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Posts Tagged ‘heritage’

We went on a Heritage Festival tour of McLean’s Mansion this morning.  Having organised a Festival event myself I have some appreciation of what’s involved.  This one was many times more complex.  Our booking was for 10.20am.  We were asked to arrive half an hour beforehand, which we duly did, and registered.  We were given a copy of the Site Emergency Evacuation Plan, then obliged to wait for half an hour.  Luckily there were chairs to sit on.  We were able to wander around part of the gardens and to realise what a tremendous amount of work will be needed to restore and maintain them.

McLean’s Mansion

At this stage my trusty camera (only ten years old) refused to work.  Luckily I had my cellphone, but hadn’t used its camera for six months and it took me a while to remember just how to do it.  Unfortunately the couple of shots I took inside the house were too hurried and came out blurry.

At the beginning of our tour we were given hard hats and hi-vis vests – the third time I’ve worn these in recent weeks.  The guide then told a woman with a larger camera that she would need to leave that with a staff member outside the house.  When I queried whether any photos were allowed he replied that there was no problem with photos, but in an emergency someone might be inclined to focus on saving the camera around their neck rather than exiting quickly.  This seemed absurd to me but I refrained from pointing out that I was carrying a handbag at least as large as her camera (and I’d want to save it).

Our group of 16 was split in two with different guides for the ground and first floor.  It was amazing to see the earthquake and vandal damage, and how much has already been done to make the house safe to enter.

Graffiti inside the building

I have memories of the building from the 1950s and late 1980s.  In the earthquake thick brick internal walls collapsed completely, but because parts were reinforced with iron, much of the building’s integrity was maintained.  Built in 1900 it is New Zealand’s largest heritage wooden residential building and listed as Heritage Category 1.  It’s wonderful to know that it should eventually be restored as a centre for art, music, and community events, especially when Christchurch has lost so much heritage.  With 20 half-hour tours today and more tomorrow and Monday, the volunteers will be busy!  Of course the cost of restoration is tremendous, donations are required, and they are selling merchandise to raise funds.  Stephen assisted by buying a T-shirt.

Souvenir T-shirt

It’s great the Mansion will be saved
providing heritage that’s craved

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The Sydenham Pod Park at 406 Colombo Street occupies the site of the historic Beverleys’ Buildings which were destroyed in the earthquakes.

Sydenham Pod Park

Sydenham Pod Park

These commercial buildings were built for Frederick Beverley in 1907 and 1911, and remained in the family until the 1950’s.  Gray’s Mercers and the Olympic Fish Supply were tenants for 60 and 70 years respectively.  More recently the buildings housed Ascot TV.  The wetland plantings represent the swampy land originally found here, and the boardwalk symbolises the grid layout of local streets.

“This park denotes what’s gone before
so memory may not withdraw.”

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McLean’s Mansion, built in 1900, which stands next to St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Manchester Street, is now scheduled for demolition.  It’s listed as a Category 1 heritage building by the Historic Places Trust, and in 1900 was believed to be the largest wooden residence in New Zealand.

(photo courtesy of Christchurch City Libraries)

It seems the demolition is not because the building is unsafe, but because repairs would be too expensive.  I wonder how many more heritage buildings will be lost for this reason.  I’ve heard the old Post Office in Te Ripeka/Cathedral Square is also at risk.

From 1955 to 1977 the building housed the Dental Training School.  When I attended St Albans Primary School I remember cycling to McLean’s Mansion for dental treatment.  There were two clinics there, which we understood were the A and B clinic, and it was rumoured that one had the more skilled student nurses – I can’t now remember which.  What I do remember is a room full of pedal-operated drills that were viewed by us children as instruments of torture.

In 1987, the building was taken over by the Academy, a private training provider.  Soon after it opened I applied for a job teaching clerical skills.  My experience was in accounting and office administration, and at that stage the only tutoring I’d done was to train office workers, one-on-one, but that wasn’t a problem.  I was told my wide clerical experience was just what they wanted, and I got the job.  I was faced daily with a group of twelve students of extremely varied abilities and ages, and given no resources at all.  I sat up till midnight each evening preparing lessons which some students completed very quickly, while others struggled to comprehend a simple task.   I soon decided this was not for me, and resigned after two weeks.  However, I enjoyed the privilege of working in such a beautiful building.  Other classes, training for hospitality, etc, kept the woodwork polished and staffed the reception area.

Do you have memories of McLean’s Mansion?

“So sad to see this building go
with yet another earthquake blow.”

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