This shop was built in 1905 by the landowner, Alfred Burnett, for a draper, Joseph Buckrell, who had established his own business in Whanganui in 1898. When it was opened, the “handsome new building” was described in the local newspaper as being “of Italian Renaissance style” while the Ladies’ Showroom at the rear was “perfectly lighted by lantern lights’ as was “the outstanding feature” of the shop. The architect was Alfred Atkins and the builder Alfred Burton.
Buckrell sold his business in 1910 to a Welshman, Thomas E Thomas, who had extensive experience in the drapery business in London. Thomas retained the name “Melbourne House” for his shop and developed the business, building additional premises at the back in 1913, adding on to the brick offices built in 1907 for the solicitor Cecil Wray.
By 1929 Thomas’s drapery had closed and the building was occupied by seed merchants until 1950. when it was taken over by Phoenix Wine and Spirits who remained here for nearly 40 years. Phoenix altered the building, putting a new shop front in place in 1972. The current shop front was built in 2006 when Victoria’s Treasures moved into the building.
The photograph opposite shows the shop as it appeared around 1911 when Thomas’s drapery was in business. The tailoring and dressmaking departments of the drapery were located above the shop, in rooms which by the mid-1950s were the offices of local architect, Don Wilson.