Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Titirangi Treasure House

Postcard purchased June 2013. At front, left, Peat's gift shop, and his Treasure House. Rear, left, Alec Bishop's house; at right "Quambi/Quamby", F O Peat's house. Information from Titirangi Fringe of Heaven, p. 72.

This card was another recent purchase from the UK. Seeing postcards for West Auckland on the auction market that aren’t to do with the Waitakere falls is unusual, so I went ahead and took the plunge.

The Titirangi Treasure House, a private museum meant to become part of a grand tourist complex, still exists today, but not as it once was. The property o which it sits is a very small part of a vast area of land, Allots 44-46 of the Parish of Waikomiti, the original September 1855 Crown Grant possibly going to John Alfred Langford, an Auckland merchant and shipping agent. In October that year he transferred to the timber firm of Canty & Bishop, (7A.610) and it became the core of the Bishop family’s story in the Titirangi hills.

The main phase of subdivision of this property began during World War I. A quarter acre was transferred to Frank Oscar Peat in October 1925 (oddly, this transfer was re-registered, along with other transfers made by the Bishop family, in mid 1927). (28A.424) This piece appears to have been the site of the Treasure House. Another quarter acre, possibly next to the first and to the west, also facing Brooklyn (now Huia) Road, was transferred to Peat in October 1927. (NA 463/79) Then William Alexander Bishop transferred over 1½ more acres to Peat at the end of 1929, including land fronting Brooklyn Road, and the corner site fronting Brooklyn Road and School (now South Titirangi) Road to Hotel Titirangi Limited. (NA 463/79) In 1936, Peat transferred the land he owned adjacent to the Titirangi Hotel to the company. (NA 604/198)

Frank Oscar Peat was born 1883 to Robert Betts Peat (from Waikato, but born in India) and Elizabeth Euphemia (née Bishop, born in Freemans Bay), so was part of the Bishop extended family. Elizabeth’s parents lived at Dunvegan House, where the first son Robert Joseph Peat was born. Frank was the second son, of a total of seven children, five boys and two girls.

R B Peat worked for the Railways Department. By June 1881 he was stationmaster at Penrose, then was transferred to Frankton Junction in 1889, Kawakawa in 1897 (including Opua), and in 1902 moved from Kawakawa to Dargaville, and put in charge of the Kaihu Valley Railway. He died at Dargaville aged 60 in 1913.

Frank O Peat first went into business in Dargaville as a jeweller by the early 1910s. He made a bit of a splash, becoming involved with a candle-burning promotion for a local movie theatre.

The Dargaville police recently proceeded against Mrs Montgomery, proprietor of a picture show, for having established a candle-burning competition by which prizes were gained; and against F O Peat, for having sold tickets, giving the purchasers of the same an interest in the gaining of such prizes. The police, in outlining the cases, showed that by purchasing a shilling ticket a purchaser was entitled to guess the time it would take a certain candle to burn, the winning prizes being gold watches. Each ticket also admitted the purchaser to a cinematograph entertainment. The police seized the books in connection with the scheme, and found that some hundreds of people had entered the competition. Mr Fraser, S.M., in giving judgment, decided to dismiss the information. The evidence adduced on behalf of the defence showed that several competitors had made elaborate calculations by measurement and computation, on which they based their estimates of time, which eliminated the element of pure chance. He held that if the exercise of skill on the part of the competitors contributed to success the scheme was not a lottery, although chance would have played a part in it. He was certain that an approximate degree of accuracy was attained by careful computation on the part of those whose estimates were the produce of thought and skill rather than guess work.

Press, 9 October 1911

According to Wallie Titchener in Marc Bonny’s 2011 book Titirangi Fringe of Heaven (Titchener is a grandson of Frank Peat), Peat devoted his whole life to collecting Maori artifacts. He also gathered up items of natural history interest (stuffed birds, bats, sea life) and accumulated a celebrated kauri gum collection. Part of this latter fascination Peat exhibited in Auckland in July 1923 at the Winter Exhibition, then again at the Dominion Industrial Exhibition in June the following year.

Four impressive displays, representing the combined wealth production of four important districts of the Auckland Province, attracted much attention at the Dominion Industrial Exhibition yesterday … Next to dairy produce, the northern districts are noted for their export of kauri gum and the collection of gums exhibited by Mr F O Peat, of Dargaville, is a truly beautiful display. Of a unique character, too, is the display of seven varieties of kauri gum oils and the crude gum from which they are derived valued, according to the labels, at from £30 to £350 per ton. Naturally, the mineral waters from the Helensville Hot Springs are represented by attractive samples, Kaipara coal, enamelled tiles, wool, wines, flax, field produce, including an 84lb pumpkin, dressed bullocks and a huge kauri ''flitch," measuring 10ft. by 5ft., are other outstanding displays. Mr. Peat has an exhibit of stuffed birds from his great, collection at Dargaville …

NZ Herald 11 June 1924

Even though Frank Peat, his wife and children had a large home in Dargaville, Titchener recalls, the collection made the home so cluttered that the decision was made to sell up everything in Dargaville and move to Titirangi. I’d say the success of Peat’s two exhibitions, plus the plans being made at the time by William Alexander Bishop and his partners to replace the Bishop family’s store and tea kiosk at Titirangi with a luxurious hotel complex, had a lot to do with the decision as well.

He sold his Dargaville business in August 1925, but at the time told the local papers he wasn’t about to leave the district. However, by July 1926 he had commissioned architect Reginald B Hammond to design the fireproof brick and plaster museum on the property he acquired from his family, and this was completed by December that year. The Auckland Star published the following description – possibly penned by Peat and his partners.

NEW AUCKLAND MUSEUM.
FINEST COLLECTION OF KAURI GUM IN THE WORLD.
POPULAR TOURIST CENTRE.
Almost every city in America proudly refers to some one of its possessions which is '"the best in the world.'' And it is not vain boasting, either, but an expression of healthy civic patriotism. Henceforth Aucklanders will be able to make similar claim, for nestled away in the Blue Mountains at Titirangi, along the city's great exhibition drive is, undoubtedly, the finest collection of Kauri gum in the world. It is an amazing exhibition, and Aucklanders will experience a keen sense of delight and appreciation when they see it. More than a '"nine days wonder at Titirangi”, it is so truly an Auckland and a national asset that some day a big effort will be made to secure it for the public for all time.

