Making way for the new

PEOPLE OF THE PAST

ARTHUR FRYER
Last updated 05:00 28/12/2013

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The history of Taranaki is largely that of wooden buildings roofed with sheets of corrugated iron, the ideal building materials of a quickly developing province.

They were easily brought on to the site, the structure quickly erected, and if the new venture didn't survive, the relatively light construction could be put on a wagon and carried to a new site.

This was especially true of the little timber milling townships like Waipuku with its hotel, two stores and a school that relocated to neighbouring Tariki when the New Plymouth Sash and Door sawmill was set up there.

Following the Parihaka affair in 1881, some storekeepers lost confidence in the future of the infant Normanby township and brought their business, including a two-storied store, by bullock wagon to a good corner section in Hawera's High St. With alterations over the years it served successive owners for a hundred years.

In 1878 the Hawera Town Hall was built on the corner of High and Princes streets, but a short time later the owners, realising the value of the corner section, bought the plot next door. With beams placed underneath the town hall floor, and using jacks and rollers, they shifted their building on to a new set of foundations.

A fine wooden, two-storied building soon replaced the town hall and occupied the site until 1928 when it was succeeded by a fine columned building erected by the National Bank.

After World War I, Dr Young arrived in Hawera to take up Dr Sloan's practice and saw that there was no advantage for him to have his home and surgery opening on to High St, so in 1922 he had the building moved around the corner of Argyle St and sold the High St frontage to investors. Messrs Duffill and Gibson, architects, advertised in the Hawera and Normanby Star that they could design suitable premises to suit the new property owner.

RC Glass was contracted to move the doctor's surgery and in a notebook discovered by his son Don in the old family home, lists his four assistants as C Baker, W T Parkinson, H L Warner and T E Muir, to whom he paid 14 shillings for each eight-hour day, and to himself, 20 shillings a day.

The house was carefully detached from its foundation blocks and moved on rollers and planks to the new site, a task that took the men 14 days.

The notebook shows that he bought four yards of gravel at [PndStlg]2 four shillings, two yards of pit sand at [PndStlg]1, and he charged out the 12 rollers he used at a penny each for 14 days. The total job to change the location of the house and surgery cost Dr Young about [PndStlg]60.

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This house has long since lost its identity as a doctor's surgery and has passed through several uses, including a Salvation Army skills training centre, but it is still smartly painted and occupied.

In February 1927 the Hawera Hospital opened its new complex across town in Hunter St, which included a large new nurses' home providing more accommodation than in the Gladstone St house.

The redundant nurses' home was sold by the Hawera Hospital Board to Mr H S Elliot, the town clerk, to be moved to his building section across the road. This is a solidly built house with large, high-ceilinged rooms and large windows.

With beams and jacks, the ex-nurses' home was lifted up to the level of the road, put on to the rollers and manoeuvred to its new site.

The building had to be turned from west-facing to north-facing, lifted 2 metres then placed on its new foundations about 3m in from the street line. There it was converted into a private home, taking its place in the street alongside the newly built one and the home of Scottish architect Mr Gibson.

More than 80 years later the building is still there, having survived a division into two self-contained flats and the change back to a single home.

Churches, too, moved their premises, shifting their old and small buildings to make way for the new. The Methodists did this twice as each building was succeeded by a larger church on the same site in Regent St, the superseded building being shifted to the rear to provide a hall for circuit activities and Sunday school.

The first church, built in 1876, was shifted in 1883 and the second in 1905 to make way for a substantial new church that opened in 1906.

When in 1928 the wooden Roman Catholic St Joseph's Church was replaced with a reinforced concrete structure, the previous building was relocated to Milmoe St, a distance of about 200m, to become the parish hall. This was demolished to make way for new houses, with the only surviving portion, the porch, being moved to the Tawhiti Museum.

The skyline of all towns changes with the fortunes of its citizens and though some buildings have been lost through fire or demolition, others are taken away for new lives and their previous sites taken for commercial buildings and asphalt car parks.

The appearance of Hawera's High St was altered in the last years of the 20th century with the building of a supermarket and a Warehouse store, the numerous displaced houses being taken away by large trucks, sometimes at night.

Timber structures, as large as churches and hotels, or as small as modest cottages, continue to be moved around the country to new sites, reflecting the changing fortunes of communities.

Whoever thought that a back-street, early-20th- century house in Patea with its characteristic dormer windows could reappear in the farmland of Tikorangi and look as if it had belonged there for a hundred years?

- Taranaki Daily News

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