Town faces test of character

By Don Farmer -
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LANDMARKS: The old Bank of New South Wales (left) and the Masterton Trust Lands Trust buildings.PHOTOS/FILE
LANDMARKS: The old Bank of New South Wales (left) and the Masterton Trust Lands Trust buildings.PHOTOS/FILE

WE BELIEVE the time has come for Masterton people who have a sense of history and an appreciation of architecture to step up and demand protection for the town's older character buildings before they all disappear, but is that the way you, as readers, think?

Politician Ron Mark lit a fuse by commenting at a parliamentary committee meeting on what he considers could be the fate of buildings not necessarily classified as heritage, but valuable nonetheless, if harsh, costly measures are imposed on owners to strengthen them without any tax concessions to meet new earthquake standards.

Whether he is right or wrong in claiming some building owners would simply respond by "putting a bulldozer through them", his remarks bring into focus the undeniable fact older buildings in this town seem to be on a hiding to nothing.

Just recently the wrecking of the old Adamson Land Surveyors building on the corner of Chapel and Albert streets, which was built for Wright Stephenson & Co in 1926, caused consternation.

The brick building had not been classed as historic but nevertheless was probably the town's best example of "moderne" architecture, the stylistic era which immediately preceded art deco.

It was by no means the first of the town's quaint buildings to disappear, and sadly it probably won't be the last.

Conversely in the last week or so accolades have been received by the Times-Age for those who are making an effort to save buildings which may be old but are considered valuable, character buildings.

Among these are the Chilton Building which fronts both King and Chapel streets and dates back to 1934.

Developer David Borman has bought the former home of King Street Live and is gutting the inside for renovation before tenanting it but has vowed to leave the outside appearance of the building untouched.

In Queen St, Masterton, there remains several character buildings often remarked on by visitors to the town.

These include the old Bank of New South Wales building, Masterton Trust Lands Trust Building, the Central Arcade building (1924), the Farmers Building (1878) and the Regent Theatre (circa 1930).

Elsewhere buildings of the calibre of the Wairarapa Times-Age building, which has been renovated inside but left intact outside, the building that houses the Joxer Dalys Steak and Ale House on Perry St, the old Public Trust Building and Masterton Town Hall all remain as surviving examples of old Masterton charm, along with a handful of others in the CBD.

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