On October 5, I decided to take a walk up Manukau Road from Royal Oak to Greenwood's Corner. Along the way, I diverted to the One Tree Hill Domain, mainly because I'd never seen the Auckland Observatory, known as Stardome, before.
In 1888, Irish civil engineer and surveyor John Da Vinci Louch (1854-1937) won a competition held by the One Tree Hill Domain Board (set up just two years earlier) for the landscape design of the Domain. Louch’s father Fitzgibbon Louch (another engineer) arrived in New Zealand in the 1860s as part of George Vesey Stewart’s “special settlement” in Katikati, with his wife Isabella and family of which John was the eldest son. In 1877, the younger Louch entered business with his father as civil engineers, land agents, and architects at Spring Street, Tauranga until 1881. J D Louch then worked in the Public Works Department, engaged on the Auckland defence works in the early 1880s, and then was involved with the survey of the “Auckland Northwards Railway”, according to F W Furkett in Early New Zealand Engineers (1953). Retrenchment brought on an early retirement in 1887.
Then came the Domain Board’s competition, during Louch’s out-of-work period.
A letter from Mr. Louch (the successful competitor for the design for laying out the Domain) was read embodying a proposal of grading and pegging and laying off avenues, carriage drives, &c, &c., for the work required in accordance with the design, and also for laying off and grading an additional drive from the summit of the hill down the eastern side connecting with the avenue, and offering to do the same for the sum of £60. It was resolved, on the motion of the Chairman, that Mr Hall and Mr Gardiner confer with Mr Louch upon the subject, and report the result at the next meeting. It was also determined that the successful design be exhibited at some public place in Auckland, and that the unsuccessful ones may be obtained by the owners on application at the office of Messrs Brown and Campbell, and that the same be notified by advertisement in the Star and Herald.
OTH Domain Board report, Auckland Star 29 May 1888
Louch was taken on by the Public Works Department in late 1889, and continued through to 1908 being involved with the establishment of railway links in the North Island. He came resident engineer at Wellington in 1908, finally retired (second time) in April 1920, and died in Palmerston North, 2 April 1937.
So, there's a "promenade" at the Domain named after Louch. Wonderful scent of flowers in the entrance, but I really don't like the red pebbles (personal dislike of mine. Noisy, and rough on shoes).
Trouble is -- the council have spelled his name wrong.
And why just "DeVinci Louch"? Why not put his full name, "John Da Vinci Louch" and be done with it?
In February 1901, the Domain Board agreed to “secure the services of a suitable man as a Caretaker.” (OTH Domain Board minutes, OTH 120/1/1, Auckland Council Archives )The caretaker’s lodge was built in 1901 by the One Tree Hill Domain Board, to the design of a “Mr E Arnold” (Star, 27 December 1901) – but this could well have been Charles Le Neve Arnold, favourite architect of Sir John Logan Campbell, who had been involved with other design features at the Domain and Cornwall Park. The board received 44 applications for the post of caretaker by April 1902, and in February 1903 held their regular meeting there. The building was extensively altered in the 1960s.
On to the observatory.
The Auckland Astronomical Society formed from a meeting in June 1923.
As a result of a meeting of those interested in the study of astronomy it was decided to form a society to be known as the Auckland Astronomical Society. Professor P W Burbidge, the convener, presided over an attendance of about 30 persons in the physics lecture room at the Auckland University College. He said that recently he had found that a great number of people in Auckland were greatly interested in astronomy, and that during his wanderings around the college he had discovered a valuable six-inch refracting telescope. The University College Council had generously given permission for the society to make use of the instrument, which was a valuable one. It was decided on the motion of the chairman, seconded by Mr W H Hamer, to form the Auckland Astronomical Society, with the avowed object of studying astronomy in the Auckland province. The yearly subscription was fixed at 5/, it being thought that such a small fee would enable all those interested to join as members. Those present were then enrolled members. Professor Burbridge informed the meeting that it would be necessary for the society to house the telescope on a suitable site. The matter of the site and the building was left in the hands of the committee.
Auckland Star 22 June 1923
Within a year, the Society became also known as the astronomical section of the Auckland Institute. Their six-inch telescope was lodged at the Auckland University.
According to their website, fundraising for a purpose-built public observatory began in 1948. They were able to purchase a telescope by 1956, with the assistance of a bequest from Mrs Edith Winstone Blackstone, after whom the Zeiss telescope now at the observatory is named. In 1960, the One Tree Hill Borough granted a 21-year lease to the Society, and the observatory opened in 1967. The planetarium was added when the one at the Auckland War Memorial (previously donated by the Farmers Trading Company) closed in 1989.
For the first observatory I've ever seen, this wasn't bad. The effect of the dome, along with the murals on the outside -- you certainly know what this is about.
Entry to the telescopes area and show auditoroiums costs money -- but just a look at the displays inside is free.
From the astronomical to the more mundane -- back to loo murals, as I walked back to Manukau Road to continue my journey.