Thursday, 20 January 2011

Napier – an Art Deco Jewel and Hastings - a gem

Napier (on the east coast of North Island) is well known for its marvellous Art Deco buildings. On February 3rd 1931 the town was destroyed by an earthquake and hence the rebuilding was in the style of the period – Art Deco.

All that remained of the original town were some wooden buildings high up

Napier Hill Houses

and some a houses on what was then the outskirts of the town.

Old Houses

The only damage to these houses was that their brick chimneys fell down and Government paid for one only chimney per house to be replaced, the replacement of any others was at the owner’s expense.

Some 120 of the original 148 Art Deco buildings remain and therefore around the town there are examples of most of the Art Deco style subsets of the 1930’s decade.

Central Fire Station - Deco Centre

The 2 pm walking tour organised by the Art Deco Society (occupying the former Fire Station) is the best in that not only do you walk the town with a guide, you also get pre and post walk talks / videos and you also get to go inside some of the buildings. Every year (usually during February) the town has an Art Deco weekend when people dress and act to recreate that period.

This blog entry is therefore made up of lots of pictures of wonderful buildings and few words.

Two special pictures to start with – for Fran whom we know reads this blog.

Fran -

This statue by Mark Whyte “A wave in time Sheila and Raven” actually dates from 2010 but when we saw it we immediately thought of Fran (other blog readers will just have to wonder about this).

And for Sam – this is a 1930 Model A Ford dating from the

Model A Ford

Model A Ford 2

period which was parked on the main street outside of an Art Deco Building.

Wall Muriel Napier

The main car park has a wall mural bringing back memories of the seaside many years ago

Thorpe's Coffee House

This cafe was built in 1932 on the site of the original coffee house and is still serving coffee.

Sainsbury Logan and Williams

This building is built in “Spanish Mission Style” Art Deco (the roof tiles being the main determiner)

Provincial Hotel

This originally was a hotel and is now a restaurant – another example of Spanish Mission style Art Deco.

Munster Chambers

This is an example of Speed Line Art Deco. You can expand the picture by clicking on it in order to better see the shamrocks in the corners of the building and therefore the reason for the name of the building.Public Trust Office

The Public Trust building (Neo-Classic style Art Deco)

Theatre Exterior 

The town theatre has some wonderful Art Deco embellishments including some original style lighting

Municipal Theatre Lighting 2

Municipal Theatre Lighting 1

Art Deco architects sought to use the new style “neon lighting” and its colours in their buildings.

Municipal Theatre Carpet

This is a section of the original carpet which survived the 1930’s fire so they re-carpeted the whole theatre with the original pattern.

Municipal Theatre Auditorium 

The Auditorium is a perfect example of the period (Gerry and the Pacemakers plus Herman’s Hermits were appearing there shortly). The theatre was extended a few years ago and this perfectly continues the original style.

Masonic Hotel 2

The Masonic Hotel (above and below) has links to Freemasonry (as if you could not guess from the name)

Masonic Hotel

as does the Scinde Building

Scinde Building

which was originally built as a replacement Lodge following the fire.

Industrial Art Deco

This is an example of industrial Art Deco – very bare and utilitarian


This building demonstrates classical style but also for the town, a new approach to the design of buildings on street corners – they do not have a right angled corner so that motorists can see around the corner more easily.

Daily Telegraph

The Newspaper office (still publishing) has the classic Art Deco motifs of  zig zags, fountain shapes, ziggurats and sunbursts in the design

County Hotel-1

Formerly the Hawke’s Bay County Council offices, now a boutique hotel.

Concert Gardens 

This is the park open air theatre (the Soundshell) with Maori motifs in the design.

Briscos' Building

This is a very classic frontage in original colours

AMP Building

This bank is now a wine shop, the Art Deco detailing

AMP Building Portico

extends to the portico and to the internal doorway

AMP Building Inside-1

Other buildings have also preserved their Art Deco Interior

Devon House Interior

as in the inside of Devon House which now houses a computer firm.

Bank Ceiling

This detail from another Bank building shows Maori influence in the Art Deco patterning.

Manhole Cover Art Deco

The attention to detail even extends to the street man hole covers showing the sun burst motif.

If seeing all this Art Deco is not enough for you, then some of the shops specialise in selling genuine and reproduction clothes and other objects from the period

Inside Antique 2

Inside Antique 1

Deco Lady A model showing off a dress

At night, the Tom Parker Fountain on the sea front is lit up with a constantly changing sequence of Art Deco colours,

Tom Parker Fountain Napier

when we saw it there was a strong wind and driving rain but it still looked spectacular.


About 20 kms inland is the town of Hastings. This also suffered extensive damage in the earthquake and therefore has some buildings dating from that period including a number of houses:

Hasting speedline house

the above is in the speed line style

Art Deco House Hastings

this house is absolutely perfect in style, shape and colour

Womens House 

This is the Women’s Rest Home in the town centre – it was built as a place for “women in from the country” to rest, wash, feed their children etc when they came to town.

Corner Office

Health Trust Building

Corner Store    

Some offices and a shop (above) and examples from the race course (below),


the Totalisator


and the Grandstand.

There were more examples of Art Deco here than anywhere else in the world we have been to and it was well worth the visit.

1 comment:

  1. We really enjoyed your New Zealand journey, it inspired us to make the same trip in January 2015.
    We spent 6 weeks in a 'Wilderness' Jumper Lite 2 which had a similar layout to yours. We only managed the North Island last time, but we're returning in January 2016 for a similar period exploring the South Island.

    Based on your experience do you have a 'TOP TEN' South Island places to visit? We have almost a mirror photo album of places in the North Island so we think we're very similar in places we like.
    New Zealand must be very nearly paradise on earth, If only we were younger...