Orig­i­nal tiny house re­built


They were cold, dark and may have been the coun­try’s orig­i­nal tiny houses.

In 1942, small citys of win­dow­less huts sprang up around the Kapiti Coast to house thou­sands of Amer­i­can soldiers train­ing for bat­tle in the Pa­cific.

Mea­sur­ing 2.4m x 4.5m, the ba­sic cab­ins housed four men for up to two years. There was no power, lin­ings or in­su­la­tion but, ac­cord­ing to Dave Porter they did have one im­por­tant at­trac­tion. ‘‘They were bet­ter than a tent.’’ For the past year Porter has lead a restora­tion project on an orig­i­nal hut and the ex­pe­ri­ence had al­lowed him a glimpse into what life might have been like in the cramped con­di­tions.

‘‘Re­ally the only thing go­ing for it was they were prob­a­bly drier than liv­ing un­der can­vas.’’

The build­ings aren’t rare, Porter hol­i­dayed in one as a child, he said.

‘‘After the war the gov­ern­ment sold them off as beach baches or gar­den sheds. There will be hun­dreds off them scat­tered over the Welling­ton area.’’

The hut Porter and his team have been work­ing on is nearly fin­ished and ready to be taken back to its orig­i­nal Paekakariki site.

Do­nated to the Kapiti US Marines Trust in 2016, it had pre­vi­ously been a Rau­mati beach­house built from two ma­rine huts in 1950.

The build­ing was dis­man­tled and taken to the Men­zshed site in Waikanae where Porter’s team metic­u­lously re­built it, us­ing plans from the New Zealand ar­chives.

Some parts were re­placed but oth­ers, in­clud­ing the metal bolts and wooden floor are orig­i­nal.

‘‘The floor is rimu. We would never have af­forded to re­place it.’’

Build team mem­ber Paul Fitzger­ald said peo­ple had tended to mod­ify the sheds after they bought they from the gov­ern­ment.

‘‘They slapped some cor­ru­gated iron up and might have put some windows in.’’

After the hut is set­tled in Paekakariki’s Queen El­iz­a­beth Park it will be­come an ex­hibit for a new US marines her­itage site.

It will be kit­ted out with mem­o­ra­bilia and peo­ple will be able to look through the windows to see how the soldiers lived.

The hut will be opened in QEII park fol­low­ing the Me­mo­rial Day Ser­vice on May 29. The ser­vice will run from 10-11am and is open to the pub­lic.


Cramped con­di­tions: Waikanae Men­zshed mem­bers from left, Mur­ray Cardie, Paul Fitzger­ald and Dave Porter inside the hut they have re­stored.

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