Flat names 101
Dunedin’s student quarter, Thursday, at 11am.
Sarah Gallagher can’t contain her excitement.
‘‘Pull over, there’s a new one there.’’
She leaves the car and runs across Howe St to snap a picture of a sign saying ‘‘Kumara Pit’’.
For a person who has devoted almost a quarter of her life to documenting flat signs in Dunedin’s ‘‘student ghetto’’, this is some find. The picture is soon uploaded to her website, Dunedinflatnames.co.nz.
Gallagher’s interest in flat names started in the early 1990s when she moved into a student flat called ‘‘The Mouse House’’ on Cumberland St.
‘‘I thought it was a really dumb name . . . turns out the whole house was infested with mice.’’
Many of the hundreds of names Gallagher has acquired since 2000 are unprintable in a family newspaper.
We turn the corner into the infamous Castle St, where the road’s surface is permanently pockmarked due to the couch fires held on the street each academic year.
The street is home to arguably the most famous student flat of all, and it doesn’t even have a sign, just a number.
That number is 660 – used by former residents-turned-charttopping band Six60.
Gallagher, who hopes to publish a book of her research and possibly a phone app, says flat names are unique to Dunedin due to the large mass of students living in one area.
‘‘There is quite a lot of identity creation in there. Students are coming to Dunedin after leaving home and they are finding out who they are.’’
Or maybe they are just taking the proverbial as we pass flats dubbed ‘‘The Hoe-Tel’’, ‘‘The Nunnery’’ and two adjoining flats, ‘‘The Fridge’’ and ‘‘The Fridgette’’.
Gallagher says corporates including a peanut butter brand, a mobiles company, a bank and a radio station have sponsored flats as a way into the lucrative student market.
Many flats have pop culture themes – a Footrot Flats sign dates from the early 1970s, while nearby there’s a more current Family Guy-inspired sign, ‘‘The Drunken Clam’’.
Perhaps the most recognisable sign was at 3 Clyde St – ‘‘Pink Flat the Door’’ – which dates from 1988. The Pink Floydinspired door includes the signature of founding flatmate Wallace Chapman, presenter of Radio NZ’s Sunday Morning.
Gallagher says there is a rumour that a flat once occupied by some Eastern Europeans was under surveillance after it was named the Department of Slavonic Studies.
It is unclear if authorities ever investigated the Dunedin branch of DSIR – the Department of Student Inebriation Research.
Our tour takes us down to Hyde St, home to the infamous annual keg party, an occasion for students to create themes for their flats. One such standout was the ‘‘Hydesenberg’’ in honour of the hit TV show Breaking Bad.
The occupants of ‘‘The Yeast Infection’’ pay $112 a room for the privilege.
‘‘The sign is definitely a drawcard,’’ Sammy Lane, 20, says.
George Steele-Mortimer says everyone knows the flat’s name.
‘‘The best bit is when they ask for the password to the wi-fi and we tell them ‘you’re infected’.’’
Above, residents of ‘‘The Yeast Infection’’, and below, some of the other Dunedin student-flat names documented by Sarah Gallagher, right.