Napier. Art Deco ceiling with Maori motifs. This former bank was built in 1932 after the 1931 earthquake destroyed most of the city

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Napier. Art Deco ceiling with Maori motifs. This former bank was built in 1932 after the 1931 earthquake destroyed most of the city
Historical Background. Edward Gibbon Wakefield established the New Zealand Company to settle the land in 1839 just after the establishment of SA. He began his settlements in Wellington with his brother in charge, followed by later settlements in Whanganui, New Plymouth and Nelson. He also established the Canterbury Association with Robert Godley for the settlement of Christchurch in 1848. NZ was established as a serious of very separate settlements and the major cities of NZ today reflect that early history. His original Wellington settlement covered the area from Wellington to Napier and Hastings. Napier was a favoured spot in the Hawkes Bay region (named by Captain Cook in 1769) as it had a good port. The Crown purchased land from the Maoris in 1851 in Hawkes Bay. Before this purchase in 1851 William Colenso, a Cornishman had established a mission station here to work with the Maori in 1844. He was dismissed from the Missionary Society in 1852 as he had fathered a child with their Maori maid in 1850.His wife separated from him in 1853 but they never divorced. Colenso stayed on as a settler in Hawkes Bay. He became a MP for Napier in the national parliament in 1861. The illegitimate son Wiremu left NZ when he grew up and returned to live in Cornwall. A few settlers began to arrive in Hawks Bay around 1852 and in 1854 a town named Napier was laid out. It was named after Sir Charles Napier the British Army Commander in Chief in India who had died in 1853. As more settlers came to Hawkes Bay in the mid-1850s a public meeting in Napier moved to separate from the province of Wellington which they did in 1858. The port and the rich agricultural lands of Hawkes Bay provided wealth to the city of Napier. The region was known as a major export port of NZ wool. More recently it has become known as the fruit bowl on NZ. It produces kiwi fruits, grapes (for wine), stone fruits etc. Timber is also exported from the port of Napier. Just a few kilometres away is the city of Hastings. Napier has around 62,000 inhabitants and Hastings 80,000. The district has 165,000 residents.

The coastal flood plains are traversed by five rivers flowing down from the central tablelands and volcanic area. The major river is the Wairoa River. Hawkes Bay is a very seismically active region of NZ with over 50 damaging earthquakes recorded since 1800 but only 6 of these have occurred since 1934. The early 1930s was a dramatic period for Hawkes Bay. A major earthquake occurred on 3rd February 1931 followed by subsequent earthquakes over the next three years. The 7.8 scale earthquake of 1931 was centred 15 kilometres from Napier. It struck mid-morning and killed 256 people and injured thousands with over 400 hundred admitted to hospital. Hundreds of aftershocks resulted. It remains NZ worst earthquake eclipsing even the more recent Christchurch earthquakes for damage and death. Most of the buildings of the city centres of Napier and Hastings were destroyed. Hawkes Bay lies almost directly on the fault line caused by the abutting of the Australia and Pacific tectonic plates. The coastline at Napier was raised two metres with 40 square kilometres of seabed being raised to create dry land! A 4,000 acre lagoon was drained and today Hawkes Bay airport, industrial estates and new housing lies on this reclaimed land. The earthquake set off fires (and many buildings were made of wood) and the fires raged for several day destroying what was left of some buildings. Fires were controlled very quickly in Hastings. The two cities were quite quickly rebuilt with government support within two years at the height of the Depression. Building regulations were changed and well-known architects rebuilt the cities in Art Deco style influenced by the rise of California with its Aztec and Spanish influenced Art Deco architecture. Even today there are only four specially designed buildings taller than five storeys in Napier. On a more positive note Napier decided to prosper from the earthquake and its Art Deco heritage. The Art Deco Trust was formed in 1985 and still operates an internationally recognised Art Deco festival each year in February. With local government support the Art Deco Trust employs 10 people and uses the services of 120 volunteers. It operates a shop, it runs tours, it turns over more than $1.5 a year and it prints publications etc. It encourages the preservation of Napier’s Art Deco buildings and helps with restoration. It attracts around 25,000 people to Napier each year. Citizens of Napier dress in 1930s style for the Festival, vintage cars from the era are part of the festival, a public great Gatsby arty is held in a city park, movie events, art shows, many jazz musical events, balls, dinners, parades, and an Art Deco spotter competition are all part of the festival. The Art Deco Trust shop opens all year selling 1930s hats, women’s’ fashion, jewellery, Art Deco style statues, glassware, china, books, posters etc. Among the 200 events is the Art Deco Dog Parade. I wonder what that is?

