Morrell family in Wellington – 2

20170612_120300 I am reading David Johnson’s book Wellington Harbour (Wellington Maritime Museum, 1996) for my evening course on Wellington’s architectural history. In a post of – almost exactly – two years ago I wrote about my great-grandparents in Wellington – this was some research I also did for my evening class so it’s not surprising it is the same time of the year.  Johnson includes a painting and some information on the ship they arrived in Wellington on – the St Leonards, and some background information on 1880, the year they arrived.  Continue reading


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 It was updated a year or two later but is – I think – now considered ‘out of print’ or out of date as it isn’t available at the Wellington info centre.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

Halls turkish baths

Hall’s Turkish Baths ad.

In my evening class on Wellington’s architectural heritage I give the following figures for buildings in Wellington in 1900:

  • 7,478 dwellings
  • 681 combined shops and dwellings
  • 215 shops
  • 97 workshops
  • 80 stables
  • 40 warehouses
  • 57 hotels
  • 36 factories
  • 12 restaurants
  • 6 timber mills
  • 3 schools
  • 2 theatres
  • 1 Turkish Baths

This comes from Geoff Mew and Adrian Humphris’ book, Raupo to Deco: Wellington styles and architects, 1840-1940; Wellington: Steele Roberts Aotearoa, 2014. 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

World War Two refugee architects in Wellington

Massey House

One interesting talk I went to last weekend as part of the ‘Capital 150’ celebrations was on the topic of refugee architects who came to New Zealand from Europe just before World War Two. The talk was given by Linda Tyler from Auckland and was in conjunction with an exhibition at the Holocaust Centre in Wellington. These architects were key figures in the introduction of modernism into Wellington architecture at this period.

The best known of these architects was Ernst Plischke (he sometimes dropped the ‘c’ and became Plishke; 1903-1992). Although not Jewish himself, his wife was, and his association with the socialist wing of the Werkbund caused employment opportunities in Austria under Nazi occupation to dwindle. They emigrated to New Zealand arriving in May 1939, but were nevertheless regarded as enemy aliens during the war. Continue reading

Inside the Te Papa Storeroom

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This weekend Wellington celebrated “Capital 150” – 150 years since Wellington became capital of New Zealand. Many buildings were open to display their ‘treasures’, including the national museum, commonly known as Te Papa. I volunteered at their off-site storeroom for a few hours and was stationed in the furniture storeroom, but before the public were let in I had a quick look at some of the other storage areas. This facility doesn’t house all of Te Papa’s collections – some items like art are stored at the museum on the waterfront. I’m not a scientist so my interest in cases like these is mainly aesthetic! Continue reading