, where they were still doing business in 2018.

Did they ever change the name to Antiques on Hunter on King?

The Hunter Street shop was quite large and despite the clutter of old furniture and bric-a-brac, my impression of the interior was of spaciousness with an appealing grace. NSW Office of Environment and Heritage declares “the interiors are of significance” so it wasn’t entirely imagined.

In February 2004, boarding – that for 14 years since has hidden the shopfront – became an irresistible canvas. Not greatly surprising – the art school is just across the road and down a bit.

In the next five years some wonderful paintings appeared there, renditions diligently recorded further below.

Nearby, on a panel of billboard called Poets’ Corner, artistes expressed angst, amorousness, nihilism, and whatnot.

Some History

Harry Stegga started The Noted Little Shop in Market Street in 1879. It catered mostly to “shipping people” seeking, I gather, affordable clothing.

With both acumen and competitive prices, his business prospered while similar shops faltered during “bad times.” He would then buy their bankrupt stock and further thrive.

In 1886 he bought land in Hunter Street and built the City Emporium. The finished building bore the timestamp 1886 on its 40 metre frontage and was humourously known as “The Bigger Little Shop.”

Photograph by Ralph Snowball, 1849-1925 – part of the Norm Barney Photographic Collection held by UoN Cultural Collections.

Steady growth of the business in Hunter Street found the shop too small (the generous façade fronted many smaller shops) so in 1925 Stegga leased the “Municipal Buildings” at the corner of Hunter and Market Streets. The spacious corner building became a “modern mercery store.” The building survives today with its original façade, a short walk from Queen’s Wharf.

The City Emporium became H. P. Cornish’s Waratah House in 1899. Cornish was an Alderman and Mayor of Newcastle Council in 1922 and 1923. In the custom of enterprise rebranding, he chiselled Harry’s raised lettering from the façade and supplied his own register of self-aggrandisement. His shop’s signage was H.P. Cornish & Co, Expert Tailors, Hatters & Mercers.

Tenants

The building’s long history repeated a range of remarkably similar businesses: clothing, music machines and instruments, and, even to this day, a bookshop, newsagent (?), and Rock Shop.

Note: while readers are free to copy this information, some dates were extrapolated and need cross-checking for serious reuse.

1890s “The Peoples’ Book Depot” – A. Shaw, Tailor – Beale, music & machines – W. Brooks, tinsmith, ironworker

Regarding odd street numbers, “Russell R” explains in comments at UoN’s Living Histories [ https://livinghistories.newcastle.edu.au/nodes/view/46325 ] : “The street number for the tailors was #239 (see photograph). At one time there were 3 separate sets of numbers in Hunter street: Watt Street to the AA Co bridge at Crown Street, Crown Street westward to Bank Corner, & Charlton Street (Hunter Street West) west from the Bank Corner. The numbers were all changed to the current series after Hunter Street was extended east from Watt Street to Telford Street about 1910.”

1913  #519 Kendrick and Co, booksellers and stationers.  

1919 #517 Johnston’s Music Warehouse, pianos players musical instruments, recordings.

1922  #519  Hallett & Co, Stationers. 

1923, 30 June auctioneer:

The group of seven shops and dwellings, Nos. 517 to 529 (inclusive) Hunter-street, and a garage in King-street. They are of brick construction, 2 stories, with attractive elevation and modern in character. The property has a frontage of 132 feet to Hunter-street, and a depth of 165 feet, to which is an adjoining property extending into King-street, having a frontage to that thoroughfare of 13 feet and a depth varying from 81 foot to 90 feat. The gross rentals of the property were announced at £2249 per annum, rates and taxes being paid by respective tenants.”

1924… 1930 #519  Mssrs. Higginson & Co, Booksellers & Stationers (Late Hallett & Co).

1926 #517 F.H.Nicholls & Co, pianos musical instruments.

1928 #523   Anderson’s Newcastle Ltd   (butchers?).

1929  #517 The Domestic Machinery Co, appliance, “talking machine repairs.”

1934  #525-527 Structural alterations and new shop fronts to premises for G. Dawson and Sons Ltd, paint merchants.

1940 #523  Wright’s Frock Showroom.  

Artworks from 2004 to 2013

February 3, 2004

October 2, 2004

October 6, 2004

November 13, 2004

May 21, 2005

July 10, 2005

December 23, 2007

June 7, 2009

December 3, 2013



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