What is special about Napier and Art Deco? Art Deco as a design and architectural style emerged at the Paris Exhibition of 1925. It became popular throughout the 1920s, 1930s and even into the 1940s. The style was applied to buildings, especially American skyscrapers, jewellery, china, lighting, furniture, etc. Unlike the Art Nouveau style which had emerged around 1900 with colours, curves and flowing detail the Art Deco style was rectangular, geometric and modern industrial techniques were used to achieve this style doing away with handicraft and hand worked items. Just think of the designs used in the Poirot detective TV series from Agatha Christie. The designers drew their inspirations from old European, Mayan, Aztec, and in the case of New Zealand, Maori design elements. The European influences led to the Spanish Mission style of architecture with simulated adobe brick, rounded terracotta window shades, roof tiles, roof parapets etc. The American influences developed Mayan and Aztec and sometimes North American Indian elements with zigzags, stepped patterns etc. One special feature of Art Deco buildings was the colourful and soft pastel shades of varying depths of colour used on the decorative features. Art Deco buildings can be found across the world with many in Adelaide but unlike Napier there is no concentration of buildings in any one area and they have not been maintained since the 1930s. Art Deco buildings in Adelaide no longer have some of the design elements as they have been removed with modernisation, the colour schemes have been painted out and often replaced with current gaudy or grey colour schemes designed to hide the Art Deco elements. But several country towns in SA have many Art Deco buildings as they were being built and developed in the early 1930s – for example, Barmera and Renmark in the Riverland. Art Deco was popular for 1930s hotels in Adelaide and suburbs and Art Deco, especially the Spanish Mission style was popular for domestic housing in the 1930s. Napier, along with Miami in Florida and Santa Barbara in California have concentrations of Art Deco buildings, but Miami has especially grand multi storey buildings in the Art Deco style that you do not find in Napier. Napier Art Deco Trust applied for UNESCO World Heritage status for the city and its Art Deco heritage but this was rejected. Napier is special because of the earthquake behind the erection of the Art Deco buildings and the use of Maori motifs in some of its buildings.

Within days of the earthquake the NZ government established a Rehabilitation Committee and all houses could have one chimney repaired free of charge before residents re-occupied their homes. The government loaned money to start the rebuilding of commercial premises (but not to banks or international companies) near Civic Square. Loans were granted interest free for up to three years for commercial businesses. Two government Commissioners were appointed to oversee works and loans. They immediately contacted some Napier architects. The architects sought out ideas from American architectural pattern books and photographs and the five leading architectural practices agreed to share their limited resources and to rebuild with the city with a sense of unity and common style. The leading architectural firms were Finch and Westerholm who specialised in Spanish Mission style; Louis Hay a local who was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright in America and his best building was the National Tobacco Company building; Natusch & Sons who specialised in houses and restrained Art Deco style; E A Williams who produced some quite flamboyant buildings; and J T Watson who became the Napier Borough Architect and is known for the Colonnade, Sunbay, Parker Fountain, esplanade Soundshell and the Egyptian inspired Municipal Theatre. Most of the central business district of Napier was rebuilt within two years although Art Deco buildings were still being erected in the late 1930s.

Napier’s Art Deco buildings and Trail.
National Tobacco Company. Corner of Ossian and Bridge St. We stop here on the way to the city centre. Stunning entrance with fantastic detail in sculpted plaster – roses, sunbursts, fruit etc. It was built in 1832 and the architect was Louis Hay. No expense was spared on this structure. Note the rounded “rising sun” style doorway, with motifs below the roof parapet, roses beside the wooden doors, almost nautical style lights beside the arched doorway, symmetrical steps, and the bold horizontal lines in the cement work below the height of the doorhandles. A brilliant building in the Art Deco style.

We start at the corner of Marine Parade and Emerson Street- the mall. The parallel street to the north is Tennyson St; from Marine Parade the first cross street is Hastings St; the next cross street is Dalton St. At the end of Emerson St just off the map below is Civic Square Park. The Napier Art Deco Historic Trust is located near Civic Square. We begin along Emerson Street Mall. You will note that central Napier streets are named after literary figures, Emerson from the USA, Tennyson, Dickens, Shakespeare, Browning from England etc.

