For most of the 20th century large stock and station firms serviced the farming industry and have all nearly disappeared, with the 1980s to 1990s proving a difficult period for agriculture.
One of those stock and station firms was the Hawke's Bay Farmers' Co-op, which had established a store in Hastings in 1899 on the corner of Queen and Market streets.
Fire (as shown) completely destroyed the building in January 1929, and stocks of benzine, oil, cartridges, gelignite and detonations didn't help efforts to put the fire out.
The planned replacement was to be designed by architect Edmund Anscombe (1874‒1948), who had just left Dunedin to establish a practice in Wellington.
The new Hawke's Bay Farmers building would be built with a floating foundation to cope with large earthquakes. The building would be of reinforced concrete with a sandstone facade finish, and the base of the building to decorated with emerald pearl granite.
Exposed woodwork inside the building would be Tasmanian blackwood. It had the second lift in Hastings – the first being in the wrecked Grand Hotel during the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake.
Gasps occurred at the annual general meeting of the Hawke's Bay Farmers in July 1930 when it was announced this building would be their new head office (meaning a shifting from Napier), even though this had been under consideration for years.
The basement area of the building was 4340 square feet (403sq m) and had a cool room for edible products and a "rest room for lady clients". The ground floor contained their store with departments of grocery, china, boots and hardware. They would have their executive offices on the upper floors and some office space was available for rent.
Edmund Anscombe saw a great future in Hastings, and one of the pre-eminent New Zealand architects of the day took some office space in the building and opened an office.
Edmund Anscombe did not have to wait long for his building, which opened in September 1930, to be tested by a significant earthquake.
On the day of the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake (February 3), Edmund was dining in the Hawke's Bay Farmers tea rooms, then on the first floor.
Edmund loved to tell the story that he convinced himself that the architect should have complete faith in his work, and he continued eating – undeterred by the violent shakes. The building easily survived.
Not surprisingly, Edmund received a large number of architectural commissions for significant buildings in Hastings after the earthquake.
These included two large movie theatres, State and Regent (both since demolished, except for the facade of the State), the Central Buildings on the corner of Heretaunga St West and Market St. His best one, I think, was Westerman's building on the corner of Heretaunga St East and Russell St South.
A little gem of a building was the Dominion Restaurant building in Heretaunga St building, with its Art Deco styling.
He would be very proud, I am sure, that most of his buildings in Hastings have been looked after and probably looking as good as they ever have.
- Signed copies of Michael Fowler's Historic Hawke's Bay book are available at $65 from the Hastings Community Art Centre, Russell St South, Hastings and Wardini Books Havelock North and Napier.
- Michael Fowler FCA (email@example.com) is a chartered accountant, contract researcher and writer of Hawke's Bay's history.