Forgotten Memorials

DSC01711I’m going to lead a ‘Secret art walk’ of Wellington for a group in a few weeks’ time. “Secret Art Walk” was the subject of a brochure issued in 2012 – an initiative of “the Property Council of New Zealand proudly sponsored by Beca”. It was updated a year or two later but is – I think – now considered ‘out of print’ or out of date as it isn’t available at the Wellington info centre. It is mainly about art works located in the foyers of commercial buildings – some in the brochure can no longer be seen, but I have found others too that aren’t in the brochure. Quite a number are labelled, but also quite a number aren’t. As I was doing research for this walk, I came across a website of Stephen Gibbs who did the walk in 2015 and blogged about it over a couple of months. You can download a copy of the original brochure here (PDF): Secret Art Walk

One of the artworks he did a post about isn’t included in the ‘Secret art walk’ but perhaps it should be – as until I read his blog, I’d not heard of, or seen, it. Or if I had seen it, I’d not taken any notice. It is now in what I regard as an obscure location behind the City Gallery. But it was once a lot more prominent, as this photo shows.

Gibbs memorial fountain Nat lib

Source: Gibbs Memorial Fountain, Civic Square, Wellington. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002): Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1956/2395a-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23071880

The donor, David John Gibbs, was Stephen Gibbs’s great-uncle and you can read more about him on his post. As he says, the inscription is somewhat faded, but it says:

DSC01710The gift of the late David John Gibbs DSO
‘On Becoming Soldiers We Have Not Ceased To Be Citizens.’
[The Crest of Wellington City]
‘A Gift Is As A Precious Stone In The Eyes Of Him That Hath It’
…and below it…
‘Wellington City Council: The gargoyles and this plaque have been relocated from their original position in the front of the Municipal Office Building to this terracotta garden pool area as part of the Civic Centre Redevelopment December 1991’

The fountain was installed in 1956, a year before the official naming of Civic Square. [1] Serendipitously, this morning I was looking through an old photo album of mine and discovered this photo – also showing the memorial in its much more prominent position (taken sometime in the early 1970s):

Civic centre Wngt 1972 to 1974

Was I photographing the fountain, the building, or the pigeons?

This fountain has been relocated twice as Civic Square has been redeveloped – buildings demolished, new ones built, buildings which have changed function, etc. Its first move in 1991 was due to the new library and municipal buildings being built where it used to be located – and the redesign of the square – by Ian Athfield architects. I don’t know the reason for its second move, or where it was between 1991 and 2012, but Stephen Gibbs says it was rededicated in its current location in 2012.

This news item (Wellingtonian, 14 June 2016, Caitlin Salter) gives some of the history of the square, which was formerly Mercer street, with a small park: “The Wellington City Corporation Municipal Office building was built between Wakefield and Mercer Sts in 1951. The building formerly had frontage on the original Civic Square – a small park where the Wellington City Council and i-SITE building is now. The Gibbs Memorial Fountain was in the original square. The fountain had two spouting dolphins and a Neptune head with fish-fin hair.”

Some photos of Civic Square now. This is one of my favourite Wellington spaces, with two of my favourite Wellington buildings (City Library and City Gallery). There are also more photos on this post here.


[1] Heather Galbraith, ‘Civic Wellington: A Civic Centre’ in Wellington: A City for Sculpture (eds) Jenny Harper & Aaron Lister, VUP, 2007, pp. 63-73


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