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.
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