With a fourth Building Social History display planned for November, the two researchers behind the project are seeking information from the public about the six buildings currently under investigation.

The buildings are Te Awamutu Machinery, Clark & McMillen, the National Bank, Advance Cars, Holmes Garage and Hodgson Motor Services.

Alan Hall and Sandra Metcalfe are particularly keen to hear from former employees of the businesses who operated out of the buildings.

"Support for our previous displays has been really encouraging," says Sandra.
"Not only has the council provided us with access to historic building documents but the museum has provided us with copies of old photos and Dean Taylor from the Te Awamutu Courier has taken photos of the buildings as they look today."


Having the museum's photographic collection online has been a huge bonus for the research team and they have discovered even more photos than had previously been identified.

"While building and photographic evidence are essential, the stories of the businesses that operated out of the buildings are what creates the human aspect," says Sandra.

Alan and Sandra are currently seeking public input in preparation for the 2020 display.

When Jocelyn Oosterman and May Rhodes became aware that the former Te Awamutu Machinery building on the corner of Churchill and Alexandra Sts (Furniture Zone) would be part of this year's display, they willingly shared photos and memories of their years working there and this has been an enormous help to our research.

The Clark & McMillen building, now occupied by 100% Strawbridge Appliances, has undergone extensive alterations over the years and while it is no longer identifiable as a heritage building, changes made to the site over the years reflect a business that was integral to the economic development of Te Awamutu.

Clark & McMillen Te Awamutu
Clark & McMillen Te Awamutu

The business started prior to World War I as cabinet makers, upholsterers and undertakers in what was known as the Peates Building.

The research team are particularly interested in speaking with people who can help them track the changes made to the building over the intervening years.

In contrast, the National Bank building, now Central Café, is an example of a building that has changed little since it was built.

National Bank
National Bank

Although the building was enlarged in 1952, the extensions reflected the original design and the old bank vault is still an integral part of the interior.

Buildings associated with garages have featured previously, so it is not surprising that four of the six buildings in the 2020 display have vehicle origins.

The Advance Cars building, now Paper Plus and Toyworld Te Awamutu, occupies the site of what was a garage and taxi service in 1925.

Advance Cars Te Awamutu
Advance Cars Te Awamutu

In its heyday, Advance Cars extended from Arawata St through to Market St.

The present steel-framed structure was built in 1957, then extensively altered in 1999 when Mitre 10 took over the site.

The frontage, however, remains largely unchanged from the original 1957 structure, with large sliding doors opening onto Arawata St to cater for Advance Cars' large marine department.


Two buildings that are likely to be demolished for future developments are the Holmes Garage in Mahoe St (most recently Pitcon Auto Electrical) and Hodgson Motor Services on Ohaupo Rd (until recently Go Bus).

The research team feel it is important that the history of these two buildings be recorded before the sites are cleared.

Holmes Garage used to be in Sloane St before moving to a new purpose-built garage in the 1920s, which reflected the growth of motor-servicing businesses in Te Awamutu.

Holmes Garage, Te Awamutu
Holmes Garage, Te Awamutu

Lewis Hodgson Motors was incorporated as a business in 1937 and is originally believed to have been based on the corner of Sloane St and Kihikihi Rd.

The purpose-built, reinforced concrete building on Ohaupo Ro was built before 1956 and the research team are keen to establish the exact date of construction.

Apart from add-ons, the Hodgson Motors building has remained unchanged since it was built.

Hodgson Motor Services
Hodgson Motor Services

The display in November will bring to 32 the total number of heritage commercial buildings that have been investigated since 2017.

What started initially as a one-year project has evolved into four years of fascinating study of the commercial development of Te Awamutu.

Alan was able to share his knowledge of those developments during Heritage Month in February when he presented a talk called New Wine in Old Bottles.

Alan also led three walkabouts through the centre of Te Awamutu as part of Heritage Month.

Alan and Sandra are in the early stages of discussing ideas for 2021 Heritage Month activities with Waipa Districts outreach librarian Dee Atkinson, as well as considering a future publication showcasing all 32 buildings.

If you are able to assist the team with memories or photos please contact Sandra on 021 206 9119 or email teawamutu@genealogy.org.nz.


The pair are grateful for the support of the Te Awamutu Genealogy group, who initiated this project at the encouragement of Ben Pick from Heritage NZ.

The Te Awamutu Genealogy group meets monthly on the first Tuesday in the month at 7.30pm at the St John Ambulance Hall.

This Sunday the group is holding a two-hour workshop for those interested in learning more about researching their family history.

This will take place from 1pm at the St John Ambulance hall in Palmer St. Entry is free. Budding youth genealogists are welcome.

For further information email teawamutu@genealogy.org.nz