Spring is the perfect time to amble about the Domain. The trees are full and plump with leaves, the exact shade of green which signifies fresh, crisp regrowth and opportunity. The sun is warm on your pale winter skin, and the psychotic-eyed geese honk as you pass their watery territory. It’s a grand place to take a turn when your sunless office becomes more like a claustrophobic cave and less a place of still-aired solace.
The Domain, as a public park, has been in situ for many years. It was purchased, as ever perhaps a little dubiously by Governor Fitzroy from Ngati Whatua (a local Maori Iwi or tribe for those outside of New Zealand) in 1843. The original Pa (village) site is still visible if you know where to look, as is a sacred totara tree on the volcanic cone near the center of the park.
Here is a proper vintage pic of the pavilion in the 1930’s from Auckland War Memorial Museum.
Big sections of the park were once a big ol’ boggy mess as a natural spring comes up from beneath the site. This spring still supplies much of the water for central Auckland. Once the bogs were drained and nice chalk line-able turf planted, it became the center of all thing cricket-team-sports-y in Auckland, and where there is cricket, there are cricket spectators who require a place to lounge and drink beer in the shade to lessen the terrible sun burn that is the legacy of such a drawn out game. The original grandstand burnt down in 1897 after which this classy erection was constructed and opened to the public in 1898. Isn’t that scalloping on the awning daaaahrrling?
You would think that with such a gentile history, the pavilion would be a place of historical re-enactment, romantic proposals and dewy-eyed protestations of love (for cricket perhaps) but you would be wrong.
The council has done a good job of looking after the buildings and maintaining the conservation of the structure, but unfortunately the space is primarily used by a group of people who sleep rough as; a storage for bedding, place to drink beers, nap during the day and yell at people doing crossfit in the park.
I have no issue with homeless people using the public places available to all of us, but it is a little unnerving when you walk past a pair of star-crossed teens practically dry humping in the dappled afternoon sunlight, only to then see a pair of semi-sober scraggly looking old dudes watching them from a few meters away and cackling. These dudes then started yelling *things* at me in a way that kind of took the pleasant sheen off my whole early afternoon meander.
On the day I took these photographs there were no scraggly old dudes in sight and for once the women’s toilet on the far left side of the building was unlocked. Though I was a little cautious of who might be lurking (don’t judge me, I’m anxious as fuck and getting shived in a public loo is NOT the way I want to leave this world) I popped inside to take a few pics and see what was on offer heritage toilet wise.
The toilets are at the back of the wooden section of the building and appear to be constructed from breeze blocks so I’m guessing they were not a part of the original 1898 construction. The beautiful semi circular windows and cornicing lead me to believe this bit was tacked on in the 20’s or 30’s. It’s a pity I couldn’t find any additional information about the extension but I imagine a trip to the archives would do the job.
The interior has hefty thick concrete walls and feels a little prison cell like. The facilities are industrial and mass produced so nothing really outstanding to be found.
The large piece of stainless steal used as a mirror gave a real fun house funny mirror charm to the place but I’m pretty sure it would be no use if you needed to touch-up your winged eyeliner. It made me look weirdly elongated and wobbly in the middle, no I was not doing a shimmy shake while taking this picture, that is just the warped reflection.
There are four showers in the bathroom but no doors. Useful for post-cricketing sweatiness, and also why I imagine the area is popular with the homeless crowd. There must be so few places in Auckland where you can get a free shower, which is sad.
The roof is not something to write home about but the bright red pipes were a cheerful touch.
There are three toilet cubicals around the corner with chunky doors which looked like they could be original (30’s original not 1890’s original). The decorative pigeon stabbing spikes EVERYWHERE were a nice, friendly touch.
Cleanliness : 7/10 I don’t think this one gets used very much as it is usually locked when I walk past so for the age, it was pretty clean, other than the empty bourbon & coke cans.
Interior : 6/10 I liked the heritage features of the windows and the red paint was a nice touch but other than the windows and doors there seemed to be no heritage features left which made me sad.
Exterior : 3/10 It gets a low mark because it is usually locked and therefore not a great choice when you are rushed or in a panic. If it were open I would say it would get a slightly better rating because it has many of the features which make a nice public toilet but…
Safety : 1/10 I felt like I was about to get screamed at/stabbed at every moment. I was there at about 1pm on a sunny spring week day yet, I felt at every second that my life may be in danger. Call me paranoid, but I think my anxiety attack would get much worse if I were hiding in a toilet that gave off such a rapey atmosphere at all times. Sad really because it has such potential.
Snugglitude : 4 /10 It’s difficult to rate the snugglitude of this one because while my love of all things social history and heritage makes me want to give it a good score, my overall preference for not being murdered with the sharp edges of a torn Cody’s n coke can make me mark it down a little.
Total : 21/50 You deserve better lovely old cricket stand.