Historic demo captured on film

Last updated 13:17 19/08/2011

Elizabeth House demolition

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The demolition of an earthquake-damaged historic wedding venue has been captured on film, stirring up memories for thousands of Cantabrians who were married there.

Elizabeth House in Merivale was scheduled for demolition after suffering significant damage in the February quake.

It was built in 1914 and became a wedding venue about 50 years ago.

Christchurch videographer Jared Waddams filmed his first wedding video at the venue in 1991 and captured the building's demolition in June as a favour to its owner.

"He wanted a little keepsake."

Waddams had filmed about 100 wedding videos at Elizabeth House over the past 20 years and said it was "quite gutting" to film its demolition.

"As it was coming down I was getting flashbacks of all the couples I met there," he said.

"I had to concentrate on the job at hand [but] going through and editing it, it was really sad." 

He posted the video on his Facebook page and received comments from people who had been married at the venue.

"I got a lot of feedback from people saying it's sad to see it go. A lot of people have a connection with it."

Elizabeth House owner Tony Treleaven said about 5000 weddings had been held at the venue over the years, but it had become "a bit run down" before he bought it six years ago.

"I did a lot of catering there over the years and always thought 'this has got a lot of potential'."

He snapped it up when it came on to the market and moved in with his partner, Sharon Hann, and their five-year-old daughter, Gemma.

The couple spent about $1.5 million renovating and building up the business. "Then it's all taken away from you in 30 seconds".

September's earthquake brought down the building's six chimneys, with two crashing through the skylight into the upstairs hallway and injuring Hann.

However, the building was still structurally sound, and the venue stayed open until February's quake hit.

"Nothing collapsed; it just moved. It looked like it got picked up and dropped back down," Treleaven said.

"We had a bit of hope that it might have been [OK], but the June one finished it off. It was actually quite dangerous."

Treleaven had to reimburse deposits for over 100 couples who had booked the venue for the next wedding season.

"Most found other places, but a lot commented that there's nothing as good as Elizabeth House," he said.

"We were told by celebrants that it was the busiest wedding venue in the city. A lot of couples that we married, their parents and grandparents also married there."

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Treleaven originally planned to build a new wedding venue in its place, but the architect's plans were not the right fit for the site.

He now planned to build two houses on the site - one for his family and one that would be sold.

However, until he could get insurance for the rebuild, the site would stay empty.

"I don't know what we're going to do, to be honest. We're ready to start [rebuilding] now, so it's a wait-and-see game."

He was keeping an open mind about reopening another wedding venue and had been looking at potential sites around the city.

"But nothing else matched our place as far as wedding venues go."

February's earthquake did have one silver lining.

"After the quakes I have a different outlook on life, so I proposed."

Treleaven said he proposed to Hann outside Elizabeth House on their six-year anniversary in March, taking her by surprise.

But with Elizabeth House demolished, the couple have still to decide where they will hold their wedding.

- The Press


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