The demolition of the more than 120-year-old Realty Chambers building on Nelson's Bridge St has sparked a treasure hunt, with opportunists scouring the site for bottles and a diver going down a well.
Nelson archaeologist Amanda Young said the demolition had been an interesting job, though the building itself was more interesting than the site.
Among the finds have been tiles, nails and bottles, in particular ginger beer bottles, dating right through from the 1950s to the early 20th century.
"Bottlers", bottle collectors, had been in, illegally, and scoured the site one night, she said.
"They even sent a diver down the well. The floor space was tiny, and they crawled all over the place."
Ms Young said she had been assured that the owner was planning to preserve the well. It was hard to give a precise date, but it was likely the well was pre-1870s.
"There's not many left in the city, but it is going to be preserved."
There have been buildings on the property since the 1840s and the now-demolished building is thought to have been there since the 1880s or 1890s, Ms Young said.
The demolition leaves a gaping space between the Westpac bank and Full House on Bridge St.
Realty Chambers' owner Brian Jones has previously told the Nelson Mail that the land would probably be turned into a car park or a vacant site, as he had no plans to sell or redevelop.
He said yesterday that although it was a few months behind schedule, things were progressing well.
"Stage one is just to get the building down. It was an extreme fire risk, then I'm going to have a holiday and I'll see what comes along in the future."
The demolition has been done by Norwest Recycled Timber Ltd.
Worker Matt Hill said they had done the demolition in two stages over the past eight weeks.
"It is good fun [pulling it down] and we try to recycle as much as we can."
Unlike much of the demolition in Christchurch, where diggers were sent in to pull everything down, Norwest made an effort to preserve as much as possible, he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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