Saturday, June 30, 2012

A tepid day at the baths

In the course of a few weeks' time the new tepid salt water swimming baths which are being built at Freeman's Bay by the Auckland City Council will be ready for use by the public. The work was started some months ago, but owing to various reasons work was not able to be proceeded with as readily as had been expected. The contract is in the hands of Messrs J. T. Julian, and is well in hand. The brickwork of the building has now been almost completed, but the detail work of finishing off the walls and adjusting the various fittings will occupy some weeks.

Water is to be supplied to the baths from the exhaust of the electric power station in Hobson Street. The temperature may be regulated according to the requirements of the swimmers. Ample accommodation in the way of dressing-rooms has been made around three sides of the baths. A separate bath for ladies, measuring 60 feet by 30 feet, and with a depth of 3 feet at one end and 7 feet at the other, is already being tested before the work of finishing off is commenced. Both baths are to be tiled all round, and this should greatly facilitate the work of keeping the baths clean. The larger bath, that set apart for the use of gentlemen, measures 100 feet by 50 feet, and a gallery is being built above the dressing boxes for the use of spectators. This is being fitted up comfortably with seats and an open balustrade around the side. The promenade around the baths will measure some seven feet in width, so that there should be plenty of space to accommodate a large number of bathers.

The entrance to the building is to be from the Customs Street frontage, and behind this there will be eight private baths and several showers. The site has a frontage of 150 feet to the new road, and 127 feet to Customs Street West, and has been leased by the Harbour Board to the City Council for 75 years at a nominal rental of £75 per annum.
Auckland Star 9 October 1914

Last Saturday, June 23, I took the opportunity of the open day at the Tepid Baths, at the border between Downtown Auckland and Freemans Bay, to take a look around the place.

David Pointon's book A Dip in the Clear Blue Water (1984) describes both the municipal facilities for public bathing in the city, and the private enterprise antecedants. In the 1860s, one such pool was suituated off Smale's Point, just west of Queen Street. "A simple wooden fence enclosed some muddy shoreline below the high water mark. When the incoming tide filled the enclosure the businessman was in business. No records exist as to charges, nor whether soap was used ..."

Another similar but more substantial sea-bathing enclosure was beside Wynyard Pier at Official Bay in the 1860s, the Britomart Baths, operated by the Salt-Water Bathing Company. This one had dressing rooms, refreshment rooms, springboards and a false bottom. Those baths closed in May 1876.

The Harbour Board offered the City Council a site on reclaimed land at the intersection of Hardinge and Custom Street West (not all that far from the present-day baths), and the Salt-Water Baths were eventually built and opened in 1881. "The Custom Street West frontage consisted of a building containing offices, lavatories and refreshment rooms. Other refinements included fresh-water showers, springboards, lifebuoys and swimming belts."

This was followed in late 1885 by the Albert Street (Britannia) Baths with a tile-lined pool, hot slipper baths, 52 dressingrooms, lavatories, showers and a caretaker's residence. There was also provision for four shops along the Albert Street frontage: a fruiterer, general reshment store, tobacconist and a barber. (Which sounds similar to the common practice from the early 20th century when building cinemas in Auckland, to allow frontage for hairdresser/tobacconists and confectioners).

By the early 20th century, the City Council had fully adopted the idea of providing and maintaining public baths. The one at Shelly Beach was opened in late 1912. The following year, work began on the construction of the Hobson Street Tepid Baths. They opened 7 March 1914.

The years, and the tepid salt water (pre-1974, when chlorine was substituted), was not kind to the structure. Today, only the outer walls and facade of the Tepid Baths remains, facing Customs Street West. Everything else was gutted, replaced, and renewed over the course of the last two or three years.

There are these wonderful interpretive panels fastened to pillars in the main swimming area, detailing some of the facility's history. Worth a read, if you get a chance to pop in with your togs.

Upstairs (and having an "upstairs" here is an innovation) there is a gymnasium, with views down to the pools (and of course, views upward.)

On display in the foyer, some of the baths' history. Part of the corroded metalwork, in front of a 1920s view od the baths.

One of two swim costumes worn by Tessa Duder at the 1958 Empire Games in Cardiff, at which she won a silver medal for the 110 yards butterfly. Her pre-Games training had been at the Tepid Baths, 1956-1958.

 The tiles are from the original 1914 Ladies' pool.

A mysterious plaster head found beneath the 1914 concrete pool tank.

One of the corroded 1914 trusses.

A piece of architectural novelty on the side of the new part of the building, called "Memories of the Trusses", is supposed to hark back to the old corroded roof trusses which had to be removed.

