It all began with a man, an Australian man,
In his mid thirties he'd followed his dream from Australia across the oceans to the goldfields of California and back to Victoria seeking the elusive golden treasure of the earth.
This quest would eventually lead Gabriel to a creek bed in Tuapeka, imagine an autumn day it's May 1961 and he's working the bed with his spade, his tin pan and his butchers knife and then he spots it, "gold shining like the stars of Orion on a dark frosty night."
This area was named 'Gabriels Gully' as his discovery that day was recorded as the first major gold discovery in Otago.
The discovery of gold was the catalyst for the significant industrial growth that Dunedin experienced in the late 1800's.
For a time Dunedin was the largest and most industrialised city in the country.
While gold bought prosperity and attracted immigrants to the area seeking their share, there was simultaneous growth in the primary and related sectors as the area flourished and land owners developed their holdings.
Which leads me on to The Warehouse Precinct........
The Warehouse Precinct of the late 1800's.
Imagine in a bygone era when a wander down Vogel Street was a glimpse into a thriving Dunedin economy, with wool, grain and produce warehouses, brokers, stock and station agents, transport operators all based in this bustling area.
The Warehouse Precinct was a key interface for the developing agricultural industry as growth drove demand for transport, supplies, storage, local and international markets, insurance, banking and shipping coordination.
Did you know the mustard coloured NMA building above once housed the Union Steamship Company? At one point the biggest shipping company in the southern hemisphere, the Union Steamship Company was also the largest private employer in New Zealand.
The Union Steamship company operated their head office out of Water Street from 1883-1921 when they shifted north to Wellington.
Once a derelict shell of it's former glory, today the NMA Building has undergone a transformation after the 2010-2012 refurbishment by Dunedin heritage building owner and developer Stephen Macknight.
The restoration of these old beauties is a huge undertaking involving stripping things back to structural level and earthquake strengthening.
It is evident that the greatest attention was paid to the careful uncovering and retention of as many of the buildings heritage features as was possible.
Winner of the 2013:
D U N E D I N H E R I T A G E R E-U S E A W A R D
What a stunning building this is in the Warehouse Precinct today.
Let's chat about Donald:
Donald Reid, a Scotsman was one of the early immigrants to Dunedin, he was many things - a farmer for 56 years, a respected businessman, father of 12 children. He spent over 10 years in politics with Minister of Public Works (1872) and Minister of Lands (1877) among his titles.
Rumoured to have become disgruntled with politics he turned his attention to the establishment of Donald Reid & Co( 1878)- a stock and station agency and base for grain, wool and produce storage and brokerage.
One of the largest on Vogel Street, the Donald Reid building has undergone a complete restoration, (another of Stephen Macknight's heritage projects) and today is the home base for AD instruments. AD instruments specialises in hardware and software products in the medical/science fields in a global market with 200 staff in 13 locations.
This is a far cry from it's early beginnings when historian John Angus describes the working conditions of the building: "the smell of hides, potatoes, wool, manure & fertiliser permeated the whole building, including the offices. When bales of wool were stacked above the offices dust descended from the ceiling in clouds, coating ledgers and staff alike." (cited from 'Dunedin's Warehouse Precinct, pg 42 by Alexander Trapeznik)
During the 20th century things slowed in Dunedin's economy with many prominent businesses moving their centre of operations to northern cities. Changes in local economy meant the large buildings of the Warehouse Precinct which were no longer required for their original purpose were left gradually deteriorating as the days and years ticked on by.
There are those of us who would have ventured into the Warehouse Precinct 20 years ago and seen a collection of struggling buildings in various states of disrepair and considered them doomed to their fate of decay.
These days with a chocolate factory, burger van and a smorgasbord of fabulous cafes dotted along the street,
i can really start to see the potential.......
Luckily (for me) there are others who go ahead of the pack. In an area once settled by colonial immigrants todays pioneers of the precinct are repurposing, restoring and recreating a sense of identity and purpose in this area.
With a sizable investment of vision, time, finance, creativity and a lot of good old fashioned hard work, these people are the driving force behind change.
So as i sip a cappuccino on Vogel Street, i'm appreciative of people like Stephen Macknight who seems to be saving and preserving Dunedin's heritage one building at a time. Credit is due to all the other building owners, investors and business people also dedicated to rejuvenating and reviving the area.
Lawrie Forbes, notable Dunedin heritage building owner and developer whose portfolio includes the beautifully restored printery buildings that once housed John MacIndoe Ltd and later Rogan Mcindoe in Crawford/Vogel Street.
Dr Hayden Cawte, archaeologist, heritage building owner and developer whose property includes the recently refurbished 43 Jetty St (home of Heritage Coffee) said about the Warehouse Precinct:
"The area is rife with innovation, ambition & optimism,
as the saying goes: new ideas need old buildings ."
(cited in North & South, Sept 2014 'Where to Dunedin?')
It has been called Dunedin's technology hub, as creatives and innovators are drawn to the area and what's so exciting to see is the merging of rich history with the possibilities and promise of today and tomorrow as this area continues to evolve and grow.
Sir Julius Vogel and progress: It's interesting that the namesake of Vogel Street, Sir Julius Vogel was known for his progressive thinking, a voice for social, cultural and industrial reformation. He was the first Jewish prime minister of New Zealand, the eighth Premier and is known for his work in the issuing of bonds to fund public works and railway construction.
He was a voice for reconciliation with the Maori people and in 1887 introduced the first women's suffrage Bill to Parliament although it was not successful until 1893.
Sir Julius has the reputation as the first New Zealander to write a science fiction novel (1889) called Anno Domini 2000 or Woman's Destiny which revealed a utopian world where women held many positions of authority.
It's almost as though he could see the changing fabric of society from his stage over 100 years ago. Fascinating to consider that this radical thinker and instigator of social change is the namesake of an area where we are seeing that change play out today on the streets of the revitalised Warehouse Precinct.
We see in it the women business owners featured in our insiders series, in the IT startups and global enterprises basing operations here, in the members of the business community adopting the Warehouse Precinct as their home base.
There's just something about the flavour of the past that leaves a rich residue of promise for the future.
H A P P Y W E E K E N D A L L
We'll be taking a break next week from feature friday as I'm currently in sunny Marlborough with my gal for some holiday time amongst the vines but do check in again on Friday 5th May.
I promise with Nick on his lonesome for 2 weeks there'll be new photo's galore....well scratch half of that - when is Nick ever on his own unless under duress?...wifely duress that is.