Occupying two acres in the charming forestry of the hills stands "The Titirangi Treasure House," a sweet building of chaste design, appropriately lending itself to its mission. Tiled roof, cream concrete walls, pillared portico (60 by 40), not unlike a Greek Temple. Architect, Mr. Reg. Hammond, Dominion town planning expert. The fairy dell which it occupies is being rapidly transformed into a botanical garden, crammed with native flora. A most charming place for a day's picnic. In the treasure house is the rarest collection of kauri gum, Maori curios and handicraft. New Zealand birds and beautiful timbers; also an invaluable display of historic photos of Auckland and of wider interest. The whole setting is artistic and delightful. A rare rendezvous of pleasure and profit. Buses run from the G.P.O., Auckland, at 9.45 daily, and also special trips.


 Ref 4-4084, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library
This unique private museum has been established for the enjoyment of the public by a former resident of Dargaville, Mr. F. O. Peat. Its contents are the fruit of more than twenty years' assiduous collecting and the expenditure of a large sum of money.

Mr. Peat's kauri gum collection, consisting of several thousand specimens, occupies four cases each nearly 20ft long and 5ft wide. The pieces were obtained from every gumfield in North Auckland.

Sir Edwin Mitchelson, who is a recognised authority and the donor of a fine collection to the Auckland Museum, went out recently with Mr. F. L. Gribbin to inspect it. Both stated that it was the finest they had ever seen, and the best in the world.

The Maori curios are of great interest. They include a fine carved sternpost from the largest canoe used on the Manukau Harbour in the 'forties, a large waka-huia or feather-box carved and inlaid with paua shell; a kumete or food-box, supported by two human figures: a cylindrical box made to contain food given to a tohunga; several carved posts from houses, and a large number of mats, fish-traps, bone, greenstone and wooden meres, flutes, adzes, tomahawks, canoe-balers and ornaments, among which are a couple of tikis. One fish hook, of copper, is stated on good authority to have been made from metal obtained when Captain Cook's vessel called at Mahia in 1705.


 Ref 4-4075, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library
The most interesting of the historic relics is a half-suit of armour, consisting of a breastplate, back-plate and helmet. This was obtained by Mr. Peat from the Webster family at Opononi. The helmet, which has a high crest and the remains of a red plume, resembles that worn by British cavalry of the early nineteenth century. It bears a brass frontal plate with the Royal arms and the words "Waterloo" and '"Peninsula." Tradition has it that the armour was given by George IV to a Maori chief in 1820. It is known that such a gift was made to the famous Hingi Ika when he visited England, but whether this armour belonged to him is not known at present. Mr. Peat means to make further inquiries on the subject.

The natural history collection includes stuffed and mounted specimens of the huia, tui, pigeon, parakeet, kakapo, long-tailed cuckoo, shining cuckoo, kaka, bellbird, saddleback, blue-mottled crow, weak, bittern, and many other native birds. There are rare seashells, including the paper nautilus, and a fine exhibit of the large native snail found in kauri forests.

Round the walls of the hall are many photographs and prints of early New Zealand scenes and people. Altogether, the museum is a fine example of energy and perseverance on the part of its owner. It will add greatly to the attractions of Titirangi and is surely destined to be one of the chief centres of tourist attractions in Auckland's environs.
Auckland Star 17 December 1926

Peat also built a house there for his family, named "Quambi" (sometimes spelled "Quamby"). According to Wallie Titchener:

"My maternal grandfather, Frank Peat, built the house called Quambi at 1 Huia Road. At the time he was building the house there was a corrupt inspector at the County Council who would not approve the position of septic tanks unless offered money. My grandfather played dumb until, as my grandmother recalled, the inspector said,"For Gods sake, £5 will do it." My grandfather was a personal friend of Gordon Coates, the prime minister, and passed the information to him. Subsequently, the County Council had one less staff member!"

Titirangi: Fringe of Heaven, 2011, p. 211

In October 1928, the new company Hotel Titirangi Ltd had its registration reported in the Mercantile Gazette with capital of 50,000 shares of £1 each, in the business of “Hotel properties etc. and incidental.” (Evening Post, 15 October 1928)

Auckland Star, 8 December 1934

The proposal to erect a modern hotel at Titirangi has assumed definite shape through the flotation of a company, Hotel Titirangi Ltd., with a nominal capital of £50,000. The new company, which has already gone to allotment, has purchased the property and tea room business of Mr W A Bishop, and intends to erect an hotel capable of accommodating 63 guests, and including a tearoom, garden, ballroom, and basement garage. The building is to be fireproof, with central heating and all modern conveniences.

 Lopdell House, formerly Hotel Titirangi, in 2010

Considerable support from residents of the district has already been given to the undertaking, as it is anticipated that the proposed hotel will become the centre of one of the finest and most popular of holiday resorts in the Dominion.
Auckland Star 27 October 1928



The Treasure House was listed among the surrounding attractions in the area around the proposed hotel, along with the nearby golf club and other outdoor recreation sites. (Prospectus, Auckland Star 27 October 1928)

Bishop’s store/post office at Titirangi was pulled down in late 1929 to make way for the new hotel (with stock from the store plus the postal facilities moved to the family’s tea rooms until it was possible to move everything into the new building). (Auckland Star 3 December 1929) William Alexander Bishop was chairman of the Hotel Titirangi company at that time. (Auckland Star 21 December 1929)

Mr F O Peat, writing from the Treasure House, Titirangi, where his well-known museum overlooks the Manukau Harbour, has sent me some interesting bird notes on the birds at Titirangi and the Huia. Mr Peat believes that the pigeon is maintaining its numbers and is fairly plentiful between Titirangi and the Huia …
Auckland Star 5 April 1930

The new hotel opened 20 November 1930. In 1931, however, Hotel Titirangi Ltd went into liquidation, reportedly due to “the present dull times”. (Evening Post 9 March 1931) It did re-open in December 1934, after the company registered with a much-reduced capital of £1220. (Star, 22 November 1934) The Hotel Titirangi, though, finally closed its doors in 1942 when it was sold to the Crown for a school for the deaf. (NA 680/59)

From the time of the first closure, though, Peat obviously saw the writing on the wall for the hoped-for tourist centre concept. He began looking for a new home for his collection,and found one with the assistance of his friend Gordon Coates.
KAURI GUM
MR F O PEAT'S COLLECTION
PURCHASED BY MUSEUM
Described as the finest collection of its kind in the world, kauri gum specimens owned by Mr F O Peat of Titirangi, Auckland, are to be acquired by the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum. The trustees of the museum will receive an allocation of £3000 from the proceeds of the Great Easter Art Union, and the money will be devoted to the purchase of the kauri gum and Maori curios. Recently Mr Peat received a tempting offer from an American museum, but he has decided to accept the New Zealand offer, preferring that the collection should remain in this country. The collection is at present housed in Mr Peat's private museum at Titirangi, and it will remain there until the erection of the Dominion Museum building in Wellington is completed.

