Monday, 16 December 2013

Invercargill, the last great city of the south

This is quite remote, though not arctic or antarctic; anyhow I see it as an extreme south 'Thulean' city.

Invercargill is the southernmost city in New Zealand, and in the whole Asia-Pacific region, around the same latitude of the Kerguelen Islands.

It lies in the heart of the wide expanse of the Southland Plains on the Oreti river's estuary, amid rich farmland, and is the commercial center of New Zealand's Southland region.

The Oreti flows southwards to the Pacific, through fertile flat lands.

The town center, the large Dee and Tay avenues, the Water Tower at left: built on flat land, it strangely reminds of  arctic canadian and alaskan towns - most buldings are just two or three-storey high.

Coordinates:  46° 24′S, 168° 20′  E
Population:   ~53 000

Bank Corner, the traditional town center

The Bank of New South Wales

Bank Corner is the intersection of Tay and Dee streets. In the middle of the roundabout is the Trooper's Memorial which honours those who died during the Boer War in South Africa.

When the commercial area moved some blocks away, the banks closed. They remain as remarkable architectural works and testimonies of an era of economic boom.

Built in 1878, the Bank of New Zealand is now the Bethel Centre, a Lutheran social organization.

The National Bank of New Zealand, on the Crescent, is now an Art gallery.

Many streets in the city, especially in the centre and main shopping district, are named after rivers in Great Britain, mainly Scotland: Dee and Tay, Tyne, Esk, Don, Thames, Mersey, Ness, Yarrow, Spey, and Eye rivers.

Dee street

The corner of Dee and Tay.

The 'Briscoes' building, 1880, one of the oldest stores in town.

The Alexander Building, on Dee street: late victorian style from 1901

The Grand Hotel, from 1913, with cast iron balustrade balconies.

Tay stret

The Town Hall and Theater, from 1906, where the town's cultural life takes place.
The theater auditorium can accomodate over 1000 spectators.

The Crescent

In this short curving street by the Bank corner is located the glorious Victoria Railway Hotel, from 1896 , with an octogonal turret and ornate balustrades:

Also in this building is the exclusive Gerrard's Restaurant

Esk Street

The home of the Southland Times newspaper, from 1908

Esk Street is the main shopping street of Invercargill. The west end of Esk Street is anchored by the new Wachner Place.

Spring time on Esk street

Wachner Place is the new comercial and civic open area, with pedestrian streets; it has become a place to sit and people watch.

Invercargill umbrella, a modern town's landmark on Don street.

Modern architecture, cafés and leisure facilities in Wachner Place.

The Water Tower:

Completed in 1889, it is 42.5 m high.

The Southlands boys high school:

St. Mary's basilica:

A catholic church on Tyne street, the basilica was completed in 1905 in the late Victorian style.

St Mary's Basilica is another one of the more notable landmarks of the city.

First Presbyterian church:

In polychrome brick, from 1915, after italian romanesque style.

Invercargill Civic Theater at night:

Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) are frequent over Invercargill, mainly around the equinoxes:


Linda said...

I'm writing this a few hundred yards away from the River Spey in Scotland. I knew (from New Zealanders we met on holiday this year) that Dunedin shared street names with its reference point of Edinburgh, but I didn't know about Invercargill's street names.
These towns on the edge of the empty southern oceans always call to mind for me the little villages facing away from the archipelago, in Ursula Le Guin's 'Earthsea' books.

Mário R. Gonçalves said...

Thank you for your visit and your comment, Linda.

Dunedin (NZ) and Invercargill are not far from each other, and both were founded by scottish settlers, no wonder they shared ideas about naming streets. Dunedin was first named "New Edimburgh"! As for Invercargill, it was built on flat marsh land peacefully bought from the Maoris, and the first settlers were an irishman, John Kelly, and his scottish wife. The settlement's first name was... Inverkelly !

As for Le Guin's fantasy towns, yes, they have something in common with Ultima Thule, be it arctic or antarctic !