Discover Canterbury: Sign of the Takahe

Summit Road scrapbook, pages 104 and 105. No known copyright. CCL-Arch202-4-2-0055.

The largest of the Summit Road rest houses, the Sign of the Takahe was built between 1918 and 1948, and opened to the public early April 1949.

Sign of the Takahe building, Cashmere by Milly Hopkins. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. CCL-MiHo-1981-0058.

Construction of the building was motivated by Henry George (Harry) Ell as the first of four rest houses along the Summit Road as part of his vision to provide public access to all parts of the Port Hills.

"The interior of the Sign of the Takahe is full of heraldic symbols: coats of arms of Canterbury settler families, governors-general and prime ministers grace the walls alongside English shields, while the dining room contains a fireplace that is an exact replica of one in historic Haddon Hall in Derbyshire." - Canterbury Stories.

Sign of the Takahe restaurant. © Christchurch Star. CCL-StarP-02092A.

Harry Ell died unexpectedly in 1934, however his workers continued construction under the direction of architect J. G. Collins. After a series of delays due to disagreements, financial constraints, and the Second World War, the building was not completed until fourteen years after Ell's death.

Sign of the Takahe. Copyright Macmillan Brown Library. UCMB-1418-2-11-1-0659.

The Sign of the Takahe, like many Christchurch buildings, was damaged during the 2010-2011 Canterbury Earthquakes. The Christchurch City Council in 2013 approved a $2.8 million restoration which was completed prior to the centennial in May 2017. Today the building is used as a café, bar, and function space.

More images of the Sign of the Takahe and the Summit Road can be viewed on Canterbury Stories. Related collections include a series of architectural drawings of the Sign of the Takahe, and a selection of pages from the Summit Road scrapbook, with more pages of this scrapbook being published regularly.

Do you have any photographs that you would like to add to our collections? You can contribute to our collection via the Discovery Wall website.

Discover Canterbury

Discover Canterbury is a fortnightly blog post promoting beautiful, interesting, weird, and wonderful digital content from our Canterbury Stories and Discovery Wall collections.
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