Archaeologist keeps eye on CBD treasure
A piece of Nelson history is coming down bit by bit with a timber recycling company seeing value in its old facade.
The owner of Realty Chambers on Bridge St said it was past its use-by date and needed to be demolished.
An archaeology consultant is watching like a hawk, recording any discoveries as workers from Norwest Recycled Timber take it down.
Realty Chambers' owner Brian Jones previously told the Nelson Mail that the land the building was on would probably be turned into a car park or a vacant site, as he had no plans to sell or redevelop.
Nelson-based independent archaeology consultant Amanda Young has been contracted by Mr Jones to oversee the demolition, under the guidance of the Historic Places Trust.
She is recording archaeological evidence as it comes to hand, with Norwest Recycled Timber salvaging what it can.
Ms Young said Realty Chambers was not required to be preserved, but Mr Jones was required under the Historic Places Act 1993 to get an archaeological investigation done of the building and the land underneath because it was built pre-1900.
“We have got a real problem at the moment, as lots of people [owners and developers] are not doing that. They're breaking the law. A lot of people are doing it inadvertently. They don't realise, but there are heavy fines and penalties.”
Realty Chambers was one of the few remaining original large warehouses in central Nelson, with “beautiful timbers” including rimu and original windows and corrugated iron cladding.
“There have been buildings on the property since the 1840s - this building from at least the 1890s, but perhaps earlier.”
Norwest Recycled Timber workers discovered a “Lock Furniture” sign underneath some of the cladding, which was a business that operated there at the turn of the 20th century.
The building was a grain warehouse at one stage, with trap doors and storage areas still evident, as well as a furniture warehouse.
Junior army cadets were based there during World War II, and “a lot of locals are saying it was used as an informal movie theatre at one stage”.
Ms Young said while she always advocated for restoration and retention of historic buildings, the decision lay with owners and developers - not her.
She said she would continue her “massive” recording process as Realty Chambers came down, and produce a report that would end up with the Historic Places Trust, Mr Jones and the Nelson Provincial Museum.
Realty Chambers housed an internet cafe, contemporary jewellery store Shine, Korkers Sandal Company, designer clothing store Rome and artist studios up until earlier this year.
Korkers, which backed onto the building, has found a new spot beside Sprog Hog Kidz in Wakatu Square.
Shine has reopened at a new premises in Hardy St.
Ms Young said any pre-1900s buildings in central Nelson were likely to have European archaeological evidence below, but were “very unlikely” to have Maori evidence under them.
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