Thursday, 29 March 2012

In and around Hawke's Bay: Hastings

Located 20km south of Napier is the town of Hastings, which is the commercial hub of Hawke's Bay. The district has a long history as a food producing region and it and is commonly referred to as the "Fruit Bowl of New Zealand", in particular for its strong associations with growing stone fruits and wine production.

Although it's the bigger brother to Napier, Hastings also shares a rich architectural heritage as much of it was also devastated by the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake. Whilst it didn't sustain quite the same level of devastation inflicted on its twin city, Hastings was also rebuilt to reflect the styles of the times - Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission and Art Deco. Where Art Deco is king in Napier, Spanish Mission has the upper hand in Hastings. In particular, the Westerman's Building (1932) is considered one of the best Spanish Mission style buildings in Hawke's Bay, rivalling that of the Criterion Hotel.

The magnificent Westerman's Building is home to the visitor centre

Decorative leadlights under the verandah

Picking up a couple of leaflets from i-SITE we decided to do some self-guided walks to explore the Central Business District. The most obvious building to begin with is the Clock Tower (1935), which towers over the city square. Art Deco in style, the tower was designed by young local architect Sydney Chaplin, who won a national design competition in 1934. The main Post Office with its clock tower was one of the main buildings to be destroyed  in the 1931 earthquake, so as part of the reconstruction efforts, a new clock tower was identified as one of the priorities. The Clock Tower is one of many buildings in Hastings registered with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and serves as both a landmark and as a memorial to the 93 Hastings's residents who died in the earthquake.

On the edge of the city square is the Haukanui water feature, which is described as a point which serves as a link between the east and west ends of Hastings. Haukanui means "life giving waters" and apparently the feature symbolises the abundant natural water resource of the local aquifer system. However, I can't say that I've been to too many places where freight trains run through the middle of a fountain!

A picture of calmness and serenity at the Hastings city square...

... is shattered by a filthy, great big freight train

Walking west of the railway line we walked past some notable buildings including the Heretauga Club (1936), Medical and Dental Chambers (1935), Villa d' Este (1929) and Roach's Department Store (1934), among other buildings of interest.

The initials of the Heretauga Club can be seen on the exterior

The streamline Medical and Dental Chambers has curved walls projecting from the façade at each end
The most distinctive feature is the triangle-shaped window projecting  above the entrance
Villa d'Este on Heretaunga Street
The former Roach's Department Store
The Russell Street precinct has some of the most stunning Spanish Mission style buildings in Hastings, such as the CML (1939), Harvey's (1933) and Fitzpatrick's (1924) buildings. The CML Building was the last significant pre-World War II heritage building constructed in Hastings.

The Colonial Mutual Life (CML) Assurance Building is an eclectic mix of Art Deco, Spanish Mission and Stripped Classical styles
Decorative motifs of Maori origin are an unusual feature in the archway
The Harvey's Building is currently home to the Hastings Community Art Centre and inside there is an impressive leadlight skylight which fills the gallery with natural light.

The Spanish Mission Harvey's Building on Russell Street
The impressive leadlight design above the main gallery

Green Celtic knots can be seen in the design on the pilasters of the Fitzpatrick's Building
The Hastings Post Office was originally built in 1910 and extended in 1928. However, only the extension survived the earthquake. This was incorporated in a new Stripped Classical building designed by J.T. Muir who also designed the Former Government Buildings in Napier.

The former Hastings Post Office is one of the best known and historically important buildings in Hastings
The Stripped Classical design has subtle ionic decoration

The Former Government Buildings in Napier
The cream of crop of Hastings' heritage buildings is the Hastings Municipal Theatre (1915) which forms part of the Hawke's Bay Opera House. This was the first Spanish Mission building façade to be completed in Hastings. While the building survived the earthquake, extensive repairs and strengthening were required. Adjoining the Municipal Theatre is the Muncipal Building and Assembly Hall (1917). The building was designed by local architect Albert Garnett who won a design competition, which neighbouring Napier architects banned from entering. He drew on an eclectic blend of visual styles to design a Renaissance-style building for the Hastings Borough Council's administration staff.

The Municipal Theatre is one of the last remaining theatres in New Zealand built by the eminent Australasian theatre designer Henry Eli White
The leadlight glass at the Hastings St side entrance is Art Nouveau in style
In 2004, the District Council commissioned the restoration of these two heritage buildings and a new third building comprising of a foyer and plaza linking the Opera House to the existing historical buildings.

The Municipal Buildings also house Hawke's Bay's largest ballroom as part of the Opera House complex

Opposite the Opera House is the Wesley Methodist Church (1932) which completes this iconic part of Hastings. This Spanish Mission style church was designed to replace the original, which was destroyed by the 1931 earthquake. The redeveloped site contains stone seats and a low perimeter stone wall, which are constructed from the concrete rubble recovered from the original Methodist church.

Wesley Methodist Church is set across the road from the Opera House
The outside of the church has been painted in colours to complement the Opera House
Finally, the Dominion Restaurant (1935) on Heretaunga Street is the only remaining asymmetrical shop front design in Hastings. Although Hastings was predominately rebuilt in the Spanish Mission style architecture, this is most definitely Art Deco!

The Dominion Restaurant was designed by the prominent the architecture practice Edmund Anscombe and Associates.
Although, we enjoyed doing our own tour round Hastings it definitely felt more rough around the edges than Napier, especially with all the boy racers. I would recommend it as good day trip if you're looking for some more unique architecture. Hastings was less than an hour away from Napier on the bus, which is considered a good connection if your using public transport in the more remote parts of New Zealand.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Cheerio to Deco

It's the final day of the Art Deco Weekend and the proceedings are starting to wind down for this year's celebrations. However, there's still plenty on offer to round off the biggest event in the Hawke's Bay calendar.

