Monday, April 30, 2012

Good news for old place

Campbell Free Kindergarten in Victoria Park (Photo: Auckland Council)
When I first moved to Auckland and rode on the motorway over Victoria Park, I spied an old, seemingly derelict building. It was the Campbell Free Kindergarten in Victoria Park, unused since a few years before my arrival in New Zealand, but, by the look of it, a building that hadn’t been well-maintained for years before that.

It was built 1910 and named for the “father of Auckland”, John Logan Campbell. The Kindergarten Association gave the building to Auckland when they moved to Myers Park in the 1950s. The building is a registered heritage building of national, regional and local significance.

I thought the building should be saved. There are so few heritage buildings left in central Auckland that it seemed almost criminal to let the building be destroyed. But, could it be saved, and how?

Years passed, the building deteriorated even more. Taggers attacked the building, as did vandals. An arson attack damaged it in early 2000. It looked hopeless. Then, one government agency’s needs coincided with the desires of local government, and rescue was at hand.

The government decided to locate new northbound lanes of State Highway One in a tunnel underneath Victoria Park, right next to the existing viaduct (“flyover”, most of us call it, as in “Vic Park Flyover”). NZTA needed somewhere to locate emergency generators for the tunnel and other equipment, and Auckland City wanted the Campbell Free Kindergarten building restored, so, voila! a solution for both needs was born—a true win/win.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown will officially reopen the refurbished building on May 5, and Auckland Council is seeking community input for what the building will be used for. This is all very good news, indeed.

It’s of course not the most extreme heritage building work done as part of the tunnel project: NZTA moved the historic Rob Roy hotel (built 1885/86) 40 metres while they built the tunnel, then moved the hotel back to its original spot. This meant strengthening the building, which means its seismic resilience is greatly improved. Talk about an extreme makeover! Information for all the related heritage projects is on the NZTA site.

Campbell Free Kindergarten in Victoria Park before restoration. (Photo: NZTA)
The photos accompanying this post came from the government sites I linked to. I can’t believe I never took a photo of the “before”, and haven’t had a chance to take pictures of the after, either. At least now it looks like I’ll have plenty of time to take photos.

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