Corazon Miller is a NZ Herald reporter

Warkworth's 'grand old dame' gets $5m facelift

Money for the project has come from Auckland Council, Rodney Local Board and the town hall's restoration trust, various grants and funds.
Money for the project has come from Auckland Council, Rodney Local Board and the town hall's restoration trust, various grants and funds.

A historic architectural gem in Warkworth that's been given a $5m makeover is due to reopen its doors at an official ribbon-cutting ceremony this weekend.

The 106-year-old building, a long-time hub in the centre of town, was once used as a place to farewell troops on their way to war, welcomed the town's men and women back from the frontline and was also used as a base and hospital for US and NZ troops during WWII.

Warkworth Townhall during the early 1900s. Photo: Supplied.
Warkworth Townhall during the early 1900s. Photo: Supplied.

Structural issues closed the hall's doors in 2011, however, after extensive fundraising efforts by the local community and with support from Auckland Council and Rodney local board the "grand old dame" will once again be open to the public.

Its official opening will be on Saturday, when Mayor Phil Goff will attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by dancing, music, magic tricks and other entertainment.

Rodney local board member Brenda Steele said the town hall, "the hub of community social life" during the war and in the years since, would once again be a place for people of Warkworth to gather.

It'll be a space for celebrations, performing arts and the fine arts, as the upgrade includes a gallery, meeting room and a main hall seating 250 people.

Commemorating the coronation at Warkworth, North Auckland: The mayor placing a memorial stone in the new town hall. Photo: Supplied.
Commemorating the coronation at Warkworth, North Auckland: The mayor placing a memorial stone in the new town hall. Photo: Supplied.

Money for the project has come from Auckland Council, Rodney Local Board and the town hall's restoration trust, various grants and funds.

Steele said the work, by architect Antony Matthews, has helped maintain the building's unique character.

She said the building, which was built between 1910 and 1911 by Thomas Edwin Clarke, was one of the only civic buildings left in the country built from hollow glazed blocks and one of only a handful in Australasia.

Steele said the bricks, which were handmade, also represented an "architectural milestone" as they were a precursor to the concrete blocks more commonly used in buildings now.

- NZ Herald

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