What could possibly be good about an earthquake? Call it the “Disneyland Effect” – the architectural aftermath. Napier – a Hawke’s Bay city now known for it’s Art Deco buildings – was subjected to a devastating earthquake in 1931. Huge quantities of beautiful Victorian masonry were forever lost in just minutes – shattered into thousands of pieces. Even with the shadow of a Depression economy looming, it was unthinkable during reconstruction to build anything without Art Deco embellishments – the style of the day. With nearly every public building destroyed, the rebuilding of Napier turned it into the Art Deco city!
I have a loose appreciation for architecture, and had always found Art Deco to be lacking in the aesthetics department. (If you’re not familiar with the style, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves and just elaborate by saying Art Deco literally means Art Decoration. As in buildings decorated artfully.) Little did I know, the style was spawned in my FAVORITE decade – the roaring 20’s. As soon as I discovered this nugget, the path to Deco adoration was paved!
In my Napier wandering, I stopped into a little Deco costume shop. In response to a few questions, the wonderful owner whipped out a binder full of photos and news clippings. She was quite the storyteller, and I spent a good twenty minutes listening to her set the scene and describe the quake aftermath. “It was a beautiful Monday summer morning. School holidays had just finished. A naval ship had just pulled into port. Its sailors would later provide crucial assistance in rescue operations… This is Betty Lou who worked as a typist in this building… Here is Roger with Betty Lou surveying the damage: that little white house is still up there on the hill…” It was great!
That night was the second New Zealand All Blacks game in the Rugby World Cup that is being hosted here. Last time they’d played Japan in the 90’s, New Zealand won by an embarrassing margin – possible the widest points* spread in rugby history (7 to 145?). Unfortunately for the Land of the Rising Sun, this game was so similar that in the last twenty minutes the whole bar full of Kiwis was sympathy cheering for the Japanese every time they even managed to get possession of the ball! We left the pub in good spirits!
The following morning, several wild turkeys and goats dotted the roadside on our drive up the coast to Gisborne. Upon arrival we each went our own way, exploring the city and running errands. Maybe because it was Saturday, but the small city seemed to be overrun with posse after posse of young teenagers. The level of vandalism and destruction throughout the city was, unfortunately, noteworthy. At the end of the day we headed to the “Olympic Pool” to get in a workout and a
shower. To my delight, we discovered it was playtime in half the pool! We swam a few laps and then slipped over the bulkhead to try our luck at the giant inflatable water toys and rope swing. FUN! After a few more rounds in the lap pool, we hit the showers knowing we’d sleep well that night! ♣
More photos by clicking here.
*Rugby scoring is similar to U.S. football scoring – a “try” (touchdown) scores 5 points, while a “penalty kick” or “conversion” (field goal) scores 2 points. So obviously a score of more than 100 points means the winning team has scored about every five minutes in an 80 minute game.