Several weeks ago, I mentioned a bandstand donated by Neal and Close which was destroyed in the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake. Its replacement would cause much controversy.
Napier's Thirty Thousand Club, which had been operating since 1913, had significant resources, even during the Great Depression of the late 1920s to 1930s. This was through fundraising campaigns, such as the annual Mardi Gras festival.
The council, on the other hand, had few resources to spare on non-infrastructure after the 1931 quake.
When the two commissioners charged with getting Napier back on its feet after the quake ended their term in May 1933, a newly elected council took over. Happy with the men that were put on the reconstruction committee to rebuild Napier, the Napierites voted 11 of them in as councillors, including C O Morse as mayor.
The Thirty Thousand Club wanted to put an auditorium or seaside pavilion on the Marine Parade. Problematically for them, not many, apart from the few men who controlled the Thirty Thousand Club, wanted anything on the foreshore that had been reclaimed after the quake.
This was because they didn't want the "sweep of the bay" or, in others words the view of the ocean and coast, interfered with.
Various schemes were put forward and disallowed. One was a spa where the Dome building is now and having an arch go over Marine Parade, linked to a seaside pavilion.
Many expressed their views, including letters to the editor:
• "The charm and ever loveliness of the sea, the sunshine on the waves, the breakers rolling in or in angry mood are most to be enjoyed, either consciously or subconsciously when all seen at a glance – in an uninterrupted line."
• "The very fact that we are alone with nature – and here man's buildings do not encroach our view as in every town and village – these thoughts fill heart and soul with quiet peace."
• "Just because they have £500 to spare are they allowed to erect an eyesore on the seaward side of the Parade, shutting off a great portion of the view?"
The Daily Telegraph's editor said the Thirty Thousand Club had completed many projects which left Napier in its debt, but "erecting a building on the Marine Parade waterfront on a site almost on the opposite end of Emerson St, cannot however be added to the list of schemes which the club has earned Napier's gratitude. The council which has the final say on the matter should have little hesitation in reaching a decision which has an interest for the people of the whole of Hawke's Bay".
Local architects were not impressed. Louis Hay said: "Our beautiful foreshore is one that everybody in Napier must feel proud of and it is our duty to not only to decorate it but protect it."
Another noted architect, E A Williams, argued that "Napier is noted elsewhere for its uninterrupted view of the sea and for the sweep of the bay and to put a building there would be an absolute mistake".
The club's application to build the spa, seaside pavilion and arch was disallowed by council.
Undeterred, the club came up with another plan by incorporating a band rotunda in the semi-circular sun bay (now Veronica Bay) near the present Soundshell.
Furious at this proposal, a GP, Dr H L Ziele, led a delegation of 16 businessmen to mayor C O Morse to argue against this.
The council would disallow it.
Still the Thirty Thousand Club persisted. An arbitrator was used in an effort to break the disagreements with the council over a seaside pavilion.
At last, compromise. In October 1934, the council announced the club would build a movable bandstand on the Marine Parade.
Those casually observing the construction of the Soundshell structure noticed solid concrete foundations being laid, indicating something far more permanent than a "movable bandstand".
This made Ziele see red and say the "temporary bandstand" was "far removed from that category". He tried to lead a delegation to see mayor C O Morse to complain, but this time the mayor refused to see him or anyone else.
The council perhaps had another motive – the Duke of Gloucester was visiting Napier in December – and he would open the Soundshell on December 19, 1934. A good way to impress a royal visitor.
At a council meeting in February 1935, the council allowed the Soundshell to permanently sit in its present location, after a lively discussion in which councillors finally agreed it would benefit Napier.
However, Councillor A B Hurst noted the meaning of the word "temporary" was quite different to what had occurred.
The only time since that date the Soundshell's existence was threatened was in the early 1970s when the Napier City Council wanted to put an aquarium in its place, necessitating its demolition. But that's another story, which will be told in the near future.
• Michael Fowler will be speaking today on the history of Napier's Marine Parade from 1928 until 1938 during the Winter Deco Weekend at the Century Theatre, MTG, at 3.30pm. Free admission.
• If anyone has any photos of activities at McLean Park, particularly non-rugby or cricket, please contact the email below or text 027 4521 056.
• Michael Fowler (email@example.com) is a chartered accountant and contract researcher of Hawke's Bay's history.