To start off the day we walked round the corner of our hostel to the Masonic Hotel, as this was the starting line for the Soap Box Derby. This is an annual event where home-made carts race down Tennyson St for personal glory! There was a whole variety of racers including a wine bottle shaped cart, a steam engine (with liquid nitrogen steam), Brum from the children's TV series, Gertie the Truck, an army Jeep, plus many other streamlined racers. It was all done in good spirit and the event drew in a huge crowd who lined both sides of Tennyson St - it kind of reminded me of the episode of The Simpsons, Saturdays of Thunder with a similar Soap Box Derby race. There was even a parade at the end for all the racers to showcase their home-made efforts.

It's a fine line between success and failure!

This soap box racer was so fast it was just a mere blur!

Moving on to the next scheduled event of the day, we headed over to the Colonnade for the Veronica Bell Parade. At the Veronica Sunbay, the bell from the HMS Veronica is installed with a fully military ceremony to commemorate the efforts of the navy during the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake. This was an especially poignant reminder in light of the first anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake. The bell is rung to herald the conclusion of the Art Deco Weekend and is guarded by the Sea Scouts until it is taken to Waiapu Anglican Cathedral later on during the day.

The bell from HMS Veronica hanging from the Sunbay

Outside the i-SITE visitor centre, the Hawke's Bay Vintage Car Club were collecting donations in exchange for a car ride. It would have been rude not have taken up the opportunity so we took a short ride down the Marine Parade in a luxury Packard. Lizzie got to ride shotgun whilst I had the back all to myself. It was a smooth ride with the wind in your face and the driver called his Packard "an American Rolls Royce" and claimed it was "better than a Buick!".

This one's for you Austin!

The gauntlet had been thrown down for a rematch on the Par 2 Mini Golf after my victory yesterday. This time Deco Drive would be the course to tee-off on. It was much more challenging as it got the better of me and Lizzie was handed victory by a clear 12 strokes! It was a bitter pill to swallow.

Hole in one!

The undisputed winner of Deco Drive

Walking back through the parade we caught the very end of the Gatsby Picnic with the various themed gazebos on the Marine Parade Gardens. However, the celebrations were all winding down for this year but as with anything, all good things must come to an end...

The Pania of the Reef statue at the start of the Gatsby Picnic

That's all folks!

The sun sets on another Art Deco Weekend, until next year

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Deco Delights

Waking up to the soft sound of a jazz trumpet in the distance, I knew I was still in the 1930s, well at least for the weekend. For the second day of the Art Deco Weekend the plan was to head over to the seaside village of Ahuriri (the original Māori name for what is now Napier), to see what I personally believe is the jewel of Napier - the National Tobacco Company Building (1933). Walking along Breakwater Road, we passed the port area of Napier and into the historic quayside suburb of Ahuriri to see arguably one of New Zealand's most lavish buildings.
Boats sailing along the coast

The harbourside at Ahuriri

View of the Union Hotel looking down of Waghorne St

During the Great Depression the National Tobacco Company produced only pipe and cigarette tobacco, not cigarettes so it was able to sell it's products at affordable prices and this is the reason why Gerhard Husheer, the owner of the company, could afford such an extravagent administration building.

The National Tobacco Company Building is one of Louis Hay's finest and best preserved buildings

The design combines elements of Chicago School, Art Deco and Art Noveau

The exterior of the building is decorated with roses and grapevines and the theme is continued inside the building with stucco roses on the pillars and fruit in the leadlight windows and foyer ceiling dome. The elaborate carved wooden doors are reputed to have cost £600, back in the day when an average working man's annual wage was £100!

Ornate brass lamp at the entrance
Stucco panels featuring roses and raupō

The large leadlight glass dome in the foyer

Roses combined with oranges feature in the leadlight windows

The elegant and luxurious foyer features marble panelling and carved oak

Walking back into town along the foreshore, we saw the RNZAF Red Checkers (the New Zealand equivalent of the Red Arrows) performing more daredevil stunts over the skies of the city.

To get in the mood of the day we changed into our Deco outfits (inspired a little from all the episodes of Boardwalk Empire we've been watching recently!) before catching the Bathing Belles event at the Sound Shell. There was an array of bathing costumes and even a couple of men got in on the act!

The New Napier Arch at the Colonnade

The Bathing Belles (and blokes) event at the Sound Shell

Next on our list of things to do was to play a round on the Par 2 Mini Golf course. All players with Art Deco attire received a discount so it had to be done. It took all my skill but I just managed to beat Lizzie on the Pacific Pro-Am course, obviously I was a gracious winner!

The water hazard at hole 14

Hats off to the winner!

For the evening, we split our time between the Twilight Toe Tap and the Saturday Night at the Shell events. The Twilight Toe Tap was street jazz at it's best on Emerson Street outside the Spanish-style Criterion Hotel (1932). There were all styles of dances from tangos to foxtrots, essentially anything goes and anyone was welcome to join in. I even had a couple of dances with Lizzie, although we were put to shame by everyone else!

The jazz band at Market St

Dancing the night away outside the Criterion Hotel

Over at the Sound Shell, the Royal New Zealand Navy Band were preforming on the stage. It was a good way to relax in the Colonnade with a cup of hot chocolate for the evening...

A crowd walking up Emerson St towards Marine Parade

Vintage Bentley car outside the Masonic Hotel