CYCLOPEDIA OF NZ 1897
Beck, John, Kent Terrace. Telephone 217. Bankers, Bank of Australasia. Foreign agents: H. W. Peabody and Co., New York and Boston, United States of America. Mr. Beck is a native of Liverpool, where he was apprenticed to Mr. Boumphrey to learn the joinery trade. In 1852, having finished his term, he continued for a year or two working at his trade in Liverpool. Meantime the idea of emigrating to the colonies began to work upon his mind. In 1853 visions became realities, and Mr. Beck found himself, along with many other emigrants, on board the good ship `Marco Polo' bound for Melbourne, Victoria, where he landed in January 1854. Before the end of the latter year, the subject of this sketch was backing under the sunny southern skies and striving to do what he could towards making the proverbial fortune. For eight years he remained in the colony of Victoria, where he found employment in the building trade in the neighbourhood of the capital. In 1860 the goldfields rush to Otago caused a good many to try their luck in New Zealand. Among these was Mr. Beck, who, however, soon found that it was more profitable to work at his own trade, of which he was master, than to depend on the uncertainties of a digger's life. He therefore went to Dunedin and engaged in the building trade till the year 1865, when he elected to settle in Wellington.
Almost immediately on his arrival he was fortunate in securing from the Provincial Government the right for seven years to supply water to the shipping at Queen's Wharf. In order to carry out the terms of his lease he had to construct waterworks at his own expense. This involved a large outlay of capital [fully £1000], in addition to his own time and labour. The results, however, proved highly satisfactory to Mr. Beck, who derived a handsome annual profit as the reward of his enterprise and forethought. In the year 1870 the present business was founded. At first his operations were on a comparatively small scale, and few hands were needed, but as time went on the demand gradually increased, necessitating additional assistance and extra appliances for producing the goods required. For some years, Mr. Beck conducted his growing trade in Dixon Street, where he supplied, in the aggregate, and enormous quantity of timber for building purposes in the city and suburbs. Of late years the works at the latter place have been much too small, and it was therefore imperative that
more commodious premises should be provided. In order to make provision for the needs of his trade, he purchased a town acre in Kent Terrace, where he has erected the present large mill, with offices attached. The building, which is three stories in height, is built of wood and iron upon a substantial foundation of brick. The size of the mill may be estimated from the fact that the total floor space is equal to 15,000 square feet. A steam engine of fifteen horse power is used to drive the machinery; five tons of coal monthly are used in connection with the works. The plant includes planing and sawing machines of the latest and most approved description. About eighteen hands find regular employment in connection with the mill and yards. Mr. Beck makes a specialty of preparing and supplying materials for coachbuilders and wheelrights, and also laths for venetian blinds. He is a direct importer of timber from England, America, Australia and Tasmania, and keeps large stocks of timber from each of these countries, in addition to a considerable stock of New Zealand timber of all kinds. In addition to supplying timber and materials for building purposes, Mr. Beck is a builder himself. He has for many years continued to build dwellings, which he has for the most part designed and superintended himself. He now owns no less than twenty-three houses, which he succeeds in keeping well let to good tenants. Mr. Beck is of a somewhat retiring disposition, being indisposed to seek the prominent positions in local politics. He is content to make haste slowly, and must be classed among the successful colonists of Wellington.
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