Reduced to rubble: demolished buildings

Buildings come and go, this is something we are used to in Ashburton.

Right now, we are going through a period of rapid change evidenced by projects such as the upcoming new Library & Civic Centre, the Kmart complex, as well as the numerous houses, outbuildings and businesses being altered and built all around the town and district at present.

I have been told at least a few times by visitors and researchers who have come to the Ashburton Museum in recent years, who had not been in Ashburton for years, that “it’s all changed”. When you look at photographs of the town’s past, this is made obvious.

Let’s take a look at a selection of buildings which one stood around Ashburton, which are now only memories.

Commercial Hotel and Flats

What was once the Commercial Hotel had an illustrious history, as many provincial and country hotels did. It stood on the corner of East and Peter Streets for a little over a century, yet you would never be able to tell today.

The Commercial Hotel, when it was operated by J Moffat from 1901.

What was then called Quill’s Commercial Hotel was first advertised in Ashburton’s Evening Echo, 15 March 1878. It was branded the “best accommodation to families and visitors, on the most reasonable terms.” The Commercial became an important spot for gatherings such as club meetings and it was the first building in Ashburton to have been fitted with a gas regulator in 1880.

The Commercial passed through many pairs of hands and was eventually converted into flats. I have been told that these units were not exactly luxurious, but they did the job. The flats were being demolished in 1982, but before the work was finished a fire destroyed the remains of the Commercial that November.

Commercial flats, not long before its partial demolition and complete destruction by fire in 1982.

The Commercial Hotel endured for just over a hundred years, which is not too shabby for an old country hotel.

Crum’s brick kiln

Demolished in 1989, the Crum Bros. brick kiln stood as an Ashburton landmark for almost as long as the Commercial.

The early ownership history of this Creek Road site was colourful indeed. The site was owned by Sir Thomas and Henry John Tancred, as well as John Collins Allen in 1877, before it passed into the hands of Montgomery and Co. Around 1880, the iconic 12-chamber circular Hoffman kiln that became an Ashburton landmark was built. It was then sold to Hugo, Rudolph and Max Friedlander in 1882, officially recorded as a brickyard.

Crum’s kiln, which was built around 1880 under Montgomery and Co. and was really put to work under the operation of the Crum family.

The brickyard was eventually sold to Albert Crum in 1895, when it was known as the Kolmar Brickworks. Under Albert’s ownership, the kiln was modernised with a steam engine and its output reached 25-30,000 bricks a week, which was enough to build five houses. By 1966, the clay pits surrounding the yard had been worked extensively and attempts to obtain more land for clay were blocked. After surviving on clay brought from elsewhere for years the kiln eventually shut down in 1978.

Demolition came eleven years later and the kiln proved stubborn. It took two attempts to pull down the chimney but eventually it fell, marking the end of an era for brickmaking in Ashburton.

Council villa, 131 Havelock Street

Demolished in 2017, the Council-owned villa that stood at 131 Havelock Street is remembered fondly by those who were familiar with it. Over a hundred years old at the time of its demolition, it was described as “a beautiful old house” despite its rough condition when it was pulled down.

It was used as office space for the District Council and associated organisations. According to an employee of the Ashburton Enterprise Agency who worked there in the 1990s it was “a bit like working from your home really”. That’s something many of us will now be familar with!

The council villa at 113 Havelock Street, before its demolition in 2017.

Both the property and finance departments of Council were based in the villa until about 2015 and it was unoccupied for a time after. Unfortunately, by 2017 it was in rough shape. At the time, Dave Hampton from the ADC said “you get in the ceiling and you don’t need a light because there’s that much daylight coming through.” It had reached the end of its useful life, and so the villa had to go.

Presently, the dual-purpose Council Chambers and Civil Defence Emergency Operations Centre stands in its stead, a very practical and clean-looking building in its own right, but the charm of that white and green villa is something that could not be replaced.

By Connor Lysaght

Unless otherwise stated, photographs and research materials on this page are owned by the Ashburton Museum & Historical Society Inc. This post was modified for this blog and was originally published in the Ashburton Guardian, 4 September 2021.


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