Mem­ory box

Waikato Times - - History - ANN MCEWAN

Well, here we go again. It’s been all of five min­utes since the last re­mod­elling, so it must be time to tinker with Gar­den Place once more. In Oc­to­ber 2009 an ‘ex­treme makeover’ for Hamil­ton’s town square was an­nounced, and only eight years later a group of city de­vel­op­ers reckon the time has come to have an­other crack at re­ar­rang­ing the ‘fur­ni­ture’ to solve the CBD’s image prob­lem.

Mayor King was re­ported as say­ing back in Au­gust that bringing cars back to Gar­den Place, after an ab­sence of 43 years, would re­vive the site and cre­ate ‘the most in-de­mand real es­tate in the CBD’ [Waikato Times Au­gust 23, 2017].

In its car-filled hey-day Gar­den Place was ringed by in­sur­ance companies and car deal­er­ships, bounded to the east by the Chief Post Of­fice and, to the west, the cham­bers of Hamil­ton City Coun­cil. Only the lat­ter is still in situ, the car yards hav­ing moved out to Te Rapa, the post of­fice con­verted to a casino, and the in­sur­ance companies down­siz­ing to more mod­est premises and de­liv­er­ing much of their ser­vices over the phone.

A no­table ex­cep­tion to the pre­dom­i­nance of in­sur­ance companies was Frear’s Build­ings, which were erected in 1916 on the north­ern edge of Gar­den Place over­look­ing Vic­to­ria Street. Bet­ter known as Pas­coe’s Build­ings, this two-storey build­ing in the com­mer­cial clas­si­cal style pre-dates the re­moval of the Gar­den Place Hill by some 20 years.

Joseph Frear (1846-1926) was born in Eng­land and em­i­grated to New Zealand as a child.

He ar­rived in Hamil­ton in 1874 and worked as a car­pen­ter and bridge builder.

He also ran a tim­ber yard and was a Hamil­ton Bor­ough Coun­cil­lor for two terms dur­ing the 1880s.

On his Gar­den Place prop­erty Frear built a square-plan villa, which was west of Pas­coe’s Build­ings. Frear and his wife Sarah (nee Hay­don) had four chil­dren and were ac­tive mem­bers of the Methodist, Sev­enth-Day Ad­ven­tist and, at the end of his life, Angli­can churches.

Frear’s Build­ings were de­signed by Auck­land ar­chi­tects Wade & Wade and built from brick and con­crete by WE Hutch­e­son.

They are a sched­uled her­itage item on the dis­trict plan and also listed by Her­itage New Zealand Pouhere Toanga. James Pas­coe Jew­eller (est. 1906) was the original ground floor re­tail ten­ant in the build­ing. The firm’s dis­play win­dows were said to be an ‘artis­tic tri­umph’ in Novem­ber 1916 and at a later date Pas­coe bought the build­ing from Joseph Frear and re­named the build­ing as a whole. Mod­ern shop fronts have sadly re­placed the original Maud & Fawcett de­sign but the first floor re­tains a high level of au­then­tic­ity, as can be seen in var­i­ous pho­to­graphs in the city’s Her­itage Col­lec­tion.

1127 his­toric pho­to­graphs of Hamil­ton have been digi­tised and are avail­able on the City Li­braries’ ‘Her­itage Col­lec­tions’ web­site.

It’s a won­der­ful re­source for the city and es­tab­lishes, in my view, the ad­van­tage of hav­ing spe­cial­ist li­brar­i­ans housed in the cen­tral city.

The cen­tral li­brary was, un­til late last year, one of the key at­trac­tions of Gar­den Place and I can’t help think­ing that the ex­pe­di­tious strength­en­ing and re­open­ing of the li­brary will do more for the vi­tal­ity of Gar­den Place than the ad­di­tion of cars and car parks. Then again, the pa­trons of the cen­tral li­brary may not be the tar­get market for Gar­den Place’s next trans­for­ma­tive ‘facelift’.

Frear’s/Pas­coe’s Build­ings, Vic­to­ria Street & Gar­den Place, Hamil­ton.

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