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End of an era for Empire Lodge

Quality Demolition manager Shane Gray. PHOTO/BECKIE WILSON

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What was salvageable stayed, but the rest had to go during the first stage of the demolition of the Empire Lodge buildings on Masterton’s Queen St.

Workers moved in on Tuesday morning to take down the historic building which will make way for the new Big Save Furniture building, which is expected to open early next year.

The Empire Lodge building is next to go with demolition expected to start next week.

A crowd gathered, and cheered, as the building’s façade was pulled down by two excavators from Quality Demolition around midday.

It was announced in mid-July that Garry Daniell had sold the two earthquake-prone buildings, the Empire Lodge and the neighbouring building.

The buildings were home to the Empire Lodge accommodation, ArrowFM, Taste cafe, Wairarapa Vapez, Discount Specialist on Queen St, and the Masterton Foodbank at the rear of the building.

A view from Queen St of the excavators pulling down the building next to the Empire Lodge.

Demolition started Tuesday morning from the rear of the building where the Masterton Food Bank was once sited.

The Empire Lodge building dates back more than 100 years.

After it was damaged in the 1942 earthquake, the licensing trust bought it as its flagship hotel in 1953.

It hosted Queen Elizabeth II the following year when she visited the town.

Project manager Dave Borman said much timber was salvaged before and during demolition, such as old signage and balustrades, as well as about 20,000 bricks.

The new building will be a single-storey “character” building.

“We will be using quite a lot of the salvaged material in the new building, the wall of the cafe will be brick on the side and there will be brick columns right across the front,” Borman said.

In about three weeks’ time, the site will be cleared ready for construction to begin in mid-January.

Quality Demolition manager Shane Gray was on duty early yesterday morning to manage the demolition.

Gray said quality timber, including large pieces of rimu, oregon and kauri would be recovered, cleaned up and then resold to the public or used in the new build.

The 20,000-odd bricks would be transported away in bulk to be cleaned for reuse, he said.

Before demolition could begin, the buildings had to be cleared of asbestos.

Surveys were done to determine where and how much asbestos there was.

Borman said low-grade asbestos that was found in the roof, and on the back of vinyl flooring as well as in lagging of old pipes, was removed and taken to Palmerston North for disposal.

The site was then checked off by the lab and was issued a clearance certificate last Friday.


  1. Yes great place.
    Spent the last 12 years there during the Golden Shears.
    Happy retirement Bill and Helen. And not forgetting Bruce.
    Wil Davies Rotorua

  2. Great times spent staying at the Empire since year 2000 when attending the airshow. The perfect place to stay because of locality and excellent hosts. Last stayed 2017. Good luck in your retirement Billand Helen Shand from the Rotorua trio.

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