Waikato Times

Mem­ory box

- ANN MCEWAN Architecture · Arts

Over the week­end it was an­nounced that the trust that owns and op­er­ates the Meteor Theatre at the south end of Vic­to­ria Street has been granted gov­ern­ment fund­ing for earth­quake strength­en­ing and build­ing ren­o­va­tions. A sum of $368,000 has been awarded from the Min­istry for Cul­ture and Her­itage’s new Re­gional Cul­ture and Her­itage Fund, which is in­tended to sup­port arts, cul­ture and her­itage fa­cil­i­ties out­side Auck­land, Welling­ton and Christchur­ch.

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry’s pol­icy doc­u­ment, ‘grants will be for the pur­pose of ren­o­vat­ing, restor­ing, adding to, and con­struct­ing build­ings in which cul­tural and/or her­itage ac­tiv­i­ties take place through grants for in­fras­truc­tural work and per­ma­nent fit­tings’.

El­i­gi­ble build­ings are those in which the per­form­ing arts and ex­hi­bi­tions take place and/or im­por­tant col­lec­tions are housed. Her­itage build­ings may ben­e­fit from such fund­ing, but they are not its fo­cus, rather it is the ac­tiv­ity that oc­curs in the build­ing which will de­ter­mine el­i­gi­bil­ity for a grant from the fund.

The for­mer CL Innes aer­ated wa­ter fac­tory is a her­itage build­ing, but not one that ei­ther Hamil­ton City Coun­cil or Her­itage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga recog­nise. It is in­ti­mately con­nected, both his­tor­i­cally and phys­i­cally, with the for­mer Waikato Brew­ery build­ing across the road and to­gether the two build­ings tell a story of com­mer­cial suc­cess and longevity.

Charles and Mary Ann Innes es­tab­lished the Waikato Brew­ery in 1897.

They had ear­lier op­er­ated a brew­ery in Hamil­ton East and so their new Hamil­ton West op­er­a­tion pro­vides ev­i­dence of the vic­tory of the west side in the later 19th cen­tury. Charles died in 1899 and Mary Ann (1852-1941) took over the busi­ness and then made her son Charles Lewis Innes a part­ner in 1900.

The firm be­came CL Innes & Com­pany, a name it re­tained even af­ter Charles ju­nior died of the flu in 1918.

Be­tween the world wars, op­er­a­tions at the An­zac Pa­rade site ex­panded and ma­jor ad­di­tions to the fac­tory were un­der­taken in 1919 and 1930.

Beer and soft drinks were made at the brew­ery and noted lo­cal firm White, Leigh and de Lisle be­came the com­pany’s ar­chi­tects in the late 1940s.

The new Vic­to­ria Street soft drink fac­tory was commission­ed from White, Leigh and de Lisle in 1954, although there has al­ways been some con­fu­sion about the build­ing’s ar­chi­tec­tural pedi­gree.

Czech emi­gre ar­chi­tect Hein­rich (Henry) Kulka was in-house ar­chi­tect for Fletcher Con­struc­tion at the time and so there has long been an ac­count of his in­volve­ment in the project, since Fletch­ers built the new fac­tory. Whereas White, Leigh & de Lisle had a wellestab­lished re­la­tion­ship with CL Innes & Co by the early 1950s, and the fac­tory job is in their project list, the Kulka Trust in­cludes the fac­tory in its list of Kulka’s New Zealand build­ings.

My money is on the lo­cal ar­chi­tects but that doesn’t mean Kulka didn’t have some in­put into the de­sign and build.

Harold Innes was run­ning the fam­ily busi­ness by the early 1950s and his Lake Cres­cent home was also de­signed by White, Leigh and de Lisle. Harold is the Innes af­ter whom Innes Com­mon is named, but that’s tak­ing the story some way away from the Meteor and its her­itage values.

The for­mer fac­tory is a land­mark build­ing in an as­sured Modernist style.

The two street front el­e­va­tions pivot on the rounded cor­ner en­try and the build­ing re­tains a very high level of ex­ter­nal au­then­tic­ity, even if the cur­rent paint scheme ob­scures some of the clar­ity of its de­sign.

It is good news in­deed that a sig­nif­i­cant amount of fund­ing has been se­cured to safe­guard the build­ing’s fu­ture as a theatre.

The gov­ern­ment grant is not all that is needed how­ever, and you can help the Meteor by sup­port­ing their Give a Lit­tle cam­paign [https://givealit­tle.co.nz/ cause/savetheme­teor#].

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 ??  ?? Meteor Theatre, Vic­to­ria Street, Hamil­ton
Meteor Theatre, Vic­to­ria Street, Hamil­ton
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