1. T and G (Temperance and General) Building with the rounded tower and clock. Built in 1936. City landmark. Built in the Art Deco nautical style as it is on the esplanade. It is now a boutique hotel. Across Marine Parade is the 1936 Colonnade – memorial to those killed in the 1931 earthquake and the Soundshell built in 1935 has some Maori motifs on it. A good example of the work of J T Watson, Borough Architect.
2. The Masonic Hotel on the right. Note the Art Deco style lettering of Masonic. Built in 1932 and looked modern then as it does today. Very rectangular. Parapet hides roof line. Architects from Wellington.
3. ASB Bank next to T & G. Built 1932. Has best examples of Maori carving, Maori patterns in ceiling panels, exterior Maori bas reliefs and Maori designs on parapet. Note Art Deco external lighting between the vertical pilasters. Top of pilaster has Maori design. Turn left here into Hastings St and look at buildings on left.
4. (i) – Jessica’s Design – 1932, originally a drapers, Art Deco entrance. Beautiful pas or is it Maori?
4 (iii) – former Odeon Theatre – 1930s, burn and renovated 1950s. Old Art Deco stained glass in window. Stepped design around the central gable piece.
4 (iv) – Callinicos Building 1932 with Greek gods motifs naturally. Now a Farmers Dept. Store.
4(v) – Paxies Building 1932 – Spanish Mission style. Very unusual cartouche on shop front. Architects Finch and Westerholm. Cross to the other side of Hastings St return to Emerson St.
4(vi) – Built 1931 before quake as Post Office but in the Art Deco style. Burn out in the quake and rebuilt. Remodelled in 1950s. Now the Farmers Dept. Store.
4(vii) –Two doors up from Farmers. Bennett’s Building -1929 – a quake survivor. Built with floating foundation and reinforced concrete. Stripped classical style not Art Deco at all.
4 (viii) – Originally Blythes Department Store. Built in 1933. Architects were Natusch and Sons. Pink and green colours, roof parapet. Note little triangle shapes in the tops of the windows.
5 On right in Emerson St. Criterion Hotel – 1932- largest Spanish Mission building in town. Concrete walls look like adobe. Note triangular shapes in the ground floor windows. Stepped up entrance in veranda is so geometric.
6. On left – Hannah’s Building now a small shoe store – 1933. Note linked chain beneath parapet, flower motif on end columns. Modernise with grey paint work and some pink.
7. On left – Blythe’s building – 1933. Façade was covered at one stage. Not much left except V shapes and stylised fleur de lis along roof parapet.
8. On left –McGruer’s building – 1932 – department store – note unusual balcony and wrought iron work.
9. On right –Hawke’s Bay Chambers – 1932 quintessential Art Deco – zigzags, herring bone, and monogram – stylish.
10. On left. Emerson Building. Blue on blue. Built as Hurst Building in 1930 before the earthquake. Owner photographed it in the hour after the quake before the fires started.
11. On right Smith and Chambers Building 1932 with unusual 6 sided windows. Best feature is the zigzags below parapet with “rising sun” in the zags and stepped squares below in the zags.
12. On left. Lockyer’s Building. Beautiful chevron shaped columns painted in appropriate Art Deco pastel colours.
13. On right Briasco’s Building. Built 1930 before the quake. Architect E A Williams. It is said that this is restrained but his buildings after the quake are more dynamic and exuberant. Possible Maori motifs below the parapet.
14. On right. Kidson’s Corner Building. Built 1933. One of the best buildings in Napier. It has zigzag friezes, beautiful colour palette, and triangular pieces in rectangular windows etc. Turn left here into Dalton St.

