Link with History Disappears

A link with the early days of Levin will disappear today when Howard’s Hardware shop in Oxford Street is demolished. In the following article the history of the shop and its various owners is described by Mr C. Swanwick.

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The shop is on part of the section bought by Messrs Charles and Fred Roe in 1889 to build the Levin Hotel.

The section frontage was from Queen Street to the present Woolworths Variety.  The hotel and land were sold to Mr McCormack in 1891. 

The front part of Howard’s Hardware shop must be the only building in Levin of 1891 – 1892 vintage.  Comparing a 1900 photo and the present shop the only difference is the alley and that the old-time verandah with supporting posts has been replaced with a suspended one. 

Many years ago my cousin-in-law, Mr Harold Reading told me that he and Mr George France (when they were boys about 1910) saw a fire starting in the hotel dining room window curtain. The hotel was right up to the alley and the dining room was visible through the window right up to the time when that part of the hotel was demolished.

 The boys wanted the fire to get going well before ringing the fire bell.  When the fire was getting well up the curtains, one of them as it would be said now “chickened out” and ran to the Fire Station and rang the bell.  The fire was put out by the brigade before serious damage was done. 

Haswell Bros were advertising in 1916 as grocers in the shop. 

Mr Wally Hume operated a billiard saloon and was a “bookie” as a sideline, probably before 1920, but definitely by 1924 when Mr Wilkinson bought the barbers’ business next door.  It is thought that Mr Dan Hannan operated the saloon with one of his sons in charge.  Mr Hannan then owned the hotel and the shop. 

A fire occurred in the shop in late 1927, damaging the north wall, part of the roof and floor.  A tailor, Mr Duff had his business in the small place of the north front window. He altered and repaired clothing and did not make men’s clothing. His equipment was damaged.

The Hannan Estate asked the Borough Council to have an exemption from the regulation that the damaged wall should be rebuilt in fire resistant material.  At a meeting on November 16, 1927 the councillors were very divided on the matter. One pointed out that it was remiss to let the wall be rebuilt in timber.  Another said the hotel would soon be rebuilt and then a fire resistant wall would have to be built.

(This part of the hotel was not demolished until 1975 and a building built to the boundary until this year). 

The council allowed the wall to be rebuilt in timber.  Mr Hume carried on his “bookie” business in a back room of a nearby shop until the shop was repaired.  The roof had to be rebuilt and part of the floor replaced. 

About 1933 Mr Frank Howard bought the property from the Hannan Estate and opened as a hardware and general merchant business. 

Mr Howard has previously worked at Parker and Vincent’s general merchant shop where the Public Trust is now (in a replaced building).  Mr Howard had five acres of land in Fairfield Road, milking a few cows.  As the “new boy” at Scobie and Co Ltd nursery (now Blacks Orchids) in 1939, my first job in the morning was to get the milk for the house from Mrs Howard. 

Mr Howard’s son, Mr Russell Howard, bought the business in 1947 with Mr Joe Bleakley as partner. 

It was some time in their period of occupancy, or later when Russell operated the business alone that the full rights of the alley and half the rear land of the building to the south were bought. Hitherto, the three shops had the right of use of the alley. This right was apparently written into the land deed.

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Link with History Disappears

Creator:Corrie Swanwick
Creation date:21/04/1984
Publisher:The Chronicle