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.