Cracroft House demolished
Cracroft House falls victim to bulldozersANNA TURNER
Another Christchurch heritage building has been bulldozed.
Demolition of earthquake-damaged Cracroft House in Cashmere began on Wednesday.
The cob cottage, built by politician Sir John Cracroft Wilson between 1854 and 1856, is registered with the Historic Places Trust.
It was gifted to the Girl Guides Association in 1958.
Cracroft Guiding Centre warden Trevena Wilson said the house held a ''special place in the hearts of many'' and the demolition was announced ''with sadness''.
"We had engineering assessments of Cracroft House and it was judged to be beyond economic repair," she said.
Cracroft Wilson descendant Felicity Aitken, 83, said she was disappointed to see the ''very special'' building go.
"I feel so sorry for the Christchurch Guides in particular who have had a lot to put up with and have loved being there so much over the years," she said.
Canterbury Earthquake Heritage Buildings Fund Trust chairwoman Anna Crighton said it was a loss for the community.
''It's not just significant historically and architecturally, but socially as well,'' she said.
''It's such a popular venue and so many people will have memories of there. I think it will come as a shock to many people.''
Crighton said she hoped the Guides had done all they could to save the house.
''I'm not sure how thorough they were in trying to save it. That's up to the owners. Any historic house can be saved if you throw enough money at it, but it may have gone beyond that,'' she said.
Architect Graeme North, who inspected the building with three engineers after the February 2011 quake, believed the building was salvageable.
''It looked quite badly damaged from the outside but nothing had collapsed or was badly damaged structurally. Our opinion was that it was salvageable. It wouldn't be cheap or easy, but it could be done.''
North, along with Christchurch City Council engineers, had offered to undertake detailed inspection for the Guides, but they declined the offer.
''They had two once-over engineering reports on the structural integrity, but they weren't thorough,'' he said.
''Apparently a geotechnical report has been done, but we haven't seen a copy. There's been so much loss of buildings in Christchurch, but it seems it hasn't really been given a chance.''
Demolition of the building was expected to be completed by the end of the month.
''The old Cracroft House will be gone but it will still be a great purpose-built training centre for GirlGuiding New Zealand and we will be welcoming community groups and businesses to come and enjoy the peaceful, tranquil setting here," Wilson said.
The nearby Old Stone House, built by Cracroft Wilson in 1870, is shut because of quake damage.
A spokeswoman said the council was completing a detailed engineering evaluation on the building.
The building's history
Sir John Cracroft Wilson was a British-educated civil servant in India who became an influential farmer and politician in New Zealand.
He was a member of the House of Representatives for Christchurch from 1860 to 1866, as well as chairman of the Public Petitions Committee from 1866 to 1870.
He also represented Ashburton and Heathcote in the Canterbury Provincial Council.
He bought a farm on the Port Hills in 1853 and named it Cashmere - later to become the suburb - after Kashmir in India. Between 1854 and 1856, he built a large homestead at Cashmere. Cashmere House, as it was known, was the social centre of the south side of town.
During World War II it was occupied by the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. In 1958, John Frederick Cracroft Wilson, great grandson of Cracroft Wilson, gifted the house, along with 1.4 hectares of grounds, to the Girl Guides Association.
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