Khandallah Heritage Night this week

Come along to the Khandallah Library this Thursday evening (7th November) from 6pm where we will be celebrating the heritage of the greater Onslow area with the rededication  of a memorial scroll in honour of F.L (‘Fanny Louise’) Irvine-Smith.

Born in 1878, Irvine-Smith was a pioneering educationalist who lectured at the Wellington Teachers College and had a notable role in first introducing Māoritanga and NZ History to the primary school curriculum. She is best known for her work as a historian and her book The Streets of my CityFirst published in 1948, her book presented Wellington’s past through a tour of its streets and how they had been named. It was a radical departure from the dry, pedestrian works of local history which had been published to that time and it went on to be re-printed multiple times. However, we remember her for her extraordinary efforts over many years to establish the Khandallah Library. A strong believer in the importance of libraries to the social health of a community, she lobbied the council and walked the streets of the suburb to gather nearly 1300 signatures on a petition supporting the library’s establishment.

As well as unveiling the memorial scroll we are going to take the opportunity to launch a digitised collection of a historic local magazine, The Ngaio and Khandallah Review and its follow-up publication, The Social Review which were published in the early-mid 1930s. Drawn from the collection of the Onslow Historical Society, we worked collaboratively with the society to allow these  extremely rare copies to be made available to the general public for the first time on our digital heritage platform, Wellington City Recollect. They offer a fascinating insight into the local community 85 years ago and will become an invaluable source of local history and genealogical information. Once launched, the digitised magazines will be fully key-word searchable.

Come along to the Khandallah Library on Thursday evening from 6pm to share your memories of the library and the greater area. Light refreshments will be served. There is no need to R.S.V.P but space will be limited. 

The Levin House of Hobson Street

Completed  in 1904, the Levin House was one of the most extravagant houses ever constructed in Wellington to that time.

It was built at 72 Hobson Street in Thorndon for Robert Lionel Levin, the son of the wealthy businessman and  philanthropist William Hort Levin for whom the Horowhenua township of Levin is named. W.H. Levin was also regarded as the ‘founder’ of Wellington City Libraries through his large donation of funds which enabled the city’s first municipal library to be constructed in the early 1890s.

Following his father’s death in 1893, Robert Levin decided against taking a partnership in the family firm of Levin & Co (he went sheep farming in the Manawatu) but used a proportion of his considerable inheritance to construct this house which soon became the talk of the town.  It was designed by the notable architect John Sydney Swan who was also responsible for St Gerard’s Church and Monastery, the Backbencher Pub, The Erskine Chapel, the Iko Iko building in Cuba Mall and many others.

The house featured central heating, 100 volt DC electric lighting (230 volt AC mains power did not arrive in Wellington until the mid 1920s) and a “telephonette” intercom system which allowed servants to be summoned from any room.  Located on two acres of land, rather than facing the street which was the norm at the time, the architect orientated the house away from the road so that it received all-day sun and had views out over Wellington Harbour. It was built before the major reclamation that created the railyards and Aotea Quay had taken place so the shoreline would have been substantially closer to the house than it is today.

By the early 1970s the house had fallen into disrepair and ownership of the property had long since passed from the Levin family. It was purchased by the Australian Government and then demolished in 1975 to become the site of the Australian High Commission.

Click here to see the house on our Recollect page which also includes a link to a digitised copy of the vintage NZ architecture magazine Progress which published a glowing review of the house in 1906.

The Rare Book collection is again available to view

The Library’s rare book collection, which was previously at the Central Library, has been safely moved to the Wellington City Archives who have very kindly agreed to house the collection for us while Central is closed. Items in the collection can be identified in the online catalogue by their shelf location being listed as an email address (enquiries@wcl.govt.nz). If you see something that you would like to view, send us an email with all the details included and we can arrange a time for it to be made available for you in the reading room of the City Archives in Barker Street (Te Aro). Note that all the books in the collection are reference only and they can only be viewed during the normal business hours of the archives (9am – 4pm, Monday to Friday)

History for Lunch! Wednesdays, 12.30-1.30pm during August at the Central Library

Wellington Harbour by Barraud tiny

On Wednesdays from 12.30-1.30pm during the month of August, the Central Library will be hosting a series of history talks covering the social, urban and Māori history of Wellington. Have a read of the programme below, and come along!

Wednesday 7 August: The Flight to South Karori: How Katherine Mansfield’s family coped with life and death in the time of cholera (1890-93) by Redmer Yska Notable Wellington historian Redmer Yska uncovers the extraordinary story of Wellington’s cholera epidemic and the associated flight of the Beauchamp family out of the city, along with many other members of Wellington’s middle-class. The story also covers the political battles that waged between influential forces as the city struggled to gain the means to rectify the situation.