Evening Post 13 April 1933

Hubert Earle Vaile, however, was less than impressed with such a purchase in the midst of a nationwide economic depression. Not to mention his own keen interest in supporting the Auckland War Memorial Museum, of which he was president 1926-1931. What followed was what was at times an acrimonious exchange in the newspapers between Vaile and Peat.

AN EXTRAORDINARY PURCHASE.
Many of our readers must have been astounded to read yesterday that in a time of acute national stringency the Government has been able to find £3000 to present the Peat collection of kauri gum and Maori curios to the Dominion Museum in Wellington. We publish a letter to-day from Mr H E Vaile which throws some light on the transaction, but calls for more information. Kauri gum is a substance confined to the Auckland province, and the collection is an Auckland one, so that the proper place for it is the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Indeed, this museum tried to secure it, but could get no help from the Government, yet two Auckland members of the Government go past this institution and buy the collection for the Dominion Museum at a price that is apparently much higher than that for which it could have been bought for Auckland. It is stated that there was a danger of the collection leaving the country, and that Mr Peat was prepared to take less than he was offered from America, in order to keep it in New Zealand. Mr Vaile, however, mentions £2000 as the figure for which the collection could have been bought for Auckland, and the Government gave £3000. Why was the price raised to this extent? It is an extraordinary transaction, especially when the needs of the times are considered. For example, the Cawthron Institute, the most valuable scientific research institution in New Zealand, which is doing most important work for our industries, is feeling the financial pinch so seriously that there is talk of it having to close. Its closing would be an absolute scandal, made all the worse by reason of the provision by the Government of £3000 out of art union profits for a collection largely consisting of kauri gum.

THE PEAT COLLECTION.
AN UNWARRANTED PURCHASE.
(To the Editor.)
Keen as I am on the acquisition of museum specimens, I do not think public funds should be spent in this direction when part of the public is short of food. It is only fair to say that the Wellington Museum had nothing to do with it, and the purchase is a political one. It is strange, however, that two Auckland Ministers; —the Rt. Hon. J G Coates and the Hon. J A Young—should be so anxious to put the collection past Auckland. It was made in this province of northern material, and the owner was very anxious for it to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, and offered it accordingly. Having no money, some friends of the museum endeavoured to get an art union permit from the Government, with the result that it was bought over our heads for £3000. The Government recently voted no less than £100,000 of public money for the museum building at Wellington, and finds no difficulty in buying collections for it. If we ask for assistance —moral or financial— we invariably meet with a flat refusal, notwithstanding that we pay the whole costs of our own museum and about one-third of Wellington's. I know the Peat collection well. It consists mostly of gum specimens which have been out of demand for many years, and the only price I have previously heard mentioned is £2000, and the story of other buyers is not very convincing. However, I suppose the Government is to be congratulated upon having so much money in these hard times, even if it is spent in Wellington. We certainly do not see much of it here. H. E. VAILE.
Auckland Star 13 April 1933

PEAT COLLECTION.
STATEMENT BY OWNER
HIGHER OFFER REFUSED.
PORTION FOR AUCKLAND.
Mr F O Peat, of Titirangi, whose collection of kauri gum and Maori curios has been purchased by the Government, replies to criticism of the transaction that appeared in the "Auckland Star" on Thursday. Mr Peat writes: "Mr H E Vaile's letter in your paper of the 13th instant, and your editorial founded on his remarks, are misleading to the public and most unfair to the Rt. Hon. J G Coates, the Hon. A Young and myself. Mr Vaile and your editorial state that the Government has paid £3000 from the public funds for this collection. This is contrary to fact. The purchase price is found by means of funds from an art union, subscribed to by participants throughout the whole of New Zealand, and this collection of kauri gum specimens will be housed in the Dominion Museum and National Art Gallery for all time for all the people of New Zealand. Mr Vaile states that 'he knows my collection well; it consists mostly of gum specimens out of demand for many years” (whatever that means) and infers that its value is £2000. If Mr Vaile can prove that the Peat collection of kauri gum specimens is not the best in the world of its kind and is not worth at least £3500, I will give £500 to the Auckland Museum, provided he agrees to give the same amount should he fail to prove this within 12 months from this date.

“My collection has never been offered for the ridiculous price mentioned by Mr Vaile. I offered it to the Government for £5000 some time ago. This offer was not accepted through lack of funds. Subsequently a wealthy American tourist, a patron of American museums, who had made overtures from time to time for the purchase of the kauri gum collection, made a definite offer of £3500 cash to me. My desire has always been to keep this collection in my native land if possible, and when it was suggested that the Dominion Museum authorities might find £3000 by way of an art union, provided I agreed to accept this amount, and so keep the exhibits in New Zealand, I turned down the better offer and agreed to accept £3000 on the distinct understanding that the kauri gum specimens would be housed in the Dominion Museum, which I had lately ascertained had no collection, whilst the Auckland Museum has Sir Edwin Mitchelson's very fine collection of kauri gum specimens.

