Bank's rich history a big part of town

By Christine McKay -
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The glass dome over the public banking area in the Dannevirke BNZ.
The glass dome over the public banking area in the Dannevirke BNZ.

Dannevirke's Hugh Coldstream has been a BNZ customer since 1949 and can remember when he repaired cracks following a major earthquake.

"It had been a bloody big quake and the cracks were six to nine inches wide," he said. "I used barrow loads of plaster to fill them, plastering down the walls from the dome. There were cracks everywhere and four or five years later I also repaired the parapet."

Mr Coldstream said whenever he goes into the bank he looks up to check out his work, but now with rumours the bank is moving to new premises at the southern end of Dannevirke, he reckons time spent admiring his work is coming to an end.

Since the Dannevirke branch of the BNZ opened on Wednesday, March 23, 1887, it's had a rich history. By the end of 1910 the old building was inadequate and a new site was purchased from the Dannevirke Publishing Company, owners of the Evening News.

In 1915 the existing building, designed by Joshua Charlesworth and built by Hastings contractors Duncan and Abbott, was erected on the corner of High and Gordon Streets and the bank has remained on that site since, although there may be changes ahead.

However, the bank's external relations consultant Thor Bostelmann told the Dannevirke News nothing is confirmed.

"We've been in conversation with a developer in Dannevirke, but nothing is signed or can be confirmed," he said in response to rumours the bank is moving to new premises. "We are always reviewing our store network, but at this stage there is nothing confirmed."

And although the bank's doors were closed on Friday, August 16, after the 6.6 magnitude Seddon earthquake, not opening until the following Tuesday after engineers had inspected the building, Mr Bostelmann said this wasn't the reason the bank was reviewing its future in the building. "We opened again after that earthquake, so the building was deemed to be safe."

However, the building has suffered earthquake damage over the years, with cracks appearing in the walls after the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake that were repaired at a cost of 15. More damage occurred after the 7.6 magnitude Pahiatua earthquake on March 5, 1934. The repair bill was 1588.

Real estate agent Wayne McDonagh of the Professionals, who has been marketing the historic building for sale by tender on behalf of its Auckland owner, has a seismic assessment of the building available for prospective purchasers.

An iconic building on High St, the bank's spectacular glass dome over the public banking area draws many admiring glances, but there are also fascinating stories of the lives of bankers in days gone by, including that told by a Mr D Beauchamp who transferred to the Dannevirke branch of the BNZ in 1938, discovering there was more to his job description than he first thought.

Prior to World War II all branches were guarded at night by at least one staff member sleeping on the premises with a revolver under the pillow and Mr Beauchamp was told as he was a single man, it would be his job to guard the bank while sleeping in the upstairs flat.

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