Lament for Euphrasie House as wrecking balls unleashed
A lengthy battle to save what many say is Hamilton's most historically significant building from the wreckers' ball has failed.
Demolition work on Euphrasie House in Hamilton East began on Tuesday.
Machinery tore through the steel and concrete, reducing the 78-year-old building to rubble.
People stopped, perching on the concrete wall across the road, watching for a moment as the building came down. Some people connected to the church had spent most of the day watching. They did not want to comment.
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* Hamilton East's Euphrasie House looks to be gone by Christmas
* Diocese 'blackmailing court' over Euphrasie House
* Waikato regional councillor Lois Livingston dies
The former convent, rebuilt in 1939 and used as a boarding house for girls attending Sacred Heart College until it closed in 2011, is listed as a "Category B" heritage building. It was the first three-storey building in Hamilton, and has a distinctive Spanish style, plaster walls and terracotta-tile roof that set it apart from many other buildings in the city.
A request to allow its demolition was granted in 2012 by the Hamilton City Council after the Catholic Diocese said it could not afford the $5 million earthquake upgrade the building needed.
An appeal to the Environment Court to save it was lost in 2014.
Katarina Dale and her children, Niko, 7, Matthew, 12, and Luka, 10, were biking past when they paused in awe.
Dale is a Sacred Heart alumni. A lot of her friends boarded at Euphrasie House. There was a sadness, watching as it was torn down, she said.
"My bus parked outside here every day. All the boarders would all come out at a once. It was a hive of activity, it was a busy place.
"I think everybody thinks it's a great shame.
"It's a beautiful building."
It was a dark day for Hamilton's history, according to heritage consultant Ann McEwan.
"It's a huge loss that no one will ever really be pleased about. There will never come a day where someone will say 'Thank goodness that building came down'."
"It's pretty miserable … I do hope it will be a wake-up call for Hamilton to look at what it's lost. I'd like it to be a lightbulb moment, but I'm not confident that will be the case."
People who wanted to retain historically significant buildings were often seen as anti-development or trying to stop progress, McEwan said.
Small groups such as the Hamilton East Community Trust were to be applauded for attempting to save buildings like Euphrasie House, but such efforts were doomed to failure if there were no receptive people within the council.
"You just have to look at successful organisations like the Napier Art Deco Trust, which is of the community but is hand-in-hand with the council … the problem here is that there is nobody walking [with the Hamilton trust]."
With Euphrasie House now lost and many of the older buildings at Temple View gone, attention should switch to saving the old Hamilton District Court building, she said.
"It's not really about the money. It's an attitude in Hamilton of indifference and ignorance. You have to go places elsewhere in the world to realise that it is do-able. You can have progress and keep what's important."
Adrienne Livingston parked outside Euphrasie House on Tuesday afternoon, paying her respects.
The fight to save the building begun by her late mother, Lois Livingston, had been lost.
"You fight so hard to save something and then to see it go is a real tragedy.
"I've accepted it. I accepted it when the first digger went in, when they first knocked the awnings off the facade, when they took those awnings off that's when it was over."