The fourth Building Social History display covering Advance Cars, Clark & McMillen, Hodgson Motors, Holmes Garage, the old National Bank and TML is being held tomorrow and Saturday as part of Waipa Libraries Heritage Month.
Thirty-three buildings have now been researched since the project started in 2017 and the summaries and photos from all of them will be available to look at.
In the past those attending have often had their memories triggered and realised they had items at home that could be of interest, so later returned with them.
Eliciting information that people may not realise they have is the whole purpose of the display says Sandra Metcalfe, who along with Alan Hall, is one of the principal researchers behind the project.
Sandra is convenor of the Te Awamutu Genealogy Group and Alan is a member, and also a keen local historian.
The researchers have been particularly fortunate to speak with previous and current owners of the buildings, as well as staff who worked in the various businesses. They are keen to have public participation this Friday and Saturday to help fill the gaps in their knowledge.
Although the research is focused on the buildings, changes often came about because of businesses taking advantage of opportunities.
The research team did not consciously choose to research garages, but four of the six current buildings started out that way.
Finlay Bros, the forerunner of Advance Cars, was a livery and bait stables offering horses and buggies for hire, as well as the stabling of animals while their owners were in town.
The horse-driven hearse used by Ponty Clark from Clark & McMillen Funeral Services in the early days of his business appears to have been hired from the stables.
Advance Cars later put the body of the hearse onto a Nash chassis and hired it out to Ponty until he was in a position to buy his own motorised hearse.
By the time John Sterritt and his business partners Cliff Whitehouse and Charlie Davis took over Finlay's business in 1924, motorised vehicles were becoming more common so their business was built on new modes of transport.
The existing buildings were soon adapted to service vehicles instead of horses, petrol bowsers were installed, sales agencies were taken on for Nash cars, Michelin tyres and the Trirdyn three valve receiving set, one of the most modern wireless receivers of its time.
Vehicles, in place of horses could be hired, day excursions became increasingly popular and passenger bus and goods services grew.
The existing buildings continued to be adapted to cater for the growth and changes in the business and in 1957 a new frontage was added to the Advance Cars workshops, allowing the business to diversify into the marine and travel sectors.
The current buildings on the Advance Cars and TML sites, (now PaperPlus and Furniture Zone), still look much as they did when built in the 1950s, reflecting their modern architecture and ability to adapt to changing needs.
In 1999 major changes were again made to the Advance Cars site with the demolition of many of the older automotive buildings and the main workshop building altered to suit the needs of Mitre 10.
The researchers have the plans from the council building file for the 1999 changes but not for the changes made when PaperPlus took over the site in 2011. They are keen to access that information to add to the story of the building.
Two of the other garages being researched are not as fortunate as Advance Cars and TML.
The Hodgson Motors building on Ohaupo Rd and Holmes Garage on Mahoe St, probably better known as Stuart Law's garage, are likely to be demolished at some stage to make way for other developments.
It was decided that these two buildings should be included in the current research to at least preserve their memory and significance to Te Awamutu.
One of the main purposes of the public displays is to seek answers to questions that the researchers have been unable to address.
As well as the changes made to the Advance Cars building for PaperPlus, further information is sought about the development of the former Clark's Funeral Parlour on Teasdale St that is now part of the Baptist Church complex.
The researchers are particularly interested in the period when Kevin Lalor and Mike Doherty were involved and the changes that were made to that building.
The 2021 display will be the last of the current series. With more than 33 buildings to their credit, Alan and Sandra want to now focus on publishing the results of their research.
Following on from the public display is a talk by Alan about buildings from the 1930-1950 period.
Last year's talk during Heritage Month focused on the development of Te Awamutu and the earlier buildings. The talk on February 17 will focus on the more modern commercial buildings that were built in Te Awamutu between 1930–1950.
An early evening walk around the town centre is planned for Wednesday, February 24.
This will follow a similar format to the successful walks done in 2020.
Sandra will lead a "Stroll Along Main Street Kihkihi" on Wednesday, March 3, starting and ending at Temple Cottage.
An opportunity will be available at the end of the walk to view the interior of the Police House and Temple Cottage.
There is no cost involved for the walks, but participants need to allow up to two hours and have a reasonable level of fitness.
Public display: Te Awamutu Library Community Room, Friday, February 12, 10am–4pm and Saturday, February 13, 10am–12.30pm
Public talk: Modernism – the new look of architecture in Te Awamutu's commercial buildings 1930-1950, Te Awamutu Library Community Room, Wednesday, February 17, 6.30pm.
Te Awamutu CBD Heritage Walk: Wednesday, February 24, 5.30pm. Registration required
Stroll on Main Street Kihikihi: Wednesday, March 3, 1pm. Registration required
Further information about these events and how to register, plus other activities during Heritage Month, can be found on the Waipa Libraries website.