Exciting new chapter for St Michael’s
Years of living with earthquake damage and associated repair work are over for relieved staff and students at one of Christchurch’s oldest schools.
Gone are the shipping containers from the main entrance to St Michael’s Church School, following the completion of repairs, earthquake strengthening and refurbishment of the school’s historic Old Stone Building.
Designed by prominent Christchurch architect Cecil Wood, the Old Stone Building was opened in 1913 and replaced an even earlier school building.
The Canterbury earthquakes caused extensive damage to old stone, lath and plaster but there is now no sign of that damage.
What’s more, the building as it stands today is much stronger and more robust than it was before the earthquakes.
All broken stone work has been repaired and properly fixed in place, shattered lath and plaster replaced with new gib linings and steel reinforcing added to tie the building together.
On July 2, a ceremony was held to bless the Old Stone Building, led by Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthews and attended by members of the school community and the St Michael and All Angels congregation.
Present as part of the ceremony was the original silver trowel used in 1913 to lay the first stone. This remains on display at a cabinet in the school.
“It was quite special for us, after everything we have been through, to see that trowel and reflect on how it has survived through the years and that we still have it here,” says St Michael’s marketing manager Bec Hitchcock.
With so many heritage buildings lost in the earthquakes, this restored category-two heritage listed building stands out as a beautiful and rare treasure in the Christchurch CBD.
Its style of architecture is very different to the modern buildings springing up around it in the city.
Preserved in its large old classrooms is a lingering sense of tradition that connects today’s generation of students to those of the past, dating back more than a century.
Now that the repair and renovation is complete, lessons can commence again in the Old Stone Building with senior students (Year 7 and 8) once more able to complete their primary studies there.
The school choir can hold rehearsals there again, while staff members are enjoying refurbished office space in the building.
Adding to the sense of celebration at the school is that its main entrance is now no longer blocked by a work site.
“We have lived with this for six years and it has had a huge impact on us, so it is wonderful that we can now enter the school the way we had intended.
“We are starting to get a lot of interest now from parents from parents who can see the benefit from central city schooling, close to work, with small class sizes and ease of before and after school care on site. It has been a long process, but people are coming back to the city and getting excited again.”
Funding for the repair and restoration included parish contributions and a large grant from the Christchurch City Council’s Central City Landmark Heritage Fund.
Further work is required to complete restoration of the building’s slate roof, along with landscaping and resealing of the carpark area, but the Old Stone Building is poised to become a real heritage standout on Durham Street.
“We’re planning to light the building at night so it becomes more visible and everyone can appreciate it.”
The main contractor for this project was Naylor Love, while the architect was Dave Pearson, of DPA Architects.