'I like fixing things - and this is a big fixer-up': Artist breathing new life into old Canterbury hotel

The old Hororata Hotel will open to customers once again as an artist returns the historic building to its former glory.

But it will offer sustenance of a different kind than it has in the past.

Once iconic for its pies and being a landmark pub, the building is now home to pottery tutor Frank Hakkaart and fiancé Sarah Handley.

They have named it The Artist’s In, with the spelling of “In” intentional, as they don’t want people to think it is still a hotel.

Rather, it will be a potter’s studio and art gallery selling the work of artists of the district.

Frank Hakkaart is turning the former Hororata Hotel into a pottery studio and art gallery. Photo:...
Frank Hakkaart is turning the former Hororata Hotel into a pottery studio and art gallery. Photo: Geoff Sloan
The old pub was damaged in the September 4, 2010, earthquake and has not operated as a hotel since. The uninsured building, large at about 550 sq m, failed to attract bids when offered “as is where is” at auction in March last year. 

But where their fellow potential buyers saw a lot of work, Hakkaart and Handley saw opportunity.

They bought it 10 months ago and have begun long-term renovations, with the bar area shaping up as the shop, gallery, studio and teaching space.

Frank Hakkaart’s workspace inside the old Hororata Hotel. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Frank Hakkaart’s workspace inside the old Hororata Hotel. Photo: Geoff Sloan
The couple were planning to open Labour Weekend, however, with delivery delays of a front door and other items due to lockdown, the opening may instead be later in the year.

Hakkaart said the bar area had lent itself perfectly to becoming an artistic haven. It was a large wide open space, with dark-stained oregon woodwork.

“We have basically brightened it and cleaned it all up, lots of clean white surfaces,” Hakkaart said.

They planned to ultimately turn the rest of the building into a nice home, and would knock out walls in some of the bedrooms to make them bigger and reduce their number to six or seven. 

The former Hororata Hotel. Photo: Geoff Sloan
The former Hororata Hotel. Photo: Geoff Sloan
‘I like fixing things - and this is a big fixer-up’
Frank Hakkaart is utilising two of his skills at the former Hororata Hotel – pottery and home renovation.

As he sets up his pottery studio with gallery and teaching space, he is giving the old building an extensive makeover.

Hakkaart has operated West Melton Pottery for five years while based at West Melton. Now he and fiancé Sarah Handley are transitioning that business into their new residence and gallery at the former pub, called The Artist’s In.

Hakkaart said buying the former pub and moving out to Hororata had made perfect sense for the couple, as the studio at West Melton became too small to teach growing numbers attending his classes.

Not only did the former hotel offer more space, it was well located, lending itself to become a central area for Selwyn’s wide range of artists to display and sell their work.

“The gallery, the size it is, is a real bonus. It means we can open it up and create a craft art hub here in Hororata,” he said.

However, the building needed a lot of work. This is a challenge Hakkaart is more than happy to take on, having come from a background of home renovation.

Frank Hakkaart enjoys pottery and home renovation. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Frank Hakkaart enjoys pottery and home renovation. Photo: Geoff Sloan
When he and his late wife lived in Dunedin, Hakkaart was a stay-at-home dad who would renovate the couple’s homes and work casually as a handyman.

“I like fixing things, and this is a big fixer-up,” he said of the former hotel.

“It’s a great project to do for the next five to 10 and 15 years, depending on how the body lasts really. I like to be busy, and this just ticked all those boxes,” he said.

They have removed a large macrocarpa hedge and undertaken other outdoor improvements, which has yielded two historic coins, from 1900 and 1901, as well as old broken bottles. 

The pub was moved to the site in 1890 and has had many additions, including a first storey, since.

Frank Hakkaart. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Frank Hakkaart. Photo: Geoff Sloan
“It’s a character building, and it’s obviously a historical one. It lacks historical listing because of all the changes it has had over the years. As part of the Hororata community, it has a huge amount of history tied into it, everyone around here would have stories about the place,” Hakkaart said.

He said the pub’s heyday was in the 1980s and 90s when it was a stopover for skiers, and visited by locals and others passing through.

While those days were gone, today Hororata remained a destination township, he said. It had many weekend visitors from people driving and biking through, as well as classic car rallies.

He said they were looking forward to opening their doors, although ironically have had to turn some people away.

“The number of times we have had people turning up at the door, they are wanting a beer or wanting to use the TAB or whatever. We are having to say: ‘It’s been 10 years mate’,” Hakkaart said.

 

 

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