Wednesday 14 August: Te Upoko o te Ika, 1840s: A Struggle over Power, Mana and Resources by Hēni Collins Presented by the researcher, writer and journalist, Hēni Collins, this illustrated talk will cover a period of history in Te Whanganui a Tara/ Wellington Harbour and the Kapiti Coast during the mid-19th century. It was a time when the mana of Te Rauparaha, Te Rangihaeata and allied tribes was undercut by English settler ambition and then eventually backed up by the heavy hand of the British military. This represented a huge shift in access to land, economic resources, power and cultural dominance in the region. Ka mate ka ora! The siprit of Te Rauparaha / Hēni CollinsHēni Collins is the author of Ka mate ka ora! : the spirit of Te Rauparaha (Steele Roberts, 2010). The story of Te Rauparaha and his times continues to intrigue, provoke and inspire Maori and Pakeha alike. In this book Collins describes Te Rauparaha’s life from the time his birth was foretold, through inter-tribal conflict, migration, settlement in the south (Kapiti Island), and into the period of colonization. Signed copies of the book will be available for sale at the conclusion of this talk

Wednesday 21 August: Radical Wellington: Philip Josephs, the Freedom Group & the Great Strike of 1913 by Jared Davidson Jared Davidson, archivist and author of Sewing Freedom, will be talking about the colourful radicals of the early labour movement in Wellington – anarchists and the Industrial Workers of the World. As well as organising one of New Zealand’s first anarchist collectives, Josephs and members of the IWW were active in Wellington’s working-class counter culture and the Great Strike of 1913. This talks aims to highlight the role of literature, meetings and international influences in these events. Signed copies of Jared Davidson’s book Sewing Freedom will be available for sale for $15 at the conclusion of the talk (sorry; no eftpos) Whatu kākahu = Māori cloaks / edited by Awhina Tamarapa.

Wednesday 28 August: He tohu aroha – the protective role of Māori cloaks by Awhina Tamarapa Awhina Tamarapa edited and contributed to the book Whatu Kakahu which arose from the outstanding exhibition at Te Papa,  Kahu ora : living cloaks (June-Otober, 2012). Of special interest to Wellingtonians will be the history of the cloak of Ruhia Porutu, deposited into the care of Te Papa by the whānau of Henry Pitt.  This is the beautiful kākahu that saved the life of Thomas Wilmore McKenzie in 1840 who had arrived in Wellington as a teenager on board one of the first settler ships. McKenzie went on to become a prominent Wellington citizen but never forgot the debt he owed to Ruhia Porutu and the two families maintained a life-long friendship. Awhina Tamarapa (Ngati Kahungunu, Ngati Ruanui, Ngati Pikiao) is a curator of Maori artifacts at Te Papa.  She holds a Bachelor of Maori Laws and Philosophy from Te Wananga o Raukawa, Otaki, and a Bachelor of Arts from Victoria University, Wellington, where she majored in Anthropology.

History For Lunch

Ian Athfield talk at the Central Library

ian athfieldAs part of the 20th anniversary celebrations for the Central Library building, the pricipal architect of the building, Ian Athfield will be giving a free talk on Tuesday 13th December 2011 at 6pm on the 2nd floor. Titled Why is the library more than just about books? his talk will discuss how the presence of a library can “inform” the physical structure of its neighbourhood as well as his thoughts and memories of how the building’s design came about.

Ian Athfield is the founding principal of the Wellington-based firm, Athfield Architects Limited. He has headed this practice since its inception in 1968 and has been responsible for most of the design direction through this period.

As well as his contribution to the design of a broad range of projects throughout New Zealand, in 1976 “Ath” won an international design competition for housing in Manila, the Philippines. He has been involved in a teaching fellowship with Victoria University, has been a keynote speaker at various international conferences and has judged at numerous architectural / urban design competitions. Under his directorship Athfield Architects has won over 100 design awards. In 2004 he was the recipient of the New Zealand Institute of Architects’ highest honour, the Gold Medal, and from 2006 – 2008 was President of the NZIA. In 2006 he became the first New Zealander  to be registered as an APEC Architect. More recently he has been a member of the Auckland City Property Enterprise Board, advisor to Auckland’s Aotea Square development and a member of the assessment panel for the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery master plan. He is currently serving on the Board of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and was made NZIA Architectural Ambassador to Christchurch soon after the September 2010 earthquake to provide advice and coordination during the rebuild and restoration process.

Come and enjoy this rare opportunity to hear one of New Zealand’s best known architects whose designs and influences have made a significant impact on Wellington’s urban geography.

Details:

Ian Athfield : Why is the library more than just about books?
Tuesday 13th December, 6pm, Central Library (2nd floor), 65 Victoria Street.
Free and everyone is welcome – just come along.