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.

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