Previous issues: A piece of telegraph pole still holds its place in Palmerston North history

Looking west between Church St and Coleman Place, the telegraph pole is in place in this image, dated circa 1890.

REAR NUMBERS: There are few one-story buildings left in The Square of Palmerston North, one being a bit more unique than the others.

This is a small two-store building in Coleman Place, one of which was recently occupied by Monsoon Asian Kitchen.

If we were to start a story on important pieces of wood in the plaza, the first thought would be the beautiful carvings adorning the city administration building and overlooking Te Marae o Hine / plaza. Another could be the dismal hitch station across from Fitzherbert Ave that was once one of three, but has now lost its siblings – and much of its white paint.

However, it is not the pieces of wood that relate to this story.

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A view from Rangitikei St to Coleman Place in the early 1890s. The photograph shows the previous building on the site, but no <a class=telegraph poles.” style=”width:100%;display:inline-block”/>

GW Shailer / Supplied

A view from Rangitikei St to Coleman Place in the early 1890s. The photograph shows the previous building on the site, but no telegraph poles.

Telegraph poles appeared in The Square during the dead zone of 1885-1900, a period when no local newspaper survived.

However, we do know of GC Petersen in The birth of North Palmerston, that the first telephone appeared in the city in 1888. This unique private line turned out to be so attractive to others that in 1901 there were apparently 161 local subscribers – and “telegraph” poles were now scattered throughout. the city.

Around 1904, an embellishment project for Te Marae o Hine was put in place. Five years later, the work was almost complete, but the Manawatū standard of August 25, 1909, expressed a particular feeling of annoyance.

There was “a disfiguring characteristic that is beyond the control of the local authority. It is the multiplicity of telegraph poles and the labyrinth of overhead wires that undoubtedly spoil an otherwise delightful prospect.

“Until these are removed, there will still be some discordant note in the harmony of the pattern. The alternative – the only alternative in fact – is to place the wires that run through The Square in an underground conduit.

The writer looked forward to “a pleasant absence of what is technically known as ‘induction’, but what the angry subscriber more often calls ‘hum’.”

It was also becoming more difficult to secure the poles, many of which were imported from Australia.

In due time, the Manawatu weather of May 21, 1913 (p. 4) finally reports that the “great multiplication of telegraph poles in the streets of Palmerston – especially in Main Street – has been recently noticed, and some concern can naturally be felt as to their obstruction of the line. circulation. .

“However, it is gratifying to have the assurance of the mayor [Mr J. A. Nash] that all old posts must be removed and all wires worn on the new posts. As a result, there will soon be fewer poles.

So, in due course, all the multitude of telegraph poles were gone – except one.

Looking west between Church St and Coleman Place, showing the telegraph pole in place.

Provided

Looking west between Church St and Coleman Place, showing the telegraph pole in place.

A photo looking through Te Marae o Hine which has been dated to around 1890 shows the building on this site, next to the Theater Royal, with a telegraph pole already in place in front of it.

This building belonged to Harriet Elizabeth Kerslake (née Best), whose husband, Thomas Tozer Kerslake, had run a tailoring business in one of the two stores it contained.

However, Foxton Herald of Manawatū recorded the events of March 14, 1895: A serious fire Thursday at 2 a.m., the Theater Royal, owned by Mr. Linton, and two shops owned by Mr. Kerslake, burned to the ground. A number of other buildings were also destroyed in this fire.

Fortunately, the Kerslake Building was insured and the current building was erected in its place later that year.

The telegraph pole may have survived the fire, or it may have been replaced immediately, lest everyone can phone each other. However, it was incorporated into the new building as a central veranda post anyway, and also helped further by supporting its signage.

This pre-1904 image is taken from Broad St towards Coleman Place.

Provided

This pre-1904 image is taken from Broad St towards Coleman Place.

Between 1896 and at least 1974, the East Shop (164 The Square) was occupied by a tobacconist-barber, with father and son, Lou and Lance Giorgi, who successively ran the family business there between 1896 and 1972.

Meanwhile, the lower part of the telegraph pole was painted in the familiar barber shop colors of red, white and blue stripes. Lance Giorgi and his wife Ada also gained national media attention in 1939-40 when their side bookmaking business was plundered.

The other store (165 The Square) led a quieter life – with the exception of the back section destroyed by fire on the night of February 22, 1924. It was a grocery store at least until the late 1950s. , and the two stores have housed a range of different types of stores since the end of their original long-term occupancy.

However, the telegraph pole was still quietly earning its sustenance – holding up the veranda and displaying its distinctive striped paint to passers-by in need of a haircut.

Photos taken between 1915 and 1920 show that the other posts in the street had disappeared – and also that this one had been beheaded.

Coleman Place, looking north to The Square and Coleman St, circa 1925. The remains of the post are difficult to identify.

Provided

Coleman Place, looking north to The Square and Coleman St, circa 1925. The remains of the post are difficult to identify.

Originally, each small store had its own odd-looking, tall, pointed top facade that closely resembled the ears of a doberman. These, presumably, helped him blend in with his two-story neighbors.

Three solid-looking wooden decorations were also perched atop the facade. However, they were all gone by 1940, and the current bland facade had replaced them. Perhaps the original facade succumbed to the gale of 1936 which obviously caused havoc in this part of the square.

Somewhere along the line, the lower portion of the telegraph pole was also removed, leaving the now “topped and tailed” section of the telegraph pole – about a yard long – perched on top of a new veranda pole. .

So the next time people take a look at that slightly tired little building in its secluded corner of The Square – one now Monsoon Asian Kitchen store and the other unoccupied – then hopefully they’ll recognize a 125-year piece of the city’s history.

Perhaps they will also recognize this little piece of Australia that has quietly watched all the events of Te Marae on Hine for 125 to 130 years.

Val Burr is a historian and heritage researcher from Manawatū.


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