The history trail
Hamilton has just celebrated its 150th year with a birthday bash that included a mass Time Warp, led by Rocky Horror’s Richard O’Brien. The hangover continues. While the city is young in international years, it has some wellpreserved remnants of its past.
One of the oldest is Beale Cottage in Hamilton East, a tiny villa once occupied by brilliant but high-minded surgeon Bernard Charles Beale, who was sacked for bad-mouthing his colleagues. Bernard, who was elected mayor in 1880, famously – and successfully – sued a man for pulling his son’s ears at an election meeting. The cottage is really small; one doorway is just 1.5 metres high and 40 centimetres wide, which would have cramped the towering medic. 11 Beale Street.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the majestic Greenslade House on the banks of the Waikato River. This opulent example of Edwardian architecture has imported French roof tiles and pressed metal ceilings from Germany. The house with an octagonal turret room is privately owned and in mint condition. 1 Wellington Street.
In the suburb of Frankton, once the hub of New Zealand rail, there are examples of railway houses, five-room English-style wooden cottages with corrugated iron roofs and outside toilets. The Railway Institute Hall, where workers danced the night away to the Railway Orchestra, is also well preserved although on a different site . A move to demolish it in the late 80s was thwarted by a dawn protest. 21 Weka Street.
A Hamilton history tour should always end in the former Waikato Brewery building (14 Bridge Street) where you can still buy beautiful ales plus great food in its reconstituted form as Chim Choo Ree Restaurant (see Somewhere special to eat page 56).
The Hamilton Historic Walking Tour app can be downloaded free from the App store or the Google Play.