Faded signs tell building's story

By Roger Moroney

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For a couple of Gemco construction workers working on the former Paxie's Cafe site in Hastings St, a spot of preparation work ended up being more like an episode of television's Time Team show.

They started taking apart the wooden fascia of the building, the front of which has Art Deco heritage status, and in doing so, began peeling back the years.

Site foreman Jake Llewellyn said they realised straight away there was some history to it all.

"We knew it was a heritage building and that this could be important stuff," Mr Llewellyn said.

So they carefully drew the nailed signs down one by one - three in total.

One was for Paxie's Cafe, the second faded and peeled one appeared to be Workman and Rossiter and the third simply had the word 'Electrician' painted on it.

Gemco, which is a recent addition to the family of Art Deco sponsors, got on the phone to the trust.

Wallace Developments, which is working in the site to create four new shops which will face on to a walkway between Hastings St and Marine Parade, were also made aware of the old signs and ensured they were carefully taken down and stored safely away.

"A good team effort all round really," Art Deco Trust general manager Sally Jackson said.

Gemco managing director Darren Diack said the Hawke's Bay-based company's work on heritage buildings had ensured all staff recognised the importance of heritage protection.

Mrs Jackson said the Paxie's sign would first be offered to the family or would be kept in safe storage by the trust.

The Paxie family occupied the site in the years leading up to the 1931 earthquake and ran a cafe called The Zealandia.

After the earthquake, the Art Deco-inspired building went up and continued as a cafe right up until 2006 when the last proprietor, Nick Paxie, died.

He had run the cafe for a total of 34 years.

The famous frontage, complete with the plaster-worked Paxie's sign, has been retained.

The neighbouring shop in the Paxie's building, which ended up as Tudor Antiques, had been the site of several local businesses through the years.

Mike Walker from Wallace Development said three of the four shops being built and scheduled for completion at the end of July had attracted tenants.

Country Touch, Campbell's Bakery and Raku were all scheduled to move in, while the site closest to Marine Parade was still up for grabs.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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