Napier is one of the most beautiful cities in New Zealand. It is known as the Art Deco capital and when I looked through my photos I realized how pink was a dominant colour.
Napier, in the heart of the Hawke’s Bay wine region, suffered a massive earthquake in 1931. The quake and the fires that followed destroyed most of the town, but by the end of the decade Napier had the newest city centre on the globe.
Today, Napier’s town centre is recognised as one of the largest collection of Art Deco buildings outside Miami. Nowhere else in the Southern Hemisphere has such a concentration of buildings in the styles of the 1930s – Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission and especially Art Deco.
At 10.46am on 3 February 1931, Napier and its surrounding region were struck by an earthquake that measured 7.8 on the Richter scale. While the ground shook violently for less than three minutes, 261 lives were lost as the ground moved and buildings crumbled around inhabitants.
Fires broke out all over town, some beginning in chemist shops where gas jets were close to flammable liquids. Firemen could do little to stop the rapid spread as water supplies had been cut in the earthquake.
Over the next two weeks, 525 aftershocks were felt in the region.
As a result of the earthquake, the Napier area tilted upwards – a maximum of just over 2m (7 feet) – and 2230 hectares (5575 acres) were raised to sea level. Since then, the area has continued to creep up at the rate of 1cm per year, so that it’s now 60cms (2 feet) above sea level.
Reconstructing Napier Art Deco was fashionable in the 1920s. The architectural style is characterised by the skyscraper shape, sunbursts and fountains, and geometric shapes.
In post-earthquake Napier, Art Deco was both a safe and economical choice. The new concrete buildings were more resistant to earthquakes and fire, materials were cheap and the stucco relief ornaments typical of Art Deco offered a less costly form of decoration. ( To see more of Napier’s story click here)
The Masonic Hotel was destroyed in the earthquake and when it was rebuilt in the Art Deco style it was one of the largest and most elaborate, up to date hotels in New Zealand at that time
Inside it had a rosy pink glow.
Many of the shops featured fashions and memorabilia from the 1920’s and 30’s.
While communion was being served, the original Cathedral was totally destroyed by earthquake with the loss of one life.
For 25 years a “temporary” wooden building, dedicated in October 1932 served as a Cathedral for the diocese.
In 1946 it was decided to rebuild and the foundation stone was laid on 12th October 1955. The chapel, chancel and most of the nave were dedicated by the Bishop of Waiapu and Archbishop of New Zealand, The Most Reverend Norman. Lesser, in 1960. But it was 1965 before the building was completed and the Cathedral was consecrated on 8th October 1967.
I find it interesting that the Masonic hotel was rebuilt immediately while it took over 36 years to finally finish the Cathedral.
The Cathedral is increasingly recognised as a fine example of modernist architecture. In 2005 the last three windows were installed finally completing the building.
I had only allowed half a day to explore this very interesting city. So much more to see so I hope, one day, to revisit Napier.
The theme of “pink” from Ailsa was very appropriate for me to show you around Napier. Visit “Where’s my backpack” for more pink posts.