The secret life of a building

The building in its prime, housing the Lyall Bay Library and butchery. PHOTO: Courtesy of Wellington Library.

The building in its prime, housing the Lyall Bay Library and butchery. PHOTO: Courtesy of Wellington Library.

Today the building houses the popular Elements Cafe. PHOTO: Rosa Woods.

For 100 years a seemingly ordinary building has sat on the corner of Onepu Rd and Wha Street, surrounded by wooden colonial houses, patiently watching the decades go by. However, its life has been far from uneventful.

Since its completion in 1917, it has been at the very centre of the Lyall Bay Community and today is known as the home of Elements café.

Over the last century this historic building has housed a number of other shops, including the Lyall Bay Library.

Many locals fondly remember the library, which operated out of the building for 47 years before relocating to Kilbirnie in 1983.

Local woman Katerina Kaiwai said she spent many hours in the library as a child. “It’s where I fell in love with reading. If I wasn’t home, my father would drive past the library to check my bike was parked outside,” she said.

Another local woman, Sue Bannister, shared Kaiwai’s appreciation for the old library. “I loved the smell and shine of the wooden shelves and the librarian shushing any remote noise.”

Bannister also  remembered the excitement of being old enough to venture into the library’s teen section.

Claudine McNab-Jones said the “library was such a special place for me as a child” and recalled the butcher from the shop below giving her saveloys while her mother bought meat.

For Deborah Clark, it was the people who worked in the building that had stayed with her over the years.

“Mr Goddard was the butcher. He used to give me free dog bones and I would give them to the neighbourhood dogs on my way home from school,” she said.

Clark also remembered the owner of the pharmacy next door to the butchery.

“Maurie was the chemist, he was so great to us when we were sick, he would even phone Mum to see if we felt better.”

Billie-Michelle Adams said her mother used to work at the chemist and she spent a lot of time there as a child “putting price tags on products”.

After the library relocated, and the butchery and chemist closed, the building went on to house a dressmakers, a muffin shop, and a surf shop between 1983 and 2001.

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Article by Rosa Woods

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