Hard to get views these days with all the urban clutter around. More about the baths at these links:

NZ Herald, with a behind-the-scenes video.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Feilding racecourse tea kiosk

This has to be one of the most beautiful tea kiosks in New Zealand at any point during the 20th century. Feilding racecourse itself was South Street land leased by the Feilding Jockey Club in 1889-1890, then bought outright in 1895. These tea rooms were apparently, according to the heritage assessment for the site, now Manfeild Park (2011), demolished in the 1930s-1940s, the lovely ornamental lake filled in. The racecourse was sold to the Manawatu District Council in 1999, and the club's racing operations transferred to Awapuni.

But oh, how grand the kiosk must have been.

Tenders were called in August 1906 for construction of the kiosk, to the design of architect Alexander James.  Work was complete by March 1907, but by 1908 both the club's meetings and the local A&P show's patrons using the racecourse and the kiosk put pressure on the kiosk's capacity. It was too popular for its size.

By 1909, the kiosk had doubled in size.

(Description of A & P show)
On past the pond, and the visitor looks up with surprise Like the work of a magic wand, the tea kiosk has seemingly grown in a night. At any rate, it had not been noticed before that the quaint Japanese building which has risen from the lake has doubled itself in size since last the visitor was down that way. 

Feilding Star 2 February 1909

(Description of A & P show)
The ladies' tea kiosk is a special source of at traction. It is surrounded by water, crossed by two handsome bridges, with a fountain playing in the centre, with swans and other birds on the water, also a tame deer in an enclosure. Tastefully set-out tables, accommodating three or four persons each, are placed in and around the kiosk, which is one of the most picturesque features in the landscape.2
Feilding Star 2 February 1910

The postcard itself is poststamped 1912 -- so this was from the kiosk's pre-WWI heyday. A great shame it is no longer with us.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tait Park reopened

Back in June 2009, when I first posted about Tait Park in Avondale, this is what it looked like. 
  Yesterday, after a two-year makeover project by Auckland Council, in conjunction with the previous Avondale Community Board and the now Whau Local Board, Tait Park has been reopened, renewed.

I've mentioned the box before.

The concentric rings of old bricks fascinated me. There are some Avondale ones: J J Craig, Glenburn, both from the same yard but different periods. A lot of New Lynn ones. Then there's the mysterious "BTA" bricks,  "F F Arch Hill" (another Arch Hill brickyard from near Grey Lynn?), Granger bricks from Whitford, and "Clayton & Co" stamped bricks from Hobsonville. For more info, see my post on the New Lynn brickmakers' memorial.

The ribbon cutting.

I'm delighted as to how Tait Park has turned out. From me being concerned about the possible loss of a heritage name on the landscape, to the Avondale Community Gardeners spearheading plans for replanting of the area, to the Council and local politicians getting in behind the project to return a nice place for a break from life's rush back to the community -- it's a great result. Interpretive sign to come.

My 2009 report on Tait Park can bed found here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Pohutukawa Junction

St James Church in Wellington Street. Ref. 4-3542, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library.

On passing by a spot on the way to the on-ramp to the North-Western motorway from the city, a cabbie said he reckoned the site used to be that of a church. He was close -- a church had once been on the same block, now obliterated by motorway development.

In 1864, at a point where Wellington, Nelson, Hobson and Pitt Streets used to converge, a Presbyterian church was constructed.
A meeting was held on Friday night, 26th, of the Building Committee of St. James's Church, for the purpose of opening the tenders for the erection of the new church, Wellington and Nelson streets, of which Mr. T B. Cameron is architect. The following were the tenders Philcox and Vaughan, £3,666 Ephraim Mills, £3,800; Wm. Cameron £3,157; Samuel Goodill, £2,995; A. R. Watson, £2 940; Andrew Anderson, £2,587; John Young, £2,720; James Newell, £2,700; C. Leighton, £2,676; Andrew Clow (accepted), £2,657.

Southern Cross 29 August 1864

We've seen builder Andrew Clow's work before: the Edinburgh Castle hotel, and James Halyday's furniture factory.
The Rev. Mr. Bruce made a short speech on "Ceremony." He also referred briefly to the want of a bell in St. James's Church, and thought that when a church had got a steeple it should also get a bell. He spoke of the prosperity of the Church, and was extremely glad to hear that the debt on the building was being liquidated … He was glad to hear of the progress that had bet n made in the church during the past year, and was happy also to know that the church was getting out of debt.

Auckland Star 9 April 1873

The Presbyterians added St James Hall, next the church, sometime around the late 1870s.

Meanwhile, at the corner of Wellington Street and Pitt Street, the Catholic Institute  was built in 1865. By 1908, it was a Marist Brothers school.

Detail from sheet G 11, 1908 City of Auckland map, Auckland Council Archives.

So, by 1908, the block featured the church, the hall, the school, and other smaller buildings. In 1943, the school was remodelled to become a servicemen's club during World War II. (Home and Building, September 1943 Spring, vol 6, no 4, p 18-19, via Index Auckland)

Then, came the 1960s and the motorways. With State Highway 1 under construction, ramps were needed for the central city. This block was chosen as the site, the buildings here doomed to make way for the motorway. St James Church was demolished around 1963-1964. The rest of the block gradually followed as the decade wore on.