“Subsequently, I understand, the Auckland Ministers mentioned in Mr Vaile's letter and your editorial took steps to have the valuable Maori and other curios comprised in my collection divided between Auckland and the Dominion Museums and National Art Gallery, when the building now in course of erection is completed. This means that the Auckland Museum will receive a portion of the Maori section of the collection."
Auckland Star 15 April 1933

THE PEAT COLLECTION.
Mr. Peat entirely misses the point. I have been in business all my life, and would be the last to object to anyone selling his goods to the best advantage. The gum is excellent, but for years past, as any dealer or auctioneer will agree, kauri gum collections have been unsaleable, and Mr Peat is to be congratulated and not blamed for obtaining what seems to me a very handsome price indeed—and I have bought many collections. What I maintain is that in these times the Government has no right whatever to buy any collection with public funds. Surely Mr Peat does not argue that it was bought with private funds. He mentions "an" art union. What art union? The second objection I make is that kauri gum is found in this province only, and the Government should not have competed with us for it and presented it to the Wellington Museum. From a public viewpoint this political purchase is indefensible, especially when the vendor is to retain possession for two or three years, and will presumably be entitled to charge to see it, as heretofore. H E VAILE.
Auckland Star 17 April 1933

The long negotiations which led to the public acquisition of the valuable collection of kauri gum specimens and Maori curios from Mr F O Peat, of Titirangi, were detailed at the request of the "Star” correspondent by the Hon. J A Young, Minister of Internal Affairs, who was able to throw official light on some points which have been the subject of controversy. That the collection is very valuable, and that New Zealand is fortunate in being able to retain it against outside competition was a point which the Minister demonstrated. He spoke enthusiastically of the value of the kauri gum specimens, 1600 in number, and splendidly polished in an effective way, which retains a portion of the natural rough background. Mr Peat, he said, has been a life-long collector, and understood the art of polishing gum in such a way that the finished specimens would not crack. His cases for exhibiting the collection were substantial and dignified. '"There is no doubt whatever about the value of the Peat collection," declared Mr Young. "It has been described as being the best of its kind in the world, and I believe that Sir Edwin Mitchelson's fine collection, now on loan to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, is the next best. That we were in danger of losing the Peat collection altogether is definitely established, for the owner held a permit, granted by some past Government, to export it, and he was definitely offered £3500 in cash on behalf of an American museum, which desired to take it.

The question of the acquisition of Mr Peat's collection had been under consideration for some time, and was first considered by my predecessor in the position of Minister of Internal Affairs, the Hon. A. Hamilton. I was informed of the matter, and the Hon. J G Coates was also aware of the position, but the difficulty was to find the money for so valuable a purchase.

Offer of £3500 Cash.
"The position came to a head when the American offer was so obviously definite that the representative of the proposed purchasers was in New Zealand, prepared to complete the deal, for £3500 cash. It was mainly through my intervention that Mr Peat was induced to sell the collection for retention in the Dominion, and to reduce his price to £3000, which included not only the kauri gum specimens, but the valuable Maori and other curios and the exhibition cases. In accepting the lower price, Mr Peat made certain conditions, and after a good deal of negotiation I was able to finalise the matter. The question involved was not that of placing the collection in Auckland, but of getting it retained in the Dominion. Having reached this position, the problem was to get the money, and a suggestion which had been made to raise funds through one of the alluvial gold art unions was recalled. Under the terms of license for one of these recent art unions, a way to procure the money was found, though it had to be paid to some institution, and not to any individual. The National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum trustees agreed to act as the medium of purchase, and the payment to Mr Peat comes through that source.

The Vendor's Stipulations.
"In Mr Peat's contract with the trustees," continued the Minister, "he makes the condition that the whole of the kauri gum collection must be kept intact, and designated: 'The F O Peat Kauri Gum Collection.' It was only on these terms that I was able to secure the retention of the collection in the country. Mr Peat, realising the national interest and value of his collection, stipulated that it should go to the Dominion as a national exhibit, not as an Auckland exhibit.

"Then there is a further contract executed between myself and the trustees of the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum, which vests in myself the absolute power to decide the distribution of the whole collection, subject to the condition set out in the principal agreement that the gum specimens are to be kept together. The original contract also stipulates that until such time as the trustees are able to house any part of the collection in the new museum, the building contract for which has been let, safe storage will be provided in 'The Treasure House,' a fireproof museum at Titirangi, owned by Mr Peat, who is empowered to make a charge for admission as in the past. He undertakes to insure the collection for £3000, at his own expense. I have undertaken, in due course, to visit the collection and decide its allocation. This decision has to be made by me personally, so that no question could arise at any future time as to the intentions of the original owner and the terms mutually accepted under which the collection became available to the Dominion at a lower price than that offered for sale to an outside buyer.

"I intend to carry out this obligation in conjunction with experts from the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum, and the Auckland War Memorial Museum, subject to Mr Peat's conditions in the original contract of transfer, and the agreement between the trustees of the former institution and myself. I am at once arranging for the whole collection to be scheduled and described, for there is a good deal of interesting history associated with some of the exhibits, and Mr Peat's services in this connection are being employed. Finally, when the national institution is able to house the kauri gum collection, the whole of the exhibits will be distributed according to the allocation which I have to make, and Mr Peat will provide packing materials and give his services without salary to arrange the kauri gum collection in Wellington.
Auckland Star 24 April 1933

THE PEAT COLLECTION.
The Hon. J A Young tells us nothing new—we have heard all about the American millionaire. In his keen desire for the promotion of science, the honourable gentleman finds no difficulty in writing a cheque for £3000 and presenting a collection of gum to the Wellington Museum. When people are hungry a political transaction of this character is absolutely unjustified. If there is money to give away in the interests of science, why does the Government cancel the grant to the New Zealand Institute, so that it is almost impossible to carry on? This Dominion-wide organisation has always hitherto been able to publish the only scientific research journal of any moment in this Dominion, but the annual grant of £1500 has been wiped out, and a sort of ex-gratia payment of £450 made. The Government should have allowed the American gentleman to have the gum and the money should have been spent on scientific research, which is essential to the farmer's existence. H. E. VAILE.
Auckland Star 27 April 1933

The Minister went ahead and allocated the £3000 from the Great Easter Art Union proceeds towards the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum obtaining the Peat Collection in May 1933.

In June 1936, Peat applied to the Rotorua Borough Council to have the sub-lease for Nuku Te Apiapi, a Maori meeting house built from 1873, and lease from a trust by the Council from 1932. He intended to use it to house his Maori curios. He took over the lease in 1938, according to historian D M Stafford in The New Century in Rotorua (1988), leased the collection to the Rotorua Council 1940 with right of purchase after two years, and that part of his collection is apparently now housed in the Rotorua Museum at the old bathhouse and sanatorium.

The kauri gum did at least initially end up at the Dominion Museum.


Display cases in the Dominion Museum, Buckle Street, Wellington, circa 1936. Photographer unidentified. Reference Number: PAColl-6301-39, National Library.

