St Mary of the Angels, Wellington

20170824_130635Since the devastating Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 there has been more awareness of the need to seismically strengthen some New Zealand buildings. Further earthquakes in 2013 (known as the Seddon earthquakes due to their proximity to Seddon at the top of the South Island) brought this home in Wellington. The modern BP building was damaged in those quakes and has since been demolished. St Mary of the Angels is a historic Catholic church in central Wellington and two of the Seddon earthquakes occurred during masses – one in the morning and one in the early evening. The building visibly moved, including the columns. Although no damage occurred, the decision was taken to close the church and hasten the plans for earthquake strengthening.

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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 It was updated a year or two later but is – I think – now considered ‘out of print’ or out of date as it isn’t available at the Wellington info centre.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 Continue reading

The former Erskine College, Island Bay

Where I live in Island Bay, Wellington, I look across the valley to what used to be a Catholic girls’ secondary school known as Erskine College. After the school closed in 1985, the buildings had various uses including as an art school venue. I am not an ‘alumna’ or ‘old girl’ of the school, but I did visit it several times when the art school had exhibitions and I took part in one of their weekend courses once. But it has been listed as earthquake prone and is no longer usable. It has been empty for some years and, as such, the target of vandalism.

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High-rise cities: enchanting cities?

The current online course I’m doing is called ‘Re-enchanting the city’ run by the University of New South Wales.  For a case-study it is using a development in Sydney called Central Park (not to be confused with New York’s more famous Central Park). Located next to the Central Rail Station, it is a development of apartments, offices, shops, food and drink outlets, and a park. It markets itself as Sydney’s new downtown. Early in week one we were introduced to the ideas of Associate Professor Vishaan Chakrabarti (Colombia University), who argues that ‘hyperdensity is good urban design’.[1] His definition is “density sufficient to support intensive public transportation systems – typically regarded as 30 dwelling units per acre or 75 units per hectare”, which “contributes to health, prosperity and sustainability of cities”. Continue reading

Fullers Vaudeville: ‘the night’s entertainment goes with a swing’

Recently I bought a few historic photographs of Wellington at an op shop (they were reproductions from the Turnbull Library collection). In one of them – looking east along Courtenay Place with the De Luxe Theatre (now the Embassy) in the centre – I noticed a large sign on a building for “Fullers Vaudeville”. I know the De Luxe opened in 1924 and was a little surprised that vaudeville was still popular at this date. I tend to associate it with the nineteenth century. Continue reading

Island Bay places

Yesterday I visited three buildings in Island Bay, Wellington with members of Historic Places Wellington (well, truth to tell, I organised the visits, in my ‘home suburb’). The first visit was to the Home of Compassion, which I have written about before on this website (see Some Wellington buildings). The Catholic order of the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion (more commonly known as Sisters of Compassion) was founded by a remarkable French woman, Suzanne Aubert, in 1892 in Jerusalem on the Whanganui River (I have also written a post on that! See: Jerusalem).

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Truby King House, Seacliff and Plunket

Vivs plunket book (1)

Sir Frederic Truby King (1 April 1858 – 10 February 1938), generally known as Truby King, was a New Zealand health reformer and Director of Child Welfare. He is best known as the founder of the Plunket Society.[1]

Having worked initially in his father’s branch of the Bank of New Zealand, he then spent some time in Wellington and Masterton ‘where he realised that banking was not his forte’.[2] He was 22 when he left New Zealand to train as a doctor in Edinburgh and when he returned to New Zealand he was appointed Medical Superintendent of the Wellington General Hospital. In 1889, against widespread competition, he won the appointment of medical superintendent of Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, the country’s largest and most expensive asylum. He was also appointed lecturer in mental diseases and examiner in public health and medical jurisprudence at the University of Otago. He held the Seacliff position for 30 years. Continue reading