Learning more about Te Awamutu’s historic buildings
The Commercial Hotel opened its doors to past staff and members of the Te Awamutu Genealogy Group recently, thanks to a fan of the pub wanting to learn more about the building.
Maureen Brain (office), Basil Rumbles (wholesale) and Brian Clarke (barman) worked together during the 1980s and 90s.
They joined Te Awamutu Genealogy Group convenor Sandra Metcalfe and group member Alan Hall at the hotel and were given a tour of the renovated bar and restaurant by duty manager Angus Arora, and looked at the upstairs accommodation which is next for restoration.
The former staff and visitors were impressed by the level of workmanship in the bar and restaurant. Maureen, Brian and Basil were also able to shed some light on the layout of the hotel during their tenure and how the business was operated.
The Commercial Hotel was one of Te Awamutu’s iconic art deco buildings featured as part of the genealogy group’s Building Social History Project last year. That culminated in a display at the Te Awamutu Library in November.
Meeting former staff on site of one of those buildings, and looking both back and to the future is exciting for the group.
Sandra is hoping other building owners will use their initiative and expand on the genealogy group’s project by opening the doors on some of the other historic buildings in town.
She says the proposed tour of The Commercial Hotel later in the year is a prime example of what could be achieved with the cooperation of building/business owners and volunteers.
Before renovations start to the upstairs part of the hotel, Sandra hopes to get access to take photographs of original art deco features. These images could form part of a visual display in the hotel bar and be an exciting extension to the genealogy group’s next heritage building display in November.
The main focus for the group is on researching the social history of key buildings with the aim of reigniting an interest in Te Awamutu’s built heritage and the changes that have taken place over the last eight decades.
“The reason so many of our current heritage buildings were constructed during the 1920s and 1930s was because of a building downturn in the larger cities,” says Sandra.
“Architects and tradesmen often moved to other towns to find work.
“Although the building designers and main contractors were usually from outside Te Awamutu, several of the subcontractors were local businesses.
“The commercial buildings featured in the display were the catalyst for many local firms to grow their business, eventually becoming major employers in the town.”
Sandra says Te Awamutu has a heritage to be proud of — and hopes people will take the opportunity to share their knowledge and their buildings as the group continues the next stage of the project.
“We are only a small team and the project is huge. We are always interested in hearing from people who want to be involved, especially if they have skills in the areas of research, photography and recording oral histories.”
To find out more, share memories or be part of the project contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 021 206 9119.
COMMERCIAL Hotel duty manager Angus Arora (standing) hosted former staff Maureen Brain (office — centre) and her husband Les (right), Brian Clarke (barman — third from right) and Basil Rumbles (wholesale — second from right) and Te Awamutu Genealogy Group members Alan Hall and Sandra Metcalfe (seated left) at the renovated bar and restaurant.