The display of kauri gum is the largest and probably the most valuable in the world. It comprises 1600 pieces, collected by Mr F O Peat, of Titirangi. The exhibits are displayed in 10 cases, mounted on four tables, and are allotted a gallery to themselves.
Auckland Star 1 August 1936

But, Dargaville claims to have at least part of his gum collection. According to the Kaipara Lifestyler (28 April 2011): “Gained with financial help from Dargaville Rotary in 1978, it totals 400 golden samples, large and small, out of Peat’s collection of 1,600 pieces.”

So ... where are the other 1200 pieces?
OBITUARY
MR FRANK O PEAT
The death occurred at his residence, Godley Road, Titirangi, of Mr Frank Oscar Peat, second son of the late Mr R B Peat. He was born in Auckland 63 years ago, and after being apprenticed as a watchmaker and jeweller with Messrs Page and Spencer, of Auckland, established himself in business in Dargaville and subsequently at Rotorua, He was a recognised authority on ancient Maori art and kauri gum specimens, and had one of the finest collections of greenstone, Maori carvings and kauri gum in New Zealand, A portion of his collection is now in the Dominion Museum, Wellington, and a further section in the Town Hall, Rotorua. Through his efforts, many priceless ancient Maori treasures have been preserved for the benefit of the people of the Dominion, His works of art attracted visitors from all parts of the world. Mr Peat, who was appointed a justice of the peace in 1935, had lived in semi-retirement over recent years. He is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter and two grandchildren.
Auckland Star 29 November 1945 

After all the year and varying uses, the Treasure House was reopened this year as a community hall.


The Treasure House, July 2013

Friday, July 26, 2013

Captain Currey's New Windsor Tomatoes


Glass-house tomatoes; New Windsor brand, grown by A. A. Currey, Avondale. 20 lbs. nett. Unity Press Ltd. [1930-50]. Reference Number: Eph-B-FRUIT-1930s-01, National Library.

"TOMATO RANCH."
ACRES UNDER GLASS.
FRUIT GROWN BY THE TON.
AVONDALE ESTABLISHMENT.

Now that the weather is becoming really warm, the interest of most Aucklanders in tomatoes is increasing. To provide fruit which will quicken that interest and provoke an appetite—big, smooth, red skins, full of firm, cooling flesh—is the object of hundreds of growers around Auckland.

In Avondale is located the biggest "tomato ranch" of its kind in New Zealand, owned by Captain A. A. Currey, who yesterday showed a "Star" reporter over his 13 great glasshouses. Each contains at least 25,000 plants and altogether they produce over 400 tons of tomatoes in a season.

"Yes we can grow some of the world's best tomatoes here in Auckland," said Captain Currey, his eye on a cluster of giant beauties. "I have grown tomatoes in England and Australia, but this will do me.

"The English varieties don't do as well here as the locals. I have tried them, Americans, too, but the local fruit, which have somehow resulted from crossing under our own conditions, do best."

Specimens of American, local, "Anglo-local cross" and English varieties, as in the illustration, were picked for comparison. The American is the biggest and most handsome, but grown here it too often splits round the top and is apt to become "squashy." Besides having a hard core when raised in Auckland, the English strain is often partly empty with a gap between the "shell" and the "yolk." Though regular in shape and of a bright red, it is rather small for Aucklanders' fancy. Seeking Ideal Strain.

Then the local variety, large and firm, but often corrugated or kidney-shaped, appears second from the left. Though it has not the size of the American, nor the regularity and "blush" of the English fruit, the firm softness of its flesh and its cooling flavour make it superior when grown under local conditions.

By crossing the local with other varieties, Captain Currey has for years been trying to breed a tomato with the qualities of the local and the appearance of the others.

"It is a fascinating occupation," he says, "but the recurrence of throwbacks is disappointing." In the "Anglo-local" hybrid, second from the right, English traits, such as hard core, reappear in nearly every tomato. Where the local virtues are combined with the appearance of the imported parent, the fruit will be kept for seed.

Heating Plant.

Next the heating system was inspected. A blast furnace run by electricity and coal keeps going huge boilers, which circulate hot water through the pipes through the glasshouses. It has consumed, incidentally, 200 tons of coal in the past six months. Then the packing house, with a staff employed picking over, grading and packing the finished article. The grader is an ingenious device, a machine through which the tomatoes pass, to be dropped through different outlets into different cases, according to size.

Then the tomatoes are scientifically packed and the cases branded with the grade and so to the city markets, the fruiterer and eventually into the sandwiches and salads which make an Auckland summer day complete.

Auckland Star 27 November 1936

The Currey glasshouses, New Windsor Road.


From a letter to Auckland City Council, by Don Currey. Published with permission.

My father Arthur Currey purchased this property in 1919 when he returned from WW1, and developed the area into the largest glasshouse tomato growing property in the Southern Hemisphere during the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. On the accompanying photo which was taken in 1950 you can see the 2- 1/2 acres of glasshouses and surrounding land of 6 acres which was sold to the Auckland City Council in the 1970s and was developed by the Council as an 'old age pensioner village'. That has subsequently been removed and now has Housing NZ single unit rental buildings on it. The Currey family home is still in use and is the one surrounded by palm trees on the left.  

My father emigrated to NZ as a young 23 year old man and arrived in Wellington in 1908. He was a trained horticulturist as was indeed his father in the UK. In 1911 he enlisted with the National Military Reserve and became a bombardier. At the outbreak of the first world war he enlisted at Wellington – # 2/494 -and left NZ for Egypt with the NZEF, and continued on to fight at Gallipoli, particularly at the Battle of  Lone Pine. After the ending of this misadventure he then fought in Europe particularly at the Battle of Messines Ridge, Somme, and Passchendaele finally being wounded one month before the ceasefire in early October 1918. He was awarded the Military Medal for Bravery in 1917. He returned to NZ in 1919 and after recovery from his injuries he purchased # 53 New Windsor Rd, and proceeded to develop it as described above. He lived on the property all his adult life until he died in 1981 at the age of 96.  

The military, after the first world war became his 'hobby', and he was on the national military reserve until 1944 when he retired as a Major in the army. During WW2 he trained young men in trench mortars and machine guns at Motuihe, and Whangaparaoa peninsula for many weekends over a 5 year period. During the 1920,and 30's he was commander of the College Rifles and was commanding officer of D Company. From 1939-44 he Commanded the 4th Field Artillery based in Auckland. During the depression of the 1930s he was a large employer of local people who were unable to get a job elsewhere.

