Frequently when I talk about heritage jazz venues in New Zealand I finish off my spiel with “…and now it’s a car park/office building/apartment block,” etc. However, I can happily forego that here, and report that the Orange Coronation Ballroom is alive and well!
As Aucklanders well know the Orange Hall has been sitting derelict for far too long, and two years ago I walked past and saw that it was all scaffolded and closed off, and it seemed to me at the time that the hall had been demolished with only the façade left, and naturally I wrote a blog lamenting that fact, while also talking about the hall’s history. It turns out that that wasn’t the story (and I’m happy I was wrong!).
Then (with the annex) and now
Two months ago I walked past the hall while I was taking photos of Auckland’s jazz heritage for my NZ Music Month talks. Imagine my surprise when I saw a renovated Orange Hall- not just the façade, but the whole hall (well, minus the annexe, but that was derelict even before the rest of the property was left to wither), with a sympathetic retail/apartment development curving around the hall. In Auckland heritage, that’s something of a (pleasant) shock- that a heritage, but unlisted, building was left standing, and that the surrounding new development actually complimented the original structure. Not long after I made that discovery I was contacted by Tony Smith (one of the developers from Burwood Orange Ltd), who offered me the chance to walk through and see what they’d done. As you can imagine, I jumped at the chance to see what had happened.
Tony was my guide for the walk through (along with fellow heritage blogger Timespanner); he’s really passionate about the preservation of the hall, and wanting it to return to a vibrant building that is central to the community. This was my first time inside the hall- it’s been closed off to the public since before I became interested in New Zealand jazz and its history- and it was incredibly exciting to see in person, what I’ve only seen in photographs until now. Walking in the entrance really is like stepping back in time.
The Entrance Hall
To the left of the main entrance is the ticketing office where hundreds of thousands of people over the years bought their tickets to the dance.
Past that to the left and right are smaller reception rooms and downstairs is the supper room, but straight ahead is the main attraction, the ballroom. Entering in through the double doors was an absolute treat for a history nut like myself to see the floor where many a couple cut a rug to the likes of Ted Croad and later Bill Sevesi. Where thousands of GI’s and their girls crowded in during the war, and finally figuring out where the bandstand was- not straight ahead like I thought it would be, but to the left of the doors beneath the windows.
Where the bandstand was (look at the top left corner of the Croad photo- window frame!)
To the right the new glass doors let in a lot of natural light and lead out onto the courtyard that replaced the annex.
Ballroom looking out onto the courtyard
The courtyard is a work of art in itself- the designers bolted down metal chairs both as a bit of seating and recalling the dance hall days. They even imprinted ‘dancing feet’ patterns into the concrete!
The Courtyard- see the dancing feet?
The new owners of the Hall are apparently very heritage focused (something we need more of), and they wanted to keep as much as they could of the original. Most of the original doors and windows were able to be kept, as were the hardwood floors and rafters on the ground level (ballroom, what will now be a café and a small reception room.
Looking down at the ballroom from the meeting room
Upstairs in the original meeting room for the Orange Lodge 75% of the wood panelling is original, as is the moulded ceiling and light fixtures.
The Orange Lodge Meeting Room
What is new is almost indistinguishable from the original- even the new light fittings in the bathrooms are Deco-esque in keeping with the time that it was built. Some things had to be changed of course to bring it up to current earthquake code, but thr changes were made sympathetically to the original. The restoration and the sympathetic new build surrounding the hall were good enough to win a heritage award for the architects (Crosson Clarke Carnachan Architects & Tonkin Zulaika Greer Architects in association, and Dave Pearson Architects). The restoration is almost complete- the supper room and a few other touches, such as repainting the front steps still need to be done, but this is the best the Orange Coronation Ballroom has looked in probably half a century or more.
The hope in this restoration is to have the hall used again as a multi-purpose venue for both private and public functions, and especially for music and dance. It’s already started in fact, with some private receptions using the smaller rooms. The ballroom and supper room also feature in the new NZ Post ad:
Here’s hoping The Orange returns to the dancing (and music) days soon…