The site during the mid 1960s. Photographer N M Dubois, ref 786-A011-6, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library.

So, why the title for this post? Because of a sculpture on the site, seen below in the aerial from Auckland Council's GIS website.

And seen much better at Auckland West blog.

The sculpture of a pohutukawa blossom was designed by Rod Slater in 2006, consists of 105 stamens, and has recently been refurbished after it faded quite badly in the Auckland sun.

I don't mind the pohutukawa blossom -- but it's unfortunate I had no chance to see the church.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Arch Hill -- why?

Detail from 1890 map of Eden County

From a phone call today came the enquiry: why is Arch Hill so-named? I hadn't much of an idea, so could only help the caller by pointing out resources. But I did start to wonder.

Arch Hill may to have come from the name of a farm on a hill, Allotments 32 to 35 and 37 of Section 5 and Allotments 20 & 21 of Section 7, Suburbs of Auckland, known as "Arch Hill Farm", first seen in the Southern Cross newspaper of 9 January 1855.

"Karangahapi Road" in those times was Great North Road.

Richard Beamish's name isn't to be found anywhere in the deeds indexes for the future Arch Hill area -- but Mr Young's name certainly is, over more than 60 acres. Possibly, Beamish was leasing part from Joseph Young on the handshake principle.

Southern Cross 14 June 1861

Before this sale, by 1860, the name "Arch Hill" for the steep incline of the old Great North Road (now Tuarangi Road) came to be adopted by the greater public. This incline was known latterly as Chinaman's Hill.

(From report on Auckland Provincial Council proceedings)
Mr. Cadman then moved No. 4 on the notice paper that the intention of the Government be called to the state of the Great North Road, from McDonald's creek to the top of Arch Hill ... also, a further sum of money for filling and cutting, so that the gradient of Arch Hill may thereby be so altered as to render that part of the Great North Road, and approach to the City easier of access.

Southern Cross 14 February 1860

Joseph Young's land sale wasn't all that successful -- he offered up Arch Hill Farm for lease to dairymen in 1863.

The boundaries of the new Arch Hill Road District were gazetted in July 1871, from the base of Chinaman's Hill along the southern side of Great North Road, nearly to Newton Road. It consisted of only 11 allotments in Section 7 of Suburbs, one of which was allotment 20, part of the original Arch Hill farm, so was probably the smallest of Auckland's territorial authorities. The first annual ratepayers meeting was held at Edgcumbe's Great Northern Hotel, 25 July 1871.
The district became known, rather unfortunately, for night soil depots in the early 1870s, termed "the Arch Hill Nuisance" in the press. The Arch Hill Brick Works was set up at the end of 1877, located within the district's boundary on part of the old Arch Hill farm. On the same site, right on the corner of Turarangi Road and Great North Road, the Arch Hill Hotel was opened in 1880, despite the residents best efforts to keep their small district dry.

By 1899, the district was sorting out a reticulated water supply, and had its own volunteer fire brigade with a fire station by March 1900, at around 252-258 Great North Road, adjoining the Arch Hill Road Board offices.

By 1912, Arch Hill was described as a densely-populated area -- but the siren call of Greater Auckland amalgamation with Auckland City was attractive for such a small district.
An important conference between the Mayor of Auckland (Mr C. J. Parr) and the Arch Hill Road Board took place last night, there being present all the members of the Board, the town clerk, and several ex-chairmen. His Worship sought information as to the financial position, indebtedness, and rating of the local body, which was fully given. The members said they desired to be informed by his Worship what the advantages would be if they came into the city. Mr Parr said it seemed rather absurd that 2,000 people with a ratable value of £12,400 should have a separate government, really in the heart of Auckland. No doubt the Road Board had done good work in the past, but all the best interests of the district could be promoted now by amalgamating and becoming part of a strong municipality.

One of the delegates mentioned the question of rates. Mr Parr said he thought it would not mean any increase in the general rates, but perhaps a decrease to the Arch Hill people, and quoted figures in favour of this view. His Worship said that any impartial person who cared to study the figures could come to no other conclusion than that the ratepayer of Arch Hill would benefit a great deal more than the ratepayers of Auckland by the union. The Road Board members thanked Mr Parr for the information he had given them, stating that it had never previously been put so clearly before them. They requested the Mayor to address a meeting of ratepayers. Mr Parr promised that if his engagements would permit he would do so, but at present he was unable to fix a date.
Auckland Star 11 October 1912

The district decided to join Auckland City in November that year, and amalgamation was official in 1913. Today, most tend to see the area more-or-less as part of Grey Lynn (although it was not part of that borough at all). But, the Arch Hill name does live on.