Dannevirke's Gallery of History has reopened and can now reveal some interesting information on the history of its building.

New Gallery of History volunteers Murray and Beth Holden have been on a mission to track down the original plans of the building which was once the Dannevirke Courthouse.

They had been told there were no plans of the building in existence but they travelled to Wellington to visit Archives New Zealand in an attempt to locate them.

"On our first visit all we could find were the plans for the original courthouse which was on the corner of High St and Gordon St. This was built in around 1895 but it was far too small," Murray Holden said.

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"On our second trip to Archives New Zealand a week later we hunted through a Public Works Department register and not only found the record of the plans but we also found an entry for the contract to build the courthouse. This took a bit of doing."

The plan shows the front of the building, the floor plan and a cross-section. Murray said the contract showed work on the building began on May 31, 1905, and was completed on January 31, 1906. It cost £1989 to build.

"The building itself has the year 1905 on it but it didn't actually open until 1906," Holden said.

It was built by prominent builder of the time John Linton Scott, who constructed many other notable public buildings in the town including the Carnegie Library and the Allardice St fire station as well as a number of Dannevirke homesteads and business premises. He also built the Weber Post Office which was later destroyed by fire.

Scott was born in Scotland and as a child moved with his family to Christchurch in the early 1860s. He eventually settled in Dannevirke after moving to the North Island in 1895.

He died in 1921.

"Scott had his office, workshop, storage sheds and a large timber yard on the BP service station site on High St.

"He is buried at Mangatera cemetery where he had quite a fancy grave."

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Holden said Scott didn't appear to have any descendants still living in the area.

"I haven't been able to find a photograph of him and would really like to find one."

The plans the Holdens discovered show the courthouse, built in the Edwardian Baroque style, originally had an ornate portico on the front and pediments, but it was thought that these were removed after the 1931 Napier earthquake, along with a number of chimneys.

The building was designed by architect John Campbell who established Edwardian Baroque as the government style for police stations, courthouses and post offices throughout New Zealand."It would be great to see the building returned to its original state but the cost of doing that would be considerable," Holdens said.

Murray and Beth were delighted to find the records for the building.

"It was quite a cathartic moment discovering the plans after being told they didn't exist, that they had been destroyed in the Napier earthquake," he said.

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"It was a real find for the gallery, even though the plans are not in the greatest condition."

Meanwhile, organisation president Nancy Wadsworth said the reopening of the Gallery of History would be carefully managed.

"There is plenty of room for people to spread out."

She was not expecting crowds of visitors immediately but was hoping groups booking in.

"We do love to have groups of out of town people visiting. Just before we closed down we had groups from Horowhenua, Masterton and Hastings visiting. These groups are very valuable and many of them stay and have lunch in town. They seem to enjoy the visit."

The reopening would give committee members and volunteers time to prepare a new display and to carry out some maintenance.

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Wadsworth said the Gallery of History committee was keen to have some new volunteers on board.

"Our current volunteers are very dedicated, but we do need more help. It's not an onerous job, volunteers can be as involved as much or as little as they like."

The huia artwork and newspaper items from the Dannevirke Advocate and the Bush Advocate that recorded huia sightings in 1905 and 1906 has been added to a transformer outside the Gallery of History.
The huia artwork and newspaper items from the Dannevirke Advocate and the Bush Advocate that recorded huia sightings in 1905 and 1906 has been added to a transformer outside the Gallery of History.

Some improvements can be seen outside the Gallery of History with the iconic telephone box having been painted and a phone installed and the artwork depicting huia installed on the large transformer.

*The Gallery of History is open 9am to 3pm on weekdays, but not public holidays. A phone number is posted on the door for people wishing to visit outside of those hours.