Contemplating a special tree seemed appropriate.
The hoop-la associated with the Hobbit premiere was happening in the city and I made a conscious choice to stay away. As I parked in the grounds of St James Church behind the Lower Hutt Library, I remembered the two trees between the car park and the church have always been rather special. They are golden elms, and in my opinion, are worthy of an honoured place in Rivendell or Gondor.
From the first green of spring until the bare branches of winter these are magnificent trees and I must check with the city council to see whether they are on the register of protected trees.
From there, picking up on the suggestion of my longtime correspondent Pam, in Switzerland, I decided to look at a few of the angles of Lower Hutt City.
Honesty requires the admission that this is not a spectacular city. It is Wellington’s dormitory. It has few public buildings of real architectural merit. For a while, back in the 1950s some work was done with reinforced concrete structures that was good for its time, but which is no longer as appealing as it was back then. There can be a fine line between clean minimalist architecture, and the graceless totalitarian military look. In my opinion, the Lower Hutt War Memorial Library and the associated Little Theatre just scrape on to the positive side of that balance.
Previously I have lamented the slow death of High Street and Queens Drive caused by the glittering attractions of the modern mall nearby. Historic photographs show a bustling main street with many fine buildings of which the citizenry were justly proud.
If you look behind the sad neon, the faded billboards and the for sale signs, the skeleton of the old days is still there, but crumbling fast. One prominent building which survives for now, is the old art deco styled Post Office building on the corner of High St and Andrews Avenue.
Once the regional headquarters when “post” included phones and telegraph, it is now deemed an earthquake risk, and has been vacated by NZ Post, though other tenants have chosen to remain. The most prominent tenant on the corner is Cash Converters, the modern-day descendant of a pawn shop. I don’t think they actually “pawn” goods, but my perception is that they pay low and sell high. How could you go wrong?
My last building of the day is also subject to seismic hazard … the Town Hall and Civic buildings are being temporarily vacated pending strengthening work.
Behind the civic buildings is the lovely Riddiford Gardens and the Library which brings us back to the start point of today’s adventure.
The next instalment will come to you from an apparently chilly Invercargill.
* “… a poem lovely as a tree” Trees, by Joyce Kilmer