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What lies beyond the boarded-up old store?

Queen St’s oldest building has had many lives, but a property manager wants to restore it to its original state.

Since Hunting and Fishing vacated Queen St, passersby have speculated about what was happening behind the boarded-up shop front.

Owner and project manager David Borman found hidden treasures from when the place was first built, including the mezzanine floor, balustrades, pressed tin ceilings, beams and original skylights.

The shop was built in 1879, and is believed to be the oldest commercial building in Masterton. It was originally a shop which went bust, and then became a town hall theatre, a general store, a timber store, a sports store, Masterton’s first New World supermarket, and most recently, a Hunting and Fishing store.

Older residents might remember the site as Graham and Co, which was run by a successful Scottish grocer John Graham and his family until the 1960s.

“The mezzanine floors have been buried since the 1960s.

“The original tiles have been covered for 100 years. The roof space was covered.

“Most of it got buried. When it became a supermarket, they didn’t want the old-fashioned skylights.”

Borman’s aim is to restore it back to its original design.

“We aren’t making it available for lease yet. This is one of those jobs where you need to take time.

“We decided not to look for tenants until after the building finishes.”

He started ordering parts for the restoration while waiting for permits, including pressed tin from Melbourne and Balustrades from Levin. The building will start early next year.

He worked closely with Wairarapa historian Gareth Winter, in rediscovering the store’s history.

Winter said it was exciting news.

“He’s not just going to restore, but enhance its mana.

“It’s a passion project for him. Not driven by the commercial … it’s something he’s keen to see restored.”

Winter said the building had a lot of history.

“I’ve taken people into the building on heritage tours. They can’t get over how an old building like that is still standing.”

“Instead of using gib, the roof was made of pressed tin, pressed into shapes with a pattern. Dave told me people still make them in Australia.

“When it was a town hall, they held theatrical performances there. The tin roof wasn’t universally loved, because if there was a rainy day, you couldn’t hear the performers.”

Winter said the fact the building was still standing was miraculous.

“After the 1942 earthquake, the building was earthquake strengthened, and that strengthening still holds up today.”

Winter hoped that whoever leased the store after its restoration would honour its design.

Helen Holt
Helen Holt
Helen Holt is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age and enjoys reporting on a variety of topics, regularly covering Wairarapa events, tourism, local businesses, and the occasional health story.

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