He was a strong advocate of both local and national grower organisations, serving for many years finally being awarded Life Membership of NZ Vegetable and Produce Growers Assoc, as well as the Auckland division of the NZVPG Ass. He was a Director of Turners and Growers for over 25 years and was very involved in the development of the market buildings in that time frame.

I believe that some recognition needs to be made of a strong local identity who was a major force within his chosen profession, who led the industry for over 50 years with innovative ideas that are still used today. He was very much a pioneer both in his industry, as well as the local district, ably assisted by Gwen Currey his wife who was born in New Windsor Rd  

Another 'old family' who lived further up New Windsor Rd the Dickey family have had recognition by both a street name and the Dickey Reserve named after them on land that they formerly owned.  

I would really appreciate it if Council could allow my suggestion to go forward and that a name change be implemented on property formerly owned by the Currey family, so that there is recognition for our family name to honour all that my Father strove for in the past.

Editor’s notes: The reserve is part of what was once a larger site which stretched between New Windsor and Tiverton Road, belonging to American-born Robert David James and his wife Sophia from 1881. The NZ Herald in 1882 published a detailed description of Captain James’ property:

“Adjoining Mr. Matthews’ section is the homestead and nursery grounds, near some 20 acres in extent, of Captain James, formerly of Mount Albert. No better illustration of what industry, practical skill, and capital can accomplish can be found in the district than at this gentleman’s nursery. He came to the place, a wilderness of fern, over a year ago. Commenced planting last August several thousand trees – peaches, apples, lemons, quinces, &c.  Two acres are laid out as a peach orchard, and another large breadth planted out in strawberries. One of his specialties is lemons, the Lisbon variety principally, and we have not seen any trees so thriving as these for a long time. Of grapes, he is cultivating all the early and late varieties, and has a number of vines of the black Hamburg variety. He has erected three greenhouses, each 50x24, teen feet stud, with span roof, and 14 feet rafters. Another specialty is the gooseberry, and he has set out 800 plants, as well as prepared a bed of several hundred apple trees, all budded and grafted. … Everything is turned to advantage by Captain James. The boundary fence is lined with passion fruit, the prospective produce of which has already been secured by a speculator. Inside the fence, some 10 feet or so, flax plants are being set out to provide materials for putting up fruit and for binding operations, instead of twine. Adjoining the residence is a commodious stable, with vehicles for transporting to and fro everything required, so that from first to last everything is done within the resources of the establishment. We left the place with a wholesome respect for the energy and pluck of the man who, past the meridian of life, had, for the fifth time in a busy life, hewn out a fresh home for himself from the wilderness.”

The James family was therefore Avondale’s earliest known orchardists, particularly on such a large scale, and also the earliest known users of a glasshouse system of viticulture in the district. He had also used glasshouses to grow grapes at his previous orchard and garden, in Mt Albert.

In May 1898, fruitgrower Frederick Bluck purchased the New Windsor property for £1200 from Sophia, now a widow. Bluck subdivided the property in 1911.

Frederick Bluck (d. 1941) arrived with his family in Auckland in 1866. Along with his brothers, he enrolled as a volunteer militiaman in Drury, serving in the Pukekohe and Tuakau Rifle Volunteers. Later he encouraged recruitment in the Waitara district. Bluck took up a teaching position at West Tamaki, and served as secretary of the Roads Board there. After leaving Cleveden, he moved to the Thames goldfields, then to Waitara where he became stationmaster for the opening of the New Plymouth line, and later operated a general store. In 1898, he traveled back to the north, settling in Avondale, where he was to become secretary to the Avondale Road Board and later a land agent in partnership with his son Frederick. Together, they arranged for the construction of the Bluck Building on upper Rosebank Road. He left Avondale to retire in 1926.

Before 1911, Bluck sold a 5 acre portion of James’ original 20 acres including the reserve site to a Mr Oldham. Eventually, from c.1919, this became the property of Arthur Athelstan Currey (1885-1981).

Currey grew tomatoes and other crops. Between 1927 and 1949, he added several single and double glasshouses as he extended his landholdings, many quite massive (valued at £1500), and remained as owner of the site until 1975, when it was transferred to Auckland City Council.

Auckland Council renamed New Windsor Reserve to Arthur Currey Reserve in late 2011.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"Poor old Britomart ... They chuck in the sea": the demise of Point Britomart 1872-1885

Customs Street East, and Point Britomart, 1876-1878. From Auckland Harbour Board Album 68, page 1, Bill Laxon Maritime Library, Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum, Auckland.

The Government start
Some work in this part --
Poor old Britomart
They chuck in the sea --
The contractor falls out
Each tide comes about
And carries earth out
To shoal each wharf T."

"Asmodeus", 20 February 1880 (from Auckland Star 2 March 1880)

I spotted the image above at the Maritime Museum, and loved it at first sight. Obtaining it for the blog was more expensive than getting similar images from the Auckland Library, but the museum's image is not cropped as are two identical images at the library (see below). Auckland Library date their photo as 1876, whereas the museum library has 1870s. I would say, judging by the state of the earthworks, combined with what's known about the businesses on that part of Customs Street, that the period is more-or-less correct, but I'd add 1876-1878.



Ref 4-576A, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library


 Point Britomart, or "Soldiers' Point", 1850s. Fort Britomart at the tip (right), St Paul's Church to be seen in the centre. Ref 4-7130, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library.

Poor Point Britomart. Like Bell Hill in Dunedin, it was in the way of connecting the east and the west of a young city. Unlike Bell Hill (and likely because of the nature of the hill itself), Britomart was destroyed right back to the merest of stumps at Emily Place.



The destruction of Point Britomart began in March 1872, with the demolition of Fort Britomart and the beginnings of the blasting down to break the cliff apart. The intention appears to have been just to cut through the point, preserve Emily Place and St Pauls Church, and then use the rest as fill for the eastern reclamations.

The cliff on which Fort Britomart is situated is composed of mostly heterogeneous material, and the shale and clay which form the greater proportion of the earth to be moved completely nullify all calculations of the mass to be thrown up—and that the more as the whole material is pervaded by dykes of hard substance. The large blast on Saturday morning was no doubt good, and had a certain effect; but, from the reasons said before, it had not the result anticipated. The cliff was broken into large masses, which after all require the further influence of powder to break them up.

Auckland Star 13 March 1872

By July, however, there were problems.

