A few days before the massive 1931 earthquake in Napier the animals were titchy.
Now we know why.
At 10.57am on a sunny summer February 3rd the earth exploded, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake heaving land upwards and out of the sea. Thirty seconds later the world burst into violent buckling and twisting and in three minutes the town of Napier had fallen to its knees. As the veils of choking dust settled, survivors were met with a scene of devastation.
“Everything was so silent after it happened. “I thought we were the only ones left in the world,” said Mrs Edith Lane. (Art Deco Trust)
And if that wasn’t enough, fires broke out but with water mains broken nothing could be done to stop them. That day 256 people in Napier, Hastings and Wairoa were killed.
The 1931 earthquake remains New Zealand’s worst natural disaster.
But like a phoenix rising out of the ashes, and remember this is the Depression of the 1930s, the decision was bravely made to rebuild the city. The architectural fashion of the day was Art Deco and Spanish Mission styles with Egyptian and Mayan influences, so the four architect firms in the city banded together in one office and set about designing this new city.
But Napier’s Art Deco heritage was never appreciated and in the 1980s, these “old fashioned” buildings were being pulled down and replaced with “modern” glass and aluminium office blocks decked out in corporate pink and grey. I know because I was born in Hawkes Bay and remember thinking they were funny and dilapidated. Don’t judge me!
Fortunately some zealous “radicals” became so exercised about the demolition of Napier’s architectural history and in 1985 the Art Deco Trust was formed which not only saved the city from pink and grey 80’s offices, but put it on the international stage as the second major Art Deco city in the world behind Miami.
In mid-February every year Napier comes alive with the Art Deco Weekend. Events run from Depression Dinners and Delux Dinners – all in fancy dress, to a long lunch down Marine Parade, the Gatsby picnic, concerts, and a ball. But even if people aren’t attending specific events, the streets are filled with 30s costumes, music and cars.
It’s a Bucket List New Zealand event and I’m going to work on getting to Napier for February 18-22 2015!
Have you visited Napier? What do you think of its heritage?
Take an Art Deco Walking Tour for $20 and learn about the city and its history as you wander past and into these classic yet contemporary buildings.