As we hurtle along State Highway 1 on our way southwards and zip through Putaruru we never pay much attention to the town. To reach the town centre you have to leave the state highway, which probably makes life much quieter and less dangerous for the residents who would otherwise be overwhelmed by the passing traffic. On our winter deco trip last weekend though we decided to turn off to investigate what we had heard rumours of but never seen and only half believed – a magnificent old hotel in the centre of the town.
Apparently the hotel was built (or possibly rebuilt) in 1953 in time for a visit from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and it had been hoped that she might spend a night there. Unfortunately the Tangiwai disaster intervened and the locals only had a passing glimpse of Her Majesty as she sped past on her train, travelling to her more urgent engagements. Over the years the hotel became less busy and eventually only the “pub” part of the hotel was leased and used, with the accommodation side being neglected and falling into disrepair. Even the internal walls were overgrown with ivy and water flooded down them when it rained, and the building was almost condemned for demolition. In the nick of time it has been given a lease of life and is being restored to its former glory.
When we called in we were amazed to see how close to original condition the hotel remains. So many wonderful details are still there to see, right down to the hexagonal tiles in the bathrooms and the small lights which apparently illuminated to tell the porters where their attentions were needed.
The entrance area is richly wood paneled and the staircase very grand, broad and sweeping.
Though they do not do so at present we suspect the long glass columns would have been illuminated from within originally, possibly with long fluorescent tubes which seemed to have been all the rage and much in evidence in other parts of the hotel
The staircase is furnished with black wrought iron curlicues - you can see one at the bottom left of the railing.
Two comfortable original looking chairs to rest your feet when you arrive or if you are waiting to be met by a guest.
The special little room for using the telephone still has its sand blasted telephone symbol and the rooms for guests to iron their clothes still have the markings on the doors.
The exterior of the hotel is unpainted concrete. I am not sure whether this was intended as a design feature or it simply never was painted but I suspect it was meant to be left unpainted, as an example of modern industrial/utilitarian architecture. The curving front is very deco looking but considering that it was built in 1953 it must have been at the very end of deco buildings' vogue. In the 1960s an altogether different “look” would have been sought after, I feel sure. So it was probably a slightly old fashioned looking building almost from the start. How lucky we are that it is still standing and that its interior features are still almost original, it is like stepping back in time when you enter the grand reception area. What a great place for a group of friends to meet, stay the night and maybe do a good long walk the next day. And what a find! We need to patronise these kinds of venues, so if you do get a chance be sure to call in for a meal or even stay overnight.
A special room for writing one's correspondence and sending off many postcards no doubt.
In one of the bathrooms we could make out this special fixture for the disposal of used razor blades
In case of confusion a plethora of signposted rooms off the main corridor
Behind the pillar is an enormous concrete fireplace. The frosted glass you can see in the distance on the left is a feature seen in many places
Original cabinetry in excellent condition