The AGM of the Timaru Civic Trust this year was followed by a presentation by Glen Hazelton the team leader of the Urban Design Unit of the Dunedin City Council.
Dr Hazelton presented a collection of overheads showing the dynamic revival of the southern end of the Dunedin CBD. Essentially this is the zone between Vogel and Princes Streets, south of the Octagon. The area has become known as the warehouse precinct.
Quite recently many of the buildings in this precinct were derelict wrecks; now a bustling community has emerged complete with apartment living. A planner might call it a "mixed use" revival. A Dunedin citizen would call it a miracle.
There are clear messages here for Timaru. In the Dunedin precinct some of the very worst buildings with low seismic ratings, rotten floors and housing many pigeons are now totally restored, strengthened and fully tenanted. Furthermore looking impressive, through stripping back to the original materials, clever colour schemes, street art, and in places all of the above.
As Glen Hazelton pointed out, these buildings were constructed of timeless materials – natural stone, brick, heart timbers, and plaster. That might be at the basic order of things. At the higher level of appreciation many of the buildings were designed with the classic ingredients of proportion, weight, street presence and style. As always, some buildings are downright plain, only adding to the impact of the better models.
Character is important to Dunedin, and just as important to Timaru. A recent column touched upon Timaru's grand hotel building era, an important aspect of the townscape, so too the brick industrial buildings awaiting imaginative reuse.
The Dunedin model shows that once the torch is lit, the light of renovation burns bright.
With its forty metre frontage to Beswick Street and almost the same to Cains Terrace the Grosvenor Hotel is a substantial piece of work. The site was first occupied by Meikles Hotel, designed by the Timaru architect F J Wilson in 1875.
James Turnbull has his name attached to so many Timaru buildings and he designed the complete remodelling of Meikles Hotel in 1915 for the new owners. Together with other bold hotels of the same era – the Dominion and the Hydro Grand for example - the Grosvenor provides the substance that gives Timaru its very marketable image of a seaside resort with a colourful port. The deep balconies of these three buildings all provide commanding views towards the ocean.
As British architects moved away from the flamboyant decoration of the Victorian era, which often descended into pastiche, there remained a desire to decorate their buildings but in a more subtle manner. The Grosvenor sits fair and square within this Edwardian baroque era.
Prior to harsh alterations in the 1970's the interior was very stylish. Immediately inside the main entry was a spacious, elegant salon – a room walled almost entirely in glass, supported by black cast ironwork. An open fire – burning coke – was lit every day of the year, as a welcoming gesture.
From about 1950 the hotel was operated for many years by the McNeill family who added style and decorum to the Grosvenor not to mention an excellent wine list stocked from France. Indeed the Grosvenor has an ample cellar under the building for this very purpose.
Daffodils really are the harbinger of spring, even the cloudy cool weather can’t stop those daffs from their yearly reach for the skies. Lovely to see them stretching up through the still cold ground, filling the air with their scent and our views with their bright and yellow tones. All very nice but you really know the big guns of spring are here when the blossom hits town.
It’s been a beautiful and distracting experience travelling about town in the last few weeks, seeing the masses of gorgeous pink and white blossoms appearing. Those great fluffy tracts of flowers can’t help but make your spirits rise. From whites and perfect pinks to darker plum shades, floating blousily on the ends of their bare branches in a seductive attempt to attract the passing bees. Hanging over pretty gates and garden fences, lining streets and starring in parks all over town. We are happy bystanders in this annual spring show. It’s a short moment in time to be savoured, over too soon and all too fleeting , ended by a few untimely winds creating swirls of confetti, clearing the branches in preparation for fresh green leaves. Spring marches on.
Most blossom trees also feature spectacular autumn colours, are a manageable height and sit well in a city streetscape. The benefits of having trees in our city environments is well documented and leads to residents feeling more connected with nature and a general feeling of well being. They provide essential shade, reduce noise and dust, clean the air and create oxygen, benefit healing and calm people, provide spiritual and creative inspiration and encourage civic pride. Enjoy your trees, appreciate their gifts and maybe choose just the right place to plant perhaps one more for your children and grandchildren.
The statue of Henry Cain is one we all know well. The record of a man who accomplished alot in his time, He became a prominent local businessman, a well-regarded public figure and indeed served as the 2nd mayor of Timaru between 1870-1873.
He was born in England in 1816 and began his life at sea at the early age of 13. He was a most successful trader for many years, travelling between Australia, China, California and New Zealand. After doing some contract work in Christchurch for Henry Le Cren, he was asked by Le Cren to set up a trading post in Timaru in 1857.
At the time Timaru was little more than a sheep station owned by George Rhodes. Cain occupied one of the 3 houses in Timaru. He opened a General Store and as the town developed, it wasn’t long before he was operating the first Landing service in the busy and growing settlement.
He built his home at Woodlands, between Cain and Harper streets, where he lived till his death on 28thJanuary, 1886. He died at the age of seventy after being murdered , poisoned by Thomas Hall, his son in law. Hall had married Kate Emily Espie, Cain’s stepdaughter, in Timaru on 26 May 1885. Cain disapproved and refused to go to the wedding. At the time of his conviction the judge described Thomas Hall as, “the vilest criminal every tried in New Zealand”.
A most dramatic exit and one which must have keep the locals fascinated for some time. Cain was buried in the Timaru Cemetery on the 30th Jan. 1886.
Our well-loved sculpture was created by Christchurch sculptor, Donald Paterson. He used a copper finish for the hands and face, and dressed the figure in real clothes, which were soaked in resin to give a lifelike look. A wonderful addition to our cityscape, it’s been climbed over, photographed and admired by many locals, children and visitors to our city over the years. One would wonder how many secrets he’s been told during its lifetime.
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