OUR TREASURES

As many of Whangārei's older buildings are disappearing because of neglect, safety or regional growth, it makes us more aware of those left standing that have an inherent connection with the city and its environs.

The history behind some of these century-old structures can be found within Whangārei Museum's archives and one building in particular, although not ostentatious, still has an interesting heritage.

Recently staff encountered some architectural plans of a Maunu Rd complex, drawn up by Whangārei architect G. C. Halse, for A. Englund Esq. While it may not be as historic or as impressive as some of the more significant structures in the city centre, this commercial building dating from the early 1920s is one of only a handful of old premises remaining on the outskirts of town.

August Englund, of Swedish descent, purchased a block of land in First Ave, Whangārei in 1913 and was recorded as a contractor at the time. This section was Lot 40, in Allotment 1 of Carruth's original town grant, and was contiguous with Lot 29, which faced Maunu Road.

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The shops in Maunu Rd, Whangārei in more recent times. Photo/Supplied
The shops in Maunu Rd, Whangārei in more recent times. Photo/Supplied

In 1918, a local librarian, Miss Amy Mary Cooke, purchased the adjoining Maunu Rd section and on December 2, 1920 the couple were married in the Christ Church, Regent. By this time Englund was operating a Land and Estate Agency in Bank St and was instrumental in building their family home at 17 First Ave.

The commissioned plans dated 1923, were for the construction of retail premises on the Maunu Road property. Situated on what was originally 70 Maunu Rd (later changed to 14), this building comprised of two semi-detached shops, each with a rear store room, exterior lean-to, recessed tiled front entrance, wooden joinery and a large veranda fronting the road.

The Maunu Rd shop plans prepared for A Englund Esq in the Whangārei Museum archives. Photo/Supplied
The Maunu Rd shop plans prepared for A Englund Esq in the Whangārei Museum archives. Photo/Supplied
A close up of the plans for the roadside front of the Maunu Rd shop.
A close up of the plans for the roadside front of the Maunu Rd shop.

Around the time of construction, the Whangārei Borough Council was considering altering a bylaw effectively defining a portion of the borough within which wooden buildings were not permitted, only brick, stone or concrete being considered suitable for this business area.

The council decided to alter the boundary of the "brick area" exempting a portion of the right-hand side of Walton St from Maunu Rd, The suggested principal reason being the high cost of construction in materials other than wood which would prevent the erection of buildings, thus retarding the borough's progress.

Many affected businessmen attended these Council meetings to voice concerns and Mr Englund, perhaps pertaining to his own situation, was forthright in pointing out the "manifest injustice" of compelling some owners on one side of the street to build in brick while the opposite side was freed from such constraints.

The sketch map of Whangārei showing the official Brick Area in 1924. Photo/Supplied
The sketch map of Whangārei showing the official Brick Area in 1924. Photo/Supplied

Wooden buildings posed enormous fire risks endangering nearby properties, so a petition was introduced to Council from indignant ratepayers, including August Englund, opposing the proposed reduction of the brick area which incorporated sections near England's shop site.

It's unknown if the premises proposed by Englund were built before this bylaw change or not, but the ultimate use of concrete in their construction ensured the shops' survival.

One shop was used to accommodate his wife's floral business and although it has been considerably altered over time, due to the original building plans held in the Museum, it is still recognisable today.

■ Natalie Brookland is collection registrar, Whangārei Museum at Kiwi North.