Thursday, March 25, 2010

Save the Orange Hall for Future Generations

Orange Ballroom, 143-149 Newton Road, Eden Terrace.

This building is protected and therefore cannot be demolished. I believe it should be bought by the council or perhaps some joint council-private ownership provision. It is only a question of time when the Newton hillside is redeveloped into residential accommodation. The Orange Hall would be the centre piece of this community and would also fit well with any modern urban design.
My background is Fenian and to call for the retention of this building some may find surprising. Yes it has a history however not all of it is belligerent. It has been a hall for the people and enjoyed by tens of thousands

Seventy years ago Newton was thriving residential community. Much of the infrastructure from this time is still there and would only need some renewing. Not only is it a great location for redevelopment but with all the infrastructure there it would be cheaper than a green field site. The suggested underground rail link suggests a proposed station is in Symond's St in Newton. If this was placed near the top of Newton Rd, it would help revitalize the area and provide another great reason for a well thought out plan for urban design on this hillside.

With the community facility which also backs onto Basque Park, we will have the possibility of a fantastic recreational area. Being a sunny northern slope with its proximity to Ponsonby, it is a desirable place to live. Newton Rd is also part of The Link bus route. If we look at the Orange Hall not as a stand-alone building, but as a historic community asset and if we can get the hall right, it bodes well for the resettlement of the whole Newton hillside. The Orange hall symbolises much to Auckland and will live for another 100 years where people will have good times and fond memories.
If you are interested in the history of this Auckland land mark please read below.

The Orange Hall was designed in 1922 by A. Sinclair O'Connor [1] and completed the following year. It was altered in 1937, again to O'Connor's design, with the addition of a parapet roof and redesigned top storey [2], and an extension added in 1957, to the design of another noted Auckland architect, Clinton Savage [3]. At some point, an awning was added to the front entry, which now obscures much of the original 1922 design around the front doors from the road, but most of the combined 1922/1937 exterior design features appear to still be present. The hall's corner site and position on the Newton Road slope mean it is readily visible from Symonds Street.

The interior has seen various alterations over the years, with the dance floor replaced in 1954 [4], thought to be sprung and made of tawa ("the best dance floor in Auckland") [5], and an off-street car park added when 143 was purchased in 1983 by the Auckland Orange Hall Society [6].

The Orange Lodge has been in Auckland since 1840, forming a Grand Lodge in 1867 [7]. It appears that the Lodge which had the Orange Hall built in 1923 had immediate origins to a Deed of Trust dated 1912, the trustees having among their duties "to promulgate the principles and further the practice of the Protestant Religion and to afford its members the means of Social intercourse, spiritual improvement and rational recreation." [8] The Lodge had apparently been meeting in the Protestant Hall in Karanghape Road before this, but sold that hall to construct the Newton Road one. [9]

In 1932 the property's title was placed in the name of a list of trustees of the Lodge, including past Grand Master and noted timber merchant David Goldie, and auctioneer Edward Turner [10]. In July 1954 the Auckland Orange Hall Society Incorporated was created and duly incorporated [11], and are as at the time of writing this report still the owners of the Orange Hall [12].

"We're as slick as the Orange in Auckland" wrote Peter Cape in his 1958 song Down the Hall on a Saturday Night [13]. Ballroom dancing, up until the advent of television and other forms of entertainment in the latter half of the last century, was a popular and regular social event in Auckland. The heyday of the "Orange", short for Orange Ballroom, was the 1940s with the dance hall packed and queues stretching back down Newton Road [14]. During World War II especially "the Orange opened its doors six nights a week to the crowds queuing four deep down its steep steps and along Newton Road." [15] The supper room below the dance hall area catered for the crowds and even up to the late 1980s still served sandwiches, cakes, tea and coffee (no alcohol allowed on the premises by the owners.) [16] Long-running tenants and users of the dance hall included Arthur Skelton and his Dance Band and the Beau Regarde Dance Club. [17]

Arthur Wheelhouse, Skelton's partner, recalled in 1987 how dance halls, such as the Orange Ballroom, helped to start the careers of New Zealand musicians and entertainers, such as Mavis Rivers, Bill and Boyd, Howard Morrison and Kiri Te Kanawa. Tom Sharplin is said to have developed his rock and roll style at the Orange [18]. Auckland musician Bill Sevesi, who played at the Orange Ballroom for 23 years, received the Pacific Islands Artist Award in 1997 for his contribution to the development of the Pacific Islands arts in New Zealand. Musician for more than 50 years, composer of nearly 200 songs with 20 LPs to his credit, Sevesi was the first to record the Yandall Sisters and Annie Crummer when she was still an unknown. He started playing at the Orange Ballroom in 1958, his band finally ceasing in 1981.

In 1990 the ballroom underwent a colour change to its interior, repainted a cream colour by the Performing Arts School. The trademark interior orange colour is said to have originated just after World War II [19]. It is still rented out for functions, including weddings, today.

Lisa J Truttman
5 September 2006