Wednesday, 25 November 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

The little library with a whole lot of history

The quaint Ferry Landing Library building is enough to ignite more than a spark of curiosity for visitors who may find themselves passing by as they make their way to and from the Ferry Landing Wharf.

Amazingly it still functions as a working library, providing locals with reading materials for a small yearly subscription. Members sign themselves in to borrow or return books as they are given their own keys. The quirky building is full of character and also boasts quite a bit of history.

Early settlement activity in the Whitianga area was on the Ferry Landing side of the harbour with the first mill built there in the early 1800s. The stone wharf, constructed in about 1838, is recorded by Heritage New Zealand as being the oldest wharf structure in New Zealand. It was built to service the growing timber milling, gum and flax industries in Mercury Bay. A fire in the early 1880s saw the Mercury Bay Timber Company relocate the mill across the river to the Whitianga side, prompting significant growth, the beginning of the community we see today.

Within a few years, most of the population of Ferry Landing had moved across the river. It wasn’t until after World War II that Ferry Landing started to develop again and most of the houses now located there were built since that time.

In the early 1950s, a group of locals started to donate books and magazines to a Mrs Neilson at well-known Ferry Landing house, the “Pink Palace,” and these were sold to start a library fund. In 1957, with the money raised and after a formal application to the Librarian-in-charge of the Country Library Service in Hamilton, the Ferry Landing Library opened in September. It was housed in the basement of a house until 1960 when the library gained access to a building located next to the local store then used by estate agent, Percy Bruford, which was deemed too small for a commercial enterprise. Local farmers, Toby Morcom and his father, Chas, dragged the building across the road on skids to its present location where locals pitched in to provide permanent foundations after it was blown off the skids by high winds.

Until 1988, the Country Library Service van, which had a much broader selection of books, visited the library every four months and all members would come around and choose and return books. It was always an exciting time when the van turned up. There was a series of librarians over the years, the last one being Kate Piper, who started in 1986.

Over the years, as various developments in the area altered the surrounding landscape, the small building suffered multiple floods damaging the carpeting and books. In 2011, the weather demolished the building in under 10 minutes. A group of locals led by Toby Morcom rebuilt a replica of the building off site, donating their time and materials. The new incarnation of this special part of Ferry Landing’s history was installed soon after and donated to Thames-Coromandel District Council.

Pictured: The Ferry Landing Library is an interesting building with a colourful past.

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