On the corner of Nelson and Queen St West (opposite Countdown supermarket) is a Californian-styled bungalow-styled building.
Characteristics of the Californian bungalow are low pitched gable roof, veranda, and shingles/timber in the gable ends.
This building began its life nearly 100 years ago as a private hotel called Jesmond House for Mr and Mrs J Tate. A private hotel is one which does not have a licence to sell liquor.
Tenders went out for the building by Hastings architect J J Morley in September 1923.
J J Morley's tender document for the hotel was eight pages of stunning copperplate writing (type of calligraphic writing using a harp pointed ink nib).
This gives an insight into how the building was constructed and how it easily survived the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake.
Concrete blocks were used for the walls and partition walls which were securely fixed into position with concrete, bolts and plates, and the blocks tied together with No 8 galvanised wire ties.
The late Guy Natusch told me about how his father, Rene, would specify the materials for making solid concrete – such as clean shingle and sand – which did not always happen. This is exactly what architect J J Morley specified.
Clear instructions were made out for the builder, bricklayer, painter, plumber and electrician of how each part of the building should be constructed.
Within the hotel there were 20 rooms, which included one for the Tates and two for maids.
There was a dining room (shown in the photo) and a sitting room – both with open fires.
There were two baths and one toilet for men and women boarders or guests. It appears that permanent boarders also stayed at the hotel.
Builder S Curd was the successful tenderer on October 31, 1923 at a cost of £5300 (2021: $548,000).
Hotels were often the scene of some sort of drama – sometimes with tragic circumstances.
On Saturday, May 10, 1930, a series of events occurred relating to a 38-year-old married but separated woman; a single woman, who was a saleswoman from Wellington; a married builder and an elderly sheep farmer – also married but separated.
The 38-year-old woman invited the three mentioned people into her room for a couple of nips of brandy on Sunday morning.
They had lunch in the dining room and went out to the aerodrome at Longlands after a suggestion by the sheep farmer to go for a spin in his car. While there, they consumed what was left of the brandy and part of a bottle of port. Apparently bottles of beer were purchased at the Stortford Lodge Hotel on the way to the aerodrome.
All were having such a good time they decided to carry on after tea at night at one of the farmer's woolsheds – and that's when things started to go wrong.
More alcohol was consumed in the woolshed.
The two ladies had brought hula dresses with them, so the car headlights were shone into the woolshed for them to give a hula dance demonstration for the two men.
The 38-year-old lady fell, hurting her knee, and became unwell, asking for a doctor.
She was put in the car and taken back to Jesmond House. The group then tried to push her into her room through the window, but proprietress Mrs Tate heard the commotion and believing they were drunk, refused them entry to the hotel. She said she would call the police if they did not. The group maintained they were not drunk.
The group contacted Constable McColl, who thought she was also drunk and extremely ill and took her to the police station in a taxi.
A few minutes after they arrived, she tragically collapsed and died.
A coroner's inquest was held, and a doctor testified as to her having an existing heart condition. He had seen her a few minutes before she died at the Hastings police station and had injected a heart stimulant. Natural causes was given for the death as testified by the doctor.
Showing how much social mores have changed compared to today, the elderly farmer got a dressing down at the coroner's inquest by Senior Sergeant Carroll who said: "How old are you?"
"I don't know, I haven't got my birth certificate with me."
"You think it was all right to drink brandy with women you had just met, take them for car rides, buy more liquor on a Sunday and go for a dance at a woolshed?"
"Everything was respectable."
The next year the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake did not trouble the solidly built hotel.
The hotel ceased to exist when it was converted into five flats by architect Albert Garnett in 1940, and still has flats today.
- Michael Fowler (email@example.com) is a contract researcher and commercial business writer of Hawke's Bay history. Follow him on facebook.com/michaelfowlerhistory