For some considerable time past we have carefully watched the progress of an immense cutting, which has been made between Emily Place and Fort Britomart. This, we were informed, was to be filled up by a solid masonry wall, which was to prevent Emily Place, the houses built thereon, and St. Paul's Church itself from coming bodily down upon the railway site beneath, when Fort Britomart Point should be removed. We have had occasion, at various times, to point out the danger of the cutting, to life and limb, in its present state, also the danger attending the slip which lately occurred near Jacob's ladder, and the danger of Jacob's ladder itself … The trench in question has been gradually getting deeper and deeper, extends for some two hundred feet—if not more—and is ten feet wide. On looking into this trench (which has been carried down a distance of forty feet) one cannot help thinking of the Great Wall of China in connection therewith. … We do not know who is the great engineering genius who planned the work in question, but we do know that a more reckless waste of money, or a more chimerical piece of jobbery, never came under our notice.
NZ Herald 26 July 1872

By July 1873, Point Britomart was described as “almost disappeared”. (NZ Herald 11 July 1873)


Ref 4-2700, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library

Fort Britomart is gradually melting away under the hands of the pick and shovel men. In addition to the removal of the eastern face, an attack has lately been made on the western side, through which the navvies are delving on a parallel with the unfortunate retaining wall. A line of rails has been laid down on the Breakwater road round the Point, and the earth is removed in trucks to the embankment forming in Official Bay. The mode of operation on the western side is as follows: A short tunnel is bored into the cliff capable of admitting a waggon, and a timber roof is fixed and perforated with a square trap or hole. The waggon is placed under this trap, and workmen above loosen the earth which falls through into the truck below. This mode effects a great saving in labour, as no exertion is required in filling the waggon. As the work above proceeds, so is the tunnel driven further in, which will in course of time leave a deep cutting. This will be the limit of the excavation, all the earth to the north of this line will be removed to make way for improvements. Already a large area of land has been reclaimed, which before long will be utilised. The permanent way is already laid and gravelled as far as the Breakwater, while at the foot of the same several tons of railway iron is stored for future use.

NZ Herald 17 September 1873

Beach Road, which passes through what was Point Britomart, was underway to The Strand by October 1874, and nearly completed by 1876. Most of the work of the first stage of removing Point Britomart was done by 1880.

Ref  932-2, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library


The remaining cliff, however, proved to be unstable.

The Government intend to remove the dangerous hill between the Britomart and the present railway station, which for some reason has been allowed to remain for a considerable time a standing menace to the safety of pedestrians on the reclamation road. The stuff will be placed along the southern side of the intake, and it is estimated that Custom House-street will be widened by ten or twelve feet when this is completed. Work is to be commenced without delay, and will probably be finished about three months hence. It will be entrusted to Mr Fallon, who has obtained a reputation for the faithful performance of his contracts.

Auckland Star 30 September 1881

A number of children are in the habit of adopting the dangerous practice of getting over the retaining wall at the bottom of Emily Place which guards the cliffs of Britomart, and sitting on the face of the slope, to the imminent danger of falling down on to the Beach-road below. A group of children were so engaged yesterday afternoon, the grass covering the face of the cliff preventing them from noticing their close proximity to it, though it was plainly observable to those in tho vicinity of the railway station below.

NZ Herald 13 May 1882

There was a major landslip from off the remains of the point into Fort Street in April 1883.



The culmination of the demolition of one of Auckland's earliest geographic landmarks -- was the destruction of one of Auckland's historic, St Paul's Church in 1885 (seen as right, top, above). I've already written about that, here.



What can also be seen here is blacksmith George Leahy's Customs Street workshops (at right). Leahy was born in Gibraltar, and spent some time in Ireland before coming to NZ in 1855. He served during the Land Wars in the Royal Irish Victoria Rifles, and gained the rank of captain. (Obituary, NZ Herald 14 May 1920). Up until January 1874, he and his brother Michael were in business together at the Etna Forge, West Queen Street. George Leahy continued in business on his own, first at West Queen Street still, then in December 1875 he applied to Auckland City Council for permission “to erect an iron building for a smith’s shop on an allotment of his in Custom-house-street.” (Auckland Star 13 December 1875) He received permission 30 December 1875. By March-April 1876, he’d moved from West Queen Street.

Mr Leahy, blacksmith, of Custom-House-street, has turned out a very useful looking agricultural machine for Messrs B. Porter and Co., of Queen-street, who are to send it to the Hon. Mr Chamberlin, for use on his land. It is an iron roller, with shafts, for two horses, and is intended for crushing titree and fern, previous to burning it off. The actual work is done by two hollow openwork cylinders revolving independently on the same axis. Each cylinder is 3ft 6in. diameter by about the same length. They are composed of bars of iron fixed at intervals round two pairs of circular frames. It is said that the bars of iron, while revolving so effectually, crush the under-growth that its utter extermination is secured. The machine is prettily painted red and black, and the workmanship is of a superior nature.

Auckland Star 21 June 1876

His move to Custom Street timed in with his successful tenders for work for the Auckland Harbour Board, for ironwork from June that year.

In the mid background, just beside Leahy's shed, can be seen a sign for "B Keane, Bricks, Lime, Sand ...". This would be Barney Keane, recently shifted (1875) from Brickyard Bay to Customs Street, near Holdship's timber yard (which can also be seen in the Maritime Museum's image). Above that, a substantial warehouse and offices at Commerce Street for the ASN Company (Australasian Steam Navigation Company).

All up, a wonderful image, and a glimpse at a past forever lost.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Meet Timespanner the Facebook page ...

Social media still doesn't thrill me to bits, but if it can help with at least one thing, it's useful. A lot of pain-in-the-you-know-where auto-spammers infesting Timespanner has meant that I needed to set up gatekeeping functions for comments which damned well got in the way of folks sharing real information and insights, all because of a bunch of thieving commercials.

Okay.

So -- coming up to Timespanner's 5th birthday this September, I've started a Facebook page for it. There will be a link on the right sidebar for anyone to get hold of me via FB if they want to sound off or comment or share info, without having to go through the gatekeeping functions of the auto-words an' such.

I'll see how things go.

Roskill's People

Garth Houltham of the Mt Roskill (Puketapapa) Historical has worked very hard since 2011 to put together a genealogical database of folk who have lived in the Mt Roskill area from early colonial times. This morning, he launched a Facebook page about it. Find out more here.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Finding the Focus: the movement to establish community centres in Avondale, 1947-1990

I received some enquiries in recent weeks as to the history of the site and buildings at the Avondale Community Centre, 97-99 Rosebank Road. Another journey of self-discovery later (definitely Timespanner territory) -- the publication of Finding the Focus.

