In 2016, Stuart Greenhill and Jo Stallard successfully enacted their vision of restoring a heritage building. "Saving it from further neglect or worse, demolition, was the prime objective" says Stuart, "investing in our heritage is a physical, economic and social investment."
"We have many people visiting us just to experience the building" says Jo, "the gin, art gallery and coffee are a bonus."
Jo had been looking for a heritage building to save and offered a ridiculously low price for Egmont Chambers in Stratford and bought it. No funding was available to earthquake proof the building as it was not listed on Stratford's District Plan, so we did it ourselves. It was a fantastic journey. The renovation won an award from the The Western Institute of Architecture: Alterations & Additions in 2019 and has been recognised on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero as Category 2 historic places.
Egmont Chambers was built in 1920, it is a physical testament to a period of growth in Stratford's development as a provincial centre. Blyss Wagstaff, Senior Heritage Assessment Advisor at Heritage New Zealand says the building signifies the town's maturation, transitioning from wooden to permanent brick, concrete and steel structures in the inter-war years."This phase of development has defined the character of Stratford's central business district" says Wagstaff. "The building has architectural significance as an enduring and elegant example of the Stripped Classical style, with a clear design connection to Stratford architect John D. Healy's other work in the town centre." Healy's legacy of stylistically-related business premises along Broadway and surrounding streets demonstrates the significant impact he had on Stratford's built landscape."Stuart and Jo's achievements in revitalising the fortunes of this building are inspirational" says Wagstaff. "The Fenton Street Art Collective is full of creative character and a really positive development in Stratford."
67 percent of the country's local councils support incentives to encourage the preservation of local heritage and cultural significant buildings. Sadly in March 2020, Stratford District Council voted to remove the last incentive to encourage landlords to upgrade their buildings.
"We each have a responsibility to think about the wellbeing of future generations" says Stuart. "These buildings define our place in our social history. To identify with that legacy creates pride in ourselves and our community."
Thompson, O'Neil and Clifford Limited Building, Former Municipal Chambers and Malone Memorial Arch and Gates are the only other building/structures on the heritage list in Stratford.
Read more about Egmont Chambers here.