The public consultation on 'building social history' through a study of heritage commercial buildings, held by the Te Awamutu Genealogy group last Friday and Saturday, attracted over 60 people.
Most were older members of the community keen to share memories about the buildings and to read up on the research done to date. Some visitors brought photographs along, providing valuable information that will assist with the next round of research planned for 2020.
Te Awamutu Genealogy group convener Sandra Metcalfe says one of the main reasons for holding the public display is to find answers to questions that the project's researchers have been unable to address.
"For example, it has been hard to determine just when alterations were made to building on the corner of Arawata and Sloane streets, known as the Ahier's Building," says Sandra.
"On Saturday, however, a woman in her 90s told one of the researchers that her family came to Te Awamutu in 1954 and she remembers the alterations being made some time after that.
"This corroborates other evidence discovered by the researchers, which suggests that the changes were completed about 1956."
A photo of the original Ahiers building with its bullnose veranda can be seen in a 1914 Sloane St photograph showing members of the Waikato Mounted Rifles about to embark for WWI.
Exploring the history of the buildings has better informed the researchers about the development of Te Awamutu's central business district.
It was the purchase of what became known as the Teasdale Settlement from the Anglican Mission Trustees that facilitated the growth of businesses on Alexandra St, expanding the CBD west from Arawata and Sloane streets which until then had been the main north-south thoroughfare.
The 1939 widening of Sloane St from a chain wide to chain and a half, necessitated the removal of some of the early buildings. For the CT Rickit building this meant removing the front section and creating a new façade.
Churchill St was originally a dirt track along a drainage reserve. It wasn't until the council purchased land adjoining the reserve in 1943 that the road between Alexandra and Mahoe streets could be formed.
This was the incentive for TML to erect a purpose-built showroom and garage on the corner of Alexandra and Churchill streets in 1951, allowing the business to expand.
The total number of buildings researched by the group since its first display in 2017 is now 26, with TML, Hodgson Motors, Advance Cars, Holmes Garage, Clark & McMillen and the old National Bank planned for 2020.
The research team are interested in hearing from anyone who has plans, photographs or any other memorabilia relating to these buildings that will assist their research.
Alan Hall, local historian and head researcher in the project, will be speaking at the genealogy group's February meeting about the growth of Te Awamutu, using the heritage buildings to illustrate significant stages in the town's development.
This meeting will be open to the public and provides another opportunity for those who missed out on last weekend's display to hear the stories behind the buildings researched to date.
The genealogy group meets on the first Tuesday in the month, 7.30pm at the St John Ambulance Hall. Their first meeting in 2020 will be February 4.