Foodstyle Review Magazine
Sure to rise again
tourism has always been a feature of the city of Christchurch and on a
recent visit Suzanne Middleton pays homage to a heritage funded by an
iconic and philanthropic 20th century food company as the earthquake
smashed city recovers.
“Food and Wine has always been a strong focus of the tourism industry in Christchurch and Canterbury,” says the chief executive of Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism, Tim Hunter.
“Bars, restaurants and cafes have been some of
the first businesses to re-emerge, driven by a very determined
hospitality sector giving life back to the city. Much of this new
hospitality is occurring in the heart of the city which is a major
confidence boost to other investors.”
My early memories of Christchurch are of the
beautiful Edmonds factory, built between 1920-23 in the industrial
section of Ferry Road in Woolston, with its lawns and dazzling flower
beds at the front - images still preserved on the covers of the various
editions of the classic Edmonds Cookery Book.
Edmonds Baking Powder is still a hugely popular
product in this country since Thomas Edmonds produced his first 200
tins in 1879. To this day, you will find it in most Kiwi pantries,
along with other baking essentials like custard powder and cornflour.
In the early days, recipes were printed on discs of paper and placed in
the lids of the baking powder tins.
The first cookbook, with the title The Sure to
Rise Cookery Book, was published in 1908 and given away to reward loyal
customers. Edmonds staff over several decades even scanned the
engagement notices in newspapers and posted a free copy of the book to
every engaged couple. Married women could write to the factory to
receive a free copy.
The ‘American Colonial’ style three storey
rectangular factory, with its iconic ‘Sure to Rise’ sign and sunray
motif, didn’t fall victim to the earthquake in early 2011 as it had
already been demolished in the name of corporate progress, along with
most of its gardens, amid much controversy in 1990.
Thomas had been a keen horticulturalist and
member of the international Garden City Movement which aimed to redress
some of the woes of 19th century industrialisation by encouraging
factory owners to set up gardens for the enjoyment of their workers.
Factory garden competitions were fiercely contested.
Fortunately back in 1990 when the demolition
ball was swinging, a large garden to the west of the factory was bought
by the Christchurch City Council and The Friends of The Edmonds Factory
Gardens restored it as a peaceful enclosed area with ponds, roses,
hellebores, irises, water lilies, oaks, chestnuts and lawns. The site
is the venue for the annual Garden Party, in association with the
city’s Festival of Flowers, with the next event on February 17, 2013.
“We still get a lot of support from the
extended Edmonds family,” says John Hoskins, the president of The
Friends of The Edmonds Factory Gardens.
“We are slowly getting the gardens back to
pre-earthquake standards, with just the waterfall and stream, victims
of liquifaction, to go.
“Hopefully they will be up and running by the
date of the Garden Party.”
The factory wasn’t the only contribution the
Edmonds made to the beautiful architecture of Christchurch in the first
half of the last century. By 1929 their baking powder business had
grown from the original room at the Edmonds grocery store in 1879 to
become a national brand, with annual sales of 2.5 million tins.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of their
residence in the city and Christchurch City Council's Diamond Jubilee
celebrations, the Edmonds donated about 5000 pounds towards the city’s River
Bank Improvement scheme, made up of a band rotunda and shelter,
riverside walk and clock tower, a phone box, circular seat, lighting
standards along the Avon River, a curved balustrade wall along the
river bank, and steps down to the landing at the river’s edge and the
reserve. This area became known as Poplar Crescent, after the suburb of
Poplar in London where Thomas Edmonds was born, and also in reference
to the poplar trees lining the river bank.
Which makes me wonder how much of this Edmonds’
heritage will be retained in the city’s rebuild plans?
“There are so many important elements to
consider with the rebuild plans to ensure a liveable and successful
city – hospitality businesses are commonly a result of social hubs
being created organically,” says Tim Hunter.
“We are confident that the city planners
understand that people bring life to the city and hospitality is
already featuring as a key element of the rebuild.”
The band rotunda was severely damaged by the
earthquake, but as it is a category II heritage building, a
deconstruction and protection plan was developed with the City
Council's heritage team to remove the structurally sound dome and roof
and salvage samples of the less damaged columns, balustrades, steps,
plinth and basement.
Anna Crighton from The Heritage Trust says
what’s left of the Edmonds heritage buildings fall under the Avon River
Precinct plan. “How much will be retained for the future will be a
decision/plan made by the consortium which wins the design proposal
competition,” she says.
As to the features of the 1929 River Bank Improvement scheme, “The clock tower has been made safe and will be restored as will the telephone box. The light standards have also survived as did the balustrade and steps as well as the shelter,” says Anna.
“I am not sure what condition they are in
however. The band rotunda has been deconstructed and, as far as I know,
will be reconstructed on the same site. The CCC has advised
As the damaged buildings in the CBD are
demolished, or parts of them are knocked down leaving only the facades
propped up with giant chunks of metal and even lines of containers,
opportunities for creativity abound.
During my visit to the centre of Christchurch
in November 2012, I grasped what they mean by ‘rediscovery of public
spaces’. They’re luring people back into the city with the Restart Mall
of containers titivated into shops, a mini soccer pitch opposite the
Ibis Hotel (the first to reopen in the CBD), a market just for children
on a busy street corner, and numerous other small scale attempts to
resuscitate the inner city right up to the edge of the impenetrable
mesh fences surrounding the Red Zone.
The current gap fillers and pop-ups appearing
on empty sections are like symbols of what’s been lost. On Oxford
Terrace, former home of The Strip (party central in the old
Christchurch) was the Dance-O-Mat - a dance floor on a vacant lot where
you can plug in your iPod and dance to the music. On another empty site
a large fridge with double glass doors displayed a few dozen books, a
tiny library in a city where the public library system has been badly
damaged. In Colombo Street in Sydenham a piano sat discreetly in the
back corner of a section. It’s covered with a heavy plastic sheet,
waiting for anyone who fancies a singalong.
But the most ambitious and inspirational
project in this broken city is the rebirth of C1 Espresso, which
reopened in the beautiful Art Deco High Street post office in November
2012. With their premises across the road demolished, the owners have
gutted the former home of Alice in Videoland to create a 300 seat café.
“Despite it being all new we wanted people to
feel it was part of their lives,” says C1 Espresso co-owner, Sam
He aims to make customers feel they are in a
familiar place, with table tops made from recycled weatherboards off
houses in the Red Zone, a Lamson Tube (think department stores of your
childhood) to convey orders to the kitchen, a treadle sewing machine
dispensing water, and lights recycled from the Christchurch Arts
Centre. Tables will cover a “parklet” in front of the
building, and the roof is home to grapevines and a beehive.
“We're trying to challenge people to do better
than this,” he says in terms of recycling, using heat from the kitchen
to heat the cafe, sourcing their coffee from a women's co-op in Samoa,
beehive on the roof, saving water etc.
In a wasteland of rubble, containers, creaky
buildings and rearing cranes, this ambitious café on the very edge of
the Red Zone epitomises the phoenix spirit of Christchurch at the end
For more information visit http://www.christchurchnz.com.
Factory workers in 1906, sourced from Christchurch Public Library's website.
2012 Foodstyle Review. All
|The original band rotunda alongside the Avon River and gifted by the Edmonds was earthquake damaged and waiting rebuild.
Original part of the Edmonds Factory gardens that have survived both demolition ball and earthquakes.
Temporary library in an old commercial fridge.
Edmonds factory 1908. Photo sourced from Ketechristchurch, part of Chch Public Library's website.
A piano waits for a party.