The emphatic mill buildings that stand alongside South Beach in Timaru form a unique cluster. They tell a story of the region being a substantial producer of grain, and the milling of wheat in to flour.
Impressive as the exteriors may be, the interiors are equally striking with heavy timber posts and beams, and massive masonry walls. The gravity loads from grain (or wool in the case of wool stores) led to the use of so-called mill flooring. This was solid timber from some of our best species such as kauri, rimu and matai machined in to t&g flooring of twice normal thickness, often with double tongued joints. So in addition to whatever product was aboard, there was the smell of native timber.
The unique Evans Atlas mill shown here has its own flavour, often captured by local artists. The very trad colours of maroon, the black and white in the signage, together with the ever present Timaru brickwork, provide much of the character. The cocky height and proportion of the building both add to its appeal.
Timaru's mill buildings may have outlived their original purpose, but surely new uses are not far away. Elevated apartments with unimpaired coastal views, housed within heritage buildings redolent with local history and flavour. Yes? A new flowering, perhaps.
During the course of our column we’ve dealt mainly with the buildings and amenities of Timaru. However the Northern border of our district is the Rangitata River and we continue down to the Waitaki River in the south so we thought it was about time we started venturing outside the city limits and exploring the surrounding areas.
On my journeys to Central I often travel through the Hakataramea to Kurow, in the Waimate district, and on the way drive past an interesting little cob cottage set off the road in a paddock. This time I managed to stop and check it out. There isn’t a lot of information about it but here’s what I could find.
Paterson’s Accommodation house at Hakataremea was built in 1872. It has a shingle roof and is built from cob, a building material made of dried mud and straw. The mud is actually a clay from the nearby Penticotico creek and the straw is in fact tussock. This primitive method of construction had the advantage of being a good insulator, warm in winter and cool in summer.
The little house was originally occupied by a farmer, James Paterson and his family. Paterson sold liquor and casual accommodation. After his departure in 1893 casual workers continued to camp here. There was, at one time a wool wash nearby at Penticotico creek which provided work for these workers.
The building has been largely restored by local supporters and the NZ Historic places trust. Restoration work is ongoing and the property is managed by Patersons Cottage Charitable Trust.
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