Friday, 27 June 2014

Tauranga Hotel - The Final Chapter

Tauranga Hotel, c.1940s
Image © and courtesy of Tauranga City Libraries Ref. 01-514

Following the fire that destroyed the second Tauranga Hotel in 1936 plans were soon made to rebuild. As construction began in 1937 the outside design was elegantly Art Deco.  The two story building had rounded corners at the front with a painted plaster finish.  A small balcony placed at the centre of the second level marked a difference from the earlier colonial hotel style where balconies generally took up the whole frontage.  This balcony also had a solid front, again plastered and with cane furniture provided a place with a sea view for guests.  The Art Deco style on the exterior included decorative bands of another colour and a vertical motif at the top centre of the building.

The interior included mahogany panels complimented by the general décor and soft furnishings.  It was not only hotel guests who used the dining room for once again the Tauranga Hotel reigned as the premier hotel in the town and the place for formal and official luncheons and dinners. Meals were served by waitresses dressed in black with white pinafores and the tables had white table clothes and silver cutlery.  Besides visitors to Tauranga there were often semi-permanent guests who chose to live in a hotel.  As had been the custom for several decades the local newspaper published a list of the guests staying at the hotel each week.

Tauranga Hotel, c.1956-1961
Image © and courtesy of Tauranga City Libraries Ref. 99-86
All this elegance was lost when in 1977 the name Tauranga Hotel disappeared and a bar called the Grumpy Mole opened.  Painted an ugly blue green with the Art Deco features no longer picked out, the verandah edge and  the street frontage both covered in rough boards, the premises were a poor attempt at a “western” or ”cowboy”  look.  All of this disappeared when the building was demolished in June 2013, no easy task, as it was particularly solidly built according to an archaeologist on the site.

Following demolition of the hotel archaeologists found substantial evidence of the brick cellars of the original hotel and also of Maori occupation of the site before European settlement of Tauranga.

Information from Mrs Ivy Barnes published in the Bay News  25 July 2013 and personal memories from Shirley Arabin.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Michael Hodgkins, a gentleman and a scholar

Michael Hodgkins
Every town has at least one character that makes a lasting impression on its residents. Tauranga in the 1950’s and 60’s had Michael Hodgkins. Sometimes known as ‘Spring Heel Jack’, because of his way of walking, Michael stood out in a time when conformity was expected and encouraged. 

Born in 1902, Michael moved to Tauranga with his parents in 1937. He had a passion for botany and shared his extensive knowledge on local radio, in the Bay of Plenty Times, as well as working with a number of institutions including the DSIR and the Auckland Institute and Museum.

Michael’s hut on the edge of the Otumoetai salt marsh

After the death of his parents in 1948, Michael moved to a hut on the edge of the Otumoetai salt marsh and lived without electricity and running water. Paintings by Francis Hodgkins, his aunt, decorated the hut walls. It is during this time that the description of a man ‘unwashed, clad in ragged clothes, with unkempt shoulder-length hair, ‘sun-blackened skin’ and ‘piercing blue eyes’ would have emerged.

Michael walked great distances with his dog, Angus, enjoying the region's flora and fauna. On these travels he encountered school children who would either taunt him or request help with their homework, something that was encouraged by local teachers.

Michael died in his hut at the end of October 1965. However, he was not forgotten. Historians Alister Matheson and Jinty Rorke compiled details concerning Michael’s life and these are found online at The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.  In 2009 the Tauranga Historical Society, with the financial support of many local people, placed a headstone on his grave.

Sketches by Graham Bell, courtesy of David Saric and provided to the Tauranga Heritage Collection.