This is Napier's Marine Parade, a year or two before the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake.
From this scene, only a few components now remain.
The band rotunda was donated to the Napier Borough Council in 1894 by Neal and Close Limited owners John Close and John Neal. It would fall down during the 1931 Hawke's Bay Earthquake and not be replaced.
The year before, the Napier fire brigade had shifted from this spot and moved behind the Napier Borough Council offices, which can be seen directly behind the rotunda. After this, they moved in 1924 to Tennyson St and then to their present location in 1968.
The two pohutakawa trees shown in front of the band rotunda were planted at the opening of the rotunda and survived the various fires of the Masonic and remain to this day – and are 125 years old in August this year.
John Close and John Neal owned the Masonic Hotel, obscured from the photo, and to the left of the rotunda.
Both men had begun as merchants in the early 1860s and had done well in business and were generous benefactors to Napier.
John Neal served on many organisations, including being a Napier Borough councillor since the first election in 1875. His partner John Close wasn't as active in public life but was generous in his own financial dealings.
When he passed away in 1907, his will gave seven of his company shares to the Napier Borough Council with the dividends to maintain the grave of his wife, and the balance left over was to provide a gift of a ham and a bottle of ale "to as many old people as possible on December 24 in each year".
Five more shares were given to the council to provide for "a hundred weight of coal to as many people as possible every June 21".
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The Napier Borough Council chambers and offices were opened in 1884, and councillor John Neal was the mover to "erect offices and a meeting room at a cost not exceeding £1000 (2019: $190,000)". Before this the council were renting offices.
There was some opposition to the site of the building – even though the site was set aside for local authority offices in 1855. The problem was the beach came almost to the building then.
To give the building a more modern look it was plastered over in the 1950s.
In the late 1960s the council built new premises in Hastings St, and the building was eventually used by the next door museum before being shifted in 2011 to Byron St to make way for the new MTG building.
Norfolk Island pines were planted in 1889, so they are 130 years old this year. Some have been replaced over this time. They have, however, survived early vandalism (yes, even then Marine Parade had vandals), heavy seas, earthquakes and fires. The tarseal surrounding their roots have caused health issues for some of the trees.
Another survivor from this photo is the seawall, which was built in 1888.
What is shown is the parapet at the top of the wall. The original wall itself extended some 3 to 4.5 metres down to the beach.
The wall was essential to protect buildings on Marine Parade from heavy seas.
Even with the sea wall, heavy seas could still cause problems, and Bill Hyslop (1882-1972) recalls in his memoirs that around 1906 waves crashed over the seawall and water ran down Emerson St to Clive Square.
Over time, the build-up of shingle from the sea together with man-made assistance such as groynes and a beach retaining wall, meant that by the time of this photo, shingle came to the base of the parapet.
By the number of cars shown on Marine Parade it can be seen the area was incredibly popular.
Complaints were often made about the lack of seats on the Marine Parade, with many pacing up and down to spy and grab a vacant seat.
Many Napierite ladies were not happy about some of the men of the town who felt at liberty to spread themselves out on a seat for an afternoon siesta.
Bluff Hill from this angle would also change shape when part of the front came down in a slip during the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake. It took around 35 years for all of the soil to be removed. The seawall near the Bluff was covered in the collapse and remains so.
The South African war memorial was unveiled in 1906.
The memorial collapsed during the earthquake – or rather the soldier fell off its plinth, and its head broke off. The head went missing and remained so until 1938, when it was mysteriously found and restored to its torso. In 1947, after many arguments as to its position, the memorial was shifted more northward, and the soldier now looks south down Marine Parade instead of protectively out to sea.
Signed copies of Michael Fowler's Historic Hawke's Bay book are only available from the Hastings Community Art Centre, Russell St South, Hastings, for $65.
Michael Fowler FCA (email@example.com) is a chartered accountant, contract researcher and writer of Hawke's Bay's history.