15 (i). On right of Dalton is the former Hotel Central. Architect E A Williams and built in 1932. A grand building with highly decorative motifs around the hotel windows. Egyptian inspired motifs with sunbursts or “rising suns” and zigzag borders. Balustrades on balconies, pink and cream palette.
15 (ii). On left, Masson House. Built 1932 by E A Williams again. Central panel above the central doorway is interesting with the M and H for Masson House.
15 (iii). On left is a stripped classical building which is not Art Deco. NZ Broadcasting house was built in 1926 also by E A Williams. It survived the earthquake.
15 (iv) On the diagonally opposite corner. The former State Cinema built in 1932 with Finch & Westerholm as architects. Now an Asian café. Striking colour scheme of pink and grey, rounded windows with sunbursts in the top rounded bits. It has a classical feel about it.
16. On right is Colenso (he was the first missionary settler) Building. Built in 1932 as a hotel now apartments. The end window segments with tripartite windows are the best features. Yellow and ochre type colours.
17. On left. Loo Key Building. Architect J T Watson. Built later in Art Deco style in 1940. The central stepped feature is quaint. The unnamed building next door has great friezes and motifs.
18. On right. Sangs Building 1932. Very plain with unusual shaped parapet with a slope. Its claim to fame are the beautiful grey toned Aztec motif panels on ends and the wavy motif panel in the middle of the façade. Worth more than a glance.
19. On right corner. The Provincial Hotel by architects Finch and Westerholm in 1932. Superb example of Spanish Mission style with not a full rounded roof tile in sight except for half bits along the parapet. Rounded windows with twist pile columns. Dominating colour palette from cream to blue to orange. Turn right here into Civic Square.
20. Straight ahead is the old Central Fire Station building. Designed by Louis Hay in 1932. Concrete façade with some Art Deco features. Turn right at the corner a walk along Tennyson Street.
21. On the left. The Municipal Theatre. Architect J t Watson the Borough Architect. Built 1938. Note the good symmetry; the flame lighting in the external walls, the lintels above the theatre entrance doors are very Egyptian, through the doors you can see the nautical design inside, chrome, neon lights etc.
22. On right on next corner. The classical designed Public Trust Office for dealing with deceased estates entrusted to it. Built in 1922. Survived the quake almost unscathed. Sold by the government in the 1990s.
23. On right. Hildebrandt’s. Built 1933 with Louis Hay the architect. Note the wavy lines in blue. Meant to represent the waves between Hildebrandt’s native Germany and his adopted home of New Zealand.
24. On right. Halsbury Chambers built in 1932 and designed by Louis Hay. Simple, small and restrained. Central doorway with torchlike motif in the middle is interesting. Good Art Deco style lettering for Halsbury Chambers.
25. On left. Scinde Building. 1932. A stripped classical building with dominant pilasters but also with Art Deco motifs along the roof parapet and then almost Art Nouveau decorations in cartouches above and below the windows. A mixed style building but pleasant.
26. On left. Napier Antique centre. Built in 1932 and designed by E A Williams. Has the best Maori motifs in Napier .
27. On left. Hello Superman and Lois Lane. The Daily Telegraph building completed in 1932 and deigned by E A Williams. Look at the top of the pilasters- so Art Deco. Note the external lighting; the zigzags on the wrought iron balcony above the main door; the nautical style central part of the building with the flag flying above; and the stepped lines around the main entrance doors. Cross over Hastings Street.
28. On the left. The Art Deco Shop and centre.
29. On the next corner is the Museum and Art Gallery. Admission is free. Learn more about the earthquake, the history of Napier and explore the Art Deco china (including Clarice Cliff), paintings (early New Zealand Modernism 1925 to 1950), textiles and sculpture of the museum. The museum has a good collection of Maori and ethnographic exhibits. It has an excellent shop for arts and crafts and souvenirs. Beyond that is the esplanade again. Turn right and you will be back at the T & G Building.

Hastings. In 1873 the government planned a railway inland from Napier and laid out a new town at a rail junction to be called Hastings. The railway opened up the interior land to the Napier port at Ahuriri. These days Hastings is slightly bigger than Napier and it is the regional district council. Hastings has a rail link to Palmerston North. Like Napier the 1931 earthquake destroyed many city centre buildings which were replaced with iconic Art Deco buildings. Like Napier it is a popular place to reside as it is one of the sunniest parts of New Zealand. In its Civic Square are 18 pouwhenua. Pouwhenua are artistically carved post to mark Maori places of significance or iwi boundaries. A team of 20 Maori carvers created them from totara trees. Each pou tells the story of the genealogy of each Marae represented. The pou represent the link between the people (tangata) and the land (whenua.) Each pou represents one Maori ancestor. If we have time we will briefly stop at Stoneycroft homestead and gardens. Built 1875. Owned by the City. Near corner of Napier-Hastings expressway and Omahu Rd. Turn left when coming from Napier.

By denisbin on 2004-10-05 08:25:17
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