Painstaking repairs to Shed 10 on Auckland’s Queens Wharf have opened a window into the former life of the old building.
The former customs warehouse, built in 1910, is undergoing a $14 million refurbishment to transform it from a neglected and empty building into a hub of activity.
The work is focused on restoring the heritage values of the old building rather than adding a whole host of shiny new features.
Shed 10 will welcome visitors as the city’s cruise ship terminal once upgraded and be an event space during the off-season.
Much of the effort is being put into stripping away many of the layers added over the years – the upstairs matai floors have been stripped back, steel struts blasted free of flaking paint, and 1950s-era gib board partition walls removed.
It is this scratching away and restoration work that has revealed some of the human history of the building.
While removing gib board walls from the first floor of the shed workers uncovered the kind of remnants of earlier habitation that Auckland Council heritage staff say makes restoring old buildings so worthwhile.
Found behind the removed walls were a series of doodles of aircraft, cartoons, comic strips and posters dating from the World War II era.
Council heritage unit leader John Brown says the find provides a valuable glimpse into life in another time.
He imagined a worker killing time on a break by doodling a fighter plane, or staff sticking funny comics from the day on the wall.
“It’s pretty cool to find those little memories of the past,” he says.
“The thing that makes it so cool is it speaks to the life of the building.
“We normally think of a building as an object but it’s more of an organism, and that’s why keeping it and reusing it is so important – it retains the life of the building.”
Mr Brown says Shed 10 has an interesting story from its 1910 construction and work is being done to ensure this can be collated and told.
“It’s the last one of the 100-year-old sheds that were constructed at the same time and it has had three to four significant phases of adaptation and alteration over that time.
“All those phases are recorded using archaeological techniques and we are keeping a record of any material that comes up.
“There has been a very detailed methodology drawn up.”
Anything that can be salvaged and reused in the building is, and other features, including an original stairwell and an old cargo hoist, are being kept to help tell the shed’s story.
Design project manager John Smith of Waterfront Auckland has been involved with the Shed 10 project since 2009.
He says there are many good yarns about the building and the people who used to work in it. “Guys who used to work here would say if they were late back from lunch the boss would be waiting and so they would come up in the hoist rather than using the stairs to avoid him,” he says.
Waterfront Auckland is keen to hear from anyone who may have worked in Shed 10 in the past 50 years.
“We want to collate that information and tell the story.”