When I first booked my flights to Christchurch, little did I know what the South Island of New Zealand would have in store. After travelling over the North Island, and seeing some incredible abandoned buildings that just didn’t want to allow me to explore them, today, in the small town of Hokitika, the South Island of New Zealand showed me that there is far more in this part of the world than just glaciers and mountains.
There are many historical buildings in Christchurch, which I visited in the days leading up to my adventure in Hokatika. Unfortunately, this list of historical buildings in Christchurch that collapsed was extensive. Such heritage buildings as the Durham Street Methodist Church, the Stone Chamber of the Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings, the Oxford Terrace Baptist Church, and the Sevicke Jones building in Cathedral Square – all fully collapsed during the destructive Christchurch earthquake.
Other listed buildings partially collapsed in Christchurch, and made for eerie viewing. These included the famous Christchurch Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, and Holy Trinity Avonside.
The Christchurch earthquake may have been recent, but the history of this featured abandoned building began over one hundred years ago. On the 7th May, 1908, the then Prime Minister of New Zealand, Sir J.C Ward, travelled to Hokitika and laid the foundation stone. I can only assume, from some of the evidence and signage still in place, that the building was used as government offices.
Founded in the mid 1800’s, the small town of Hokitika was the centre of the West coast gold rush in New Zealand. Buildings of this size seem out-of-place in a town like Hokitika, as the population is currently only about 3000 residents. However, in 1866, the town was one of New Zealand’s most populous centers, and there remains many striking examples of fine architecture, reminding visitors that Hokitika is a town with a glorious past.
Located on Sewell Street, the building itself consists of two main levels, with a central corridor from one end to the other. There is a grand entrance and staircase at the center of the building. Most of the rooms are small and office-like, however, there are grand rooms at the end of each wing of the building.
The building showed all the signs of the era it was constructed in, such as high quality carpentry, and ornate plaster work. The peeling paint provided a wonderful patina, and combined with the dappled light entering the premises, everything was right for a good dose of exploration as well as photography.
Fortunately, a local resident, “John” that I bumped into whilst poking around on-site, had access to the building, and was more than happy to allow me entrance. He unlocked a couple of doors, and left me to my own devices.
Being in a relatively remote location, the building was remarkably intact. The windows weren’t broken, and apart from some scratchings dating back to the 1960’s, no graffiti was present. It was an “honest” abandoned building. John advised me that the building has been vacant for “oh, quite a long time now”.
Currently for sale, the future of this grand building is up in the air. I could think of many uses for such a structure, and I’m sure one day a new owner will give it the attention it deserves.
I will soon be leaving New Zealand, to continue my exploration of abandoned buildings around the world.
Dr Hank Snaffler Jr.