Two rooms in a cottage were Levin’s first store

The first store in Levin was built by a Mr Staff for Rod. A. McDonald in 1890. This was a combined house and store situated where Chainey Bros and Head of Today are now.

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The front two rooms were used as the store and the two rear rooms used as a dwelling. 

It was in this building that the first European child was born in Levin in 1891, the late Hector McDonald. 

This store would have catered for the simple needs of the early Levin settlers.  The stock would have consisted of a wide variation from pins to gumboots and from food to reaphooks.


First Mayor

In 1892 the store was sold to Basil R. Gardener, later in 1906 to become Levin’s first mayor.  A short time after, a Mr Watkins operated a store where Hudson and Burnham’s car court is now on the corner of Devon St. 

Some time in the early 1890s Mr Gardener built a new store south of the cottage and named it “The Manawatu Co-operative Store”. 

Through the 1890’s several very small shops, the Temperance Hotel and the Road Board office were built up to the present Rod Weir building. 

Some buildings were on the north side of Queen St up to the railway.  There were no buildings south of Queen St except for the Levin Hotel, built in 1890, and a billiard saloon in 1892 where W.M. Clark started his drapery shop in 1894. 

South of the hotel was the gravel reserve.  There were some shops on the east side, north of Queen Street, up to and including the present Chronicle office.  Bush still covered most of the land where the present Golden Mile is now.


Muddy Conditions

At this period there was only a short length of crossroads, with not even gravel until the late 1890s, with extremely muddy conditions. 

Basil Gardener sold his business to George Milnes some time in the late 1890s.  All the buildings on the west side except for the cottage and the Road Board office were gone before my memory of about 1920.


Celebrated Victory

In 1906 Basil Gardener celebrated his victory in the triangular contest for mayor in the cottage with his friends, including the chairman of the Horowhenua County Council. 

Later the cottage was used as a storeroom and later still was vacant for many years.


Candle in a skull

A story I have been told is that some of the young men from the outback would come into town and tether their horses to horseshoes driven into stumps about where the Power Board building is now.  They would congregate in front of the cottage. 

Someone put a lighted candle in a skull one night. There was no more congregating at that spot.

In 1924 Mr Mortenson bought the area which was known as the Bell Block and demolished the cottage so he could build the present building where Carpet Court is now on Queen Street corner.  Later more shops were built from the corner both ways. 

The timber of the cottage had been milled from the best of the trees of Levin, probably matai which abounded and it was used to build a cottage at Hokio Beach.  It may exist still.  Who knows? 

Jack Blenkhorn told me that his father bought a cottage at Hokio Beach about 1920 which had been built from the pitsawn timber of the coaching accommodation house stables probably before 1900.  A Mr Hitchings was the builder and owner. 

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Two rooms in a cottage were Levin’s first store

Creator:Corrie Swanwick
Creation date:27/10/1982
Publisher:The News
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License
Two rooms in a cottage were Levin’s first store by Pippa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License