My grateful thanks to my friend Liz Clark who cast her eyes over it to help clean things up here and there in the proofing stage, and to the staff at Auckland Council Archives.

So -- here's Finding the Focus.

Monday, July 8, 2013

St Ninians Digital Cemetery

Well, after months of prevarication, here it is. I'd still term this a work in progress. I have to fix up some formatting, a bit of tweaking here and there -- but essentrially, this is the online version of the record of who is buried or commemorated at St Ninians Cemetery, St Georges Road, Avondale.

If I've made errors or missed anything out -- let me know!

Digital Cemetery: Burials and Memorials at St Ninian's Cemetery, Avondale, Auckland

Friday, July 5, 2013

Waitomo Caves Hotel


Postcard of the Waitomo Caves Hotel.

Tourism reached the glow worm caves at Waitomo in the late 1880s, around the time the tourist boom was beginning here in New Zealand. Accommodation though was a privately run affair until October 1905, when it was reported (Marlborough Express, 31 October) that the government had taken over both the caves and adjoining property, including accommodation run formerly by W Rattan. The cost of erecting a new accommodation house (£2500) was including in the estimates in 1907. T E Donne of the Department of Tourist and Health Resorts called for tenders 17 October 1908, and that of R C Humphreys was accepted in the following January at £2076.

So popular have tho Waitomo caves become this season that the existing accommodation has proved wholly inadequate for visitors and numerous tents are now in use. The contractor for the new house of 20 rooms is making good progress with the building, which will no doubt be greatly appreciated by the increasing number of tourists who now visit Hangatiki for the caves at Waitomo and Ruakuri.

Evening Post 6 February 1909

In reply to Mr. Poole, the Minister in charge of tourist resorts said that the new accommodation house at Waitomo Caves will be furnished this week, and the House will be ready to receive visitors almost immediately. The roads leading, to the caves are also much improved. 
 Auckland Star, 18 November 1909

The new accommodation house at Waitomo Caves is now completed. It was erected by the Government at a cost, it is said, of something like £5000 for the convenience of tourists visiting the famous caves. The building stands on a hill overlooking the Waitomo Valley. It is fitted with modern conveniences, including electric lighting. The caves are five miles from Hangatiki, on the Main Trunk line, and visitors are conveyed from the railway to the caves accommodation house by a coach over a road that is moderately good for a country road during the summer months, but for fully eight months in the year the coach has to be hauled through a quagmire. It is said that the prospects of making the accommodation house pay so long as the road remains in its present condition are hopeless. 

 Evening Post, 3 February 1910

Then, in the late 1920s, the hotel was extended.

As finally approved, the building of roughcast concrete, will have a frontage which trebles the present size of the old building, which will appear as a small annexe. The Government architect, Mr. Mair, has planned the building on modern hotel lines, each room being heated with warm air and all bedrooms having wash basins and hot and cold water laid on. A special feature of the new portion will be the spacious balconies, which have an aggregate superficial area of 1800 feet, and are wide enough for dancing. Care has been taken to place the new building so that every bedroom will get the sunshine and there will be beautiful views to the westward from the back balcony. Additional bedroom accommodation is provided for over 50 persons, and a number of these rooms are spacious bed-sitting rooms. The new dining room will be 67ft x 30ft. The hall is 17ft by 35ft, and there is a large lounge smoking room and sitting room. The kitchen will utilise electricity, but standby cooking arrangements, using coal or wood, will be provided. 

An additional building will contain a well-fitted steam laundry, while the basement of the hostel will contain provision for changing boots, etc., when guests visit the caves. From the large quantity of rock which had to be removed in making the site there has been saved sufficient to provide the aggregate for the concrete needed to construct the new building. 

Auckland Star 18 December 1926

The new hotel, incorporating the old one in the top image, was completed by mid 1928.


G B Scott image of the Waitomo Caves Hotel, 1960s. Ref 996-214, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library.

Now, the Waitomo Caves Hotel  is on a list of haunted buildings in New Zealand. Sorry to all the paranormal fans out there, but -- what matters most to me is that the building is at least registered Category 2 with the NZ Historic Places Trust. Their summary here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

YWCA building, Queen Street


A bit of lost Auckland, via a postcard purchased from overseas. On the back is written:

"This YWCA here is the 2nd largest in the world for business etc. so at least we can have something pretty big in little New Zealand. Hilda."

Thanks to Sandra Coney's 1986 book, Every Girl: A social history of women and the YWCA in Auckland (p. 93) I now know that this image came from 1918, the year the building was completed, and was the first photograph of the building.

The YWCA held a "Ten Day Building Campaign" in 1913, one which raised £15,046 according to the NZ Herald on 16 February 1915. 1915 was when Myers Park was opened, and when the YWCA was offered property at 385 Queen Street, backing onto the new park, for their hostel. The property was purchased for £4,500 and W H Gummer of Hoggard, Prouse and Gummer was commissioned to prepare a design for the new building. The foundation stone was laid in 1917, and the red brick building, one that expressed "dignity, and restraint without weakness, and a certain homeliness of character,"  apparently according to the architect, was opened 31 October 1918.

Mrs Geddes heartily thanked all those present, and all who had contributed to the building fund, for their interest and support. The association, she said, was very proud of its new home, and without doubt it would greatly further the success of the work that was to be undertaken during the coming years. "Some people have said that the building is far too extravagant," said Mrs. Geddes, "but we must have a bright, attractive place, or else the girls will not come to us, for we have to compete with so many outside attractions." 

... Miss Griffin said the new building would be a centre which would radiate influences throughout the entire community. It was large, but contained not one inch of superfluous space. In entering their new home they were entering into the heritage of the faith and work of early members of the association, to whom the speaker paid a tribute of gratitude and appreciation.
NZ Herald 1 November 1918


22 January 1928. James D Richardson photo, ref 4-1916, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library.

There are beautiful images of the interior of the building in Coney's book. I do recommend that the interested reader hunt down a copy.

With changing times in the 1970s, the YWCA moved away from the business of providing hostels, especially considering the fact that bits of the old building "kept falling off into Myers Park", according to Coney. The 1918 building was sold in 1977, became a hotel, and was finally demolished in 1985.