Oscar von Sierakowski’s factory and shop was built on the corner of Colombo and Tuam Streets in 1906. It boasted that it was the largest wire work factory in the colonies, producing decorative wire fences, garden arches, flower stands, hanging baskets, fire screens, dress stands, bed and sofa springs, a very fine collection of bird cages, as well as a new line consisting of handsome brass trellis work for the fronts of bank and office counters and wire screens for gold dredges.
Not only could you buy the cage for your birds from von Sierakowski and Co, but the birds too, including White Cockatoos, Corellas and Galahs.
In this photograph of the premises, we can see an example of von Sierakowski’s decorative wire fencing leaning against the wall of the shop. This was such a popular way of fencing villa’s in the early 1900s and there are still some examples of his work existing on older city properties.
Born in Australia to Polish and Scottish parents, von Sierakowski came to Christchurch from Victoria around 1893. Oscar’s first shop and factory was at 110 Colombo Street in Sydenham. He moved to the premises above and in 1906 asked his nephew, Ralph von Sierakowski, from Melbourne to come and work for him. Later, Ralph took up work as a barman at the Clarendon Hotel.
Von Sierakowski & Co were regular exhibitors at Christchurch shows which gave them the opportunity to showcase their work. At the Jubilee Exhibition in 1900, their display consisted of,
‘..handsome garden arches of wire, woven with infinite skill and care, and the proportions of the arches justly observed; stands for plants that would grace the most lordly mansion; fire-guards for school fireplaces and nurseries; lamp shade frames, screens, pea-guards, sieves and furniture seat springs; the whole being an indication to the casual looker-on of how little he knows of certain departments of the industry, and displays reminds him, as he notes the handicraft of such an artificer as Mr Von Sierakowski, of Hamlet’s remark, that “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.’ 
Although he was a talented wire worker, von Sierakowski was evidently not as talented when it came to managing money. On July 5th, 1909 a meeting of his creditors gathered to discuss Oscar von Sierakowski’s now bankrupt estate, including his business partner, Mr H. G. Goodman, who held security over a half interest in the firm’s business.
An advertisement subsequently appeared in the Star on June 30th, 1909 giving notice that Oscar was no longer authorised to receive any monies on account of the firm, which instead had to be paid directly to Goodman himself.
Von Sierakowski’s talent did not go unsupported for very long; by September 1909, he was advertising himself as ‘The Old Wire Worker at a New Address’ having secured a position as manager of ‘The Waratah Wire Works’ at 86 Colombo Street. Oscar remained in Christchurch for the rest of his life, until his sudden death on October 29th, 1951 whilst on a family visit in Melbourne, Australia.
After the passage of 100 years, Von Sierakowski building has lost the decorative wire work and been painted a hideous bright blue, and was occupied by John Bull Cycles.
- The Weekly Press, 14 Nov. 1906, p. 53. Image: Christchurch City Libraries File Reference 1021 PhotoCD 6, IMG0051.
- The Star, Page 7, advertisements Column 4, 13 December 1902. Image: Papers Past.
- Star , Issue 6953, 17 November 1900, Page 6.
- The Weekly Press, 9 Oct. 1924, p. 26. H. H. Green (photographer). Image: Christchurch City Libraries.