Historic Lawrence building on the market

St Patrick’s Church School and Hall, in Colonsay St, Lawrence, is now  for sale. It is owned by...
St Patrick’s Church School and Hall, in Colonsay St, Lawrence, is now for sale. It is owned by United States couple Nina Arron and Frank Buddingh.
The United States-based owners of the heritage-listed St Patrick's Church School and Hall in Lawrence hope that putting the Robert Lawson-designed building on the market will give ''new momentum'' to preservation efforts.

Former Dunedin resident Frank Buddingh and his wife Nina Arron, both of New York, said their ''quest for preservation'' of this historic, category 1-listed building started in about 1993, when they bought it.

In 2012, they gained a $60,000 grant from the Historic Places Trust to help protect the roof, but the grant was not uplifted.

Since 2012, the couple had initially divided their time between the United States and New Zealand but, over the past few years, they had spent more time in the US due to work commitments, ''my wife as an urban planner and I as an arboricultural tree consultant'', Mr Buddingh said.

They hoped that selling the building would enable the ''restoration process'' to ''gain new momentum to preserve this building'', he said.

United States couple Nina Arron and Frank Buddingh. Photo: Luke Bremner
United States couple Nina Arron and Frank Buddingh. Photo: Luke Bremner
''We dearly love this unique building and indeed like to see it restored to its former glory.''

The 240sq m building, on a 2035sq m site on the northern side of Colonsay St, overlooks the township's main street.

Throughout their ownership, whether they would ''permanently live there or otherwise'', their main aim concerning the school and hall complex was to ''make it accessible'', and at least partially available to the community.

''We strongly believe that this part of New Zealand history should not vanish.''

The building could be used as a ''dwelling/art studio, a reception or intimate concert space, a museum space''.

It had also served briefly as a local cinema.

After gaining the roof grant in 2012, he and his wife had ''worked hard'' to gather quotes from builders who specialised in historic building restoration and tried to establish ''an acceptable work schedule'' for the roof reconditioning, but ultimately could not find ''the right match''.

They had received an extension from Heritage New Zealand, but in the end the couple had informed HNZ they could not get ''the right team'' together to start work before the required deadline.

He said they they had "worked hard to gather quotes from builders who are specialised in historic building restoration'' and trying to work out an acceptable work schedule for the roof reconditioning.

"We were not able to find the right match and also found it increasingly complicated to ensure quality control over the work once the roof restoration would start."

"Since the grant was a time-bound grant we asked for and were granted an extension, for the grant, but in the end we informed Heritage New Zealand that we could not get the right team together to start the works before the required deadline."

"We have, over the years laid the basis for stabilisation and drainage of the foundation with much appreciated help and assistance from HNZ.

"Over the ensuing years we have had our unfortunate issues with specialists starting work on the building. One architect passed away while working on the plans and we had an agreement to work with a restoration builder, who sadly drowned at sea,'' he said.

Nevertheless, he and his wife did preserve the foundation, did work on down piping and had an archaeological dig that resulted in restoring the front grounds of the building, which was the original playground, he said.
The hall is one of only about three known surviving public buildings designed in timber by Lawson, and his only known building for the Catholic Church.

The Heritage New Zealand internet site said the large wooden building had been officially opened by Bishop Patrick Moran on March 17, 1872, and used as both a church and school for 20 years, becoming, in the 1870s, the largest school in the diocese.

The elegantly proportioned design was a rare example of school architecture, and was of ''outstanding architectural significance''.


So is this free advertising for the real estate agent?.

Cutting. We don't know.

Petre did most of the Catholic churches. How that Prot Lawson got the gig is a mystery.

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