Mayor Grant Smith, a self-titled ‘history-buff,’ has been a member of Heritage New Zealand for over 40 years. On Thursday 2 March for Local History Week, he presents on a topic dear to his heart, Palmerston North’s Chief Post Office. Not only did Mayor Smith open his first bank account at the Post Office Savings Bank – his future wife, Michelle, worked upstairs in the Telephone Services Department.
The Chief Post Office was one of the nation’s grandest when built in 1905. It was proudly opened in June 1906 by Prime Minister and Postmaster General, Sir Joseph Ward. The Chief Post Office served the city and wider region well over the decades, until New Zealand Post finally vacated the building in 1988. Subsequently, the grand old place housed various bars and night clubs, restaurants and function centres, before falling into disrepair.
Mayor Smith will highlight the past glory of this city landmark and its future as a soon-to-be central city hotel. He was instrumental in connecting with the new owners, the Safari Group, a New Zealand building and development company. They will restore the original Post Office structure, combining and constructing a new 86 room Wyndham Hotel at the rear of the site.
Starting in 2012, Woolshed Café owner Alan Parker has spent a lot of time collecting and restoring period homes. The homes were unwanted and to be demolished. Alan has meticulously researched the history of each period and learnt building skills to restore the houses to their former glory. The first was an art deco house and the project grew from there. The earliest example is an 1860s colonial cottage. Each house is authentically furnished with memorabilia, down to the wallpaper of the appropriate era.
Alan hopes to add to the collection, although finding affordable houses has become more challenging.
There will be time to have morning tea at the Woolshed Café after touring the seven houses.
Lesley Courtney is the former City Archivist and Heritage Team Leader. Still passionate about our local history, on Wednesday 1 March for Local History Week she will present a talk written by Margaret Tate, on the objector camps that were created near Shannon during WWII.
When conscription was introduced for men aged 18 to 40 during WWII, an appeals board was also created to deal with those who objected. Overall about 40% of the men who appealed became ‘military defaulters’ and were detained in camps for the duration of the war. The Shannon camps, former flax milling sites with buildings and the possibility of useful work, were opened in 1942 and eventually housed almost half of all the men in detention in New Zealand.
This talk will focus on the people, camp life and the impact of the detention on the local population and the men and families involved.
NZ military engineers – known as “Sappers” or The Corps of Royal NZ Engineers (RNZE) – have served Aotearoa, the Pacific, and communities and conflicts worldwide for over 180 years. From major horizontal and vertical construction projects to combat engineering and munitions search and clearance, to humanitarian aid, disaster relief and provision of basic utilities; they make a huge contribution. For further information on NZ Sappers, visit their site.
The Engineer Corps Memorial Centre (ECMC – Library, Museum and Chapel), at Linton Military Camp, records the history of the Corps from the early 1800s to the present day. With 80% of the collection on display at any one time, visitors can view fascinating artefacts such as military engineering equipment, and displays, such as the Engineer Tunnellers (WWI) display, of key milestones and events in the Corps’ history. It’s a dynamic collection with ongoing projects being undertaken by the museum (volunteers) staff. New displays are established, and current ones refurbished. Model making, extensive scanning and digitising of archival material and photography is carried out, with interactive and electronic displays being introduced.
The museum and library are an excellent resource for military engineering and history, professional and technical engineering, and early New Zealand history. The good news is that you can visit the museum as part of heritage month, with tours on the morning and afternoon of Friday 24th March. Registration is required to assist group transportation and gain access to the secure Linton Military Camp.
A koha of $5 per person would be appreciated and will go towards the RNZE Charitable Trust and ECMC development.
Discover your family history with expert help from members of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists, Palmerston North. Suitable for people who are new to genealogy. The sessions will provide hands-on activities, tips and tricks for beginning explorers and also for those who would like to learn more in-depth research skills.
The library has free resources available to help with getting started. Learn how to get the best out of online resources like Ancestry and FamilySearch! All welcome, registration essential.