Exactly 100 years after its official opening, Auckland's historic Campbell Free Kindergarten building in Victoria Park is being made over for another century of use.
The building’s restoration is part of the NZ Transport Agency’s Victoria Park Tunnel project.
The NZTA’s State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Tommy Parker, says part of the old building will house the standby electrical and communications systems for the neighbouring Victoria Park tunnel. The rest of the building will be returned to Auckland’s new council, which will decide how it will be used.
Mr Parker says the kindergarten’s restoration, to be completed early next year, will return the building to its original appearance and interior layout at no cost to Auckland’s ratepayers.
“This is a win-win story for Aucklanders: the NZTA gets a plant room right next to the tunnel and the community retains an important part of its history that’s fit to be used for another 100 years,” he says.
The “father” of Auckland, Sir John Logan Campbell, opened the kindergarten named after him on 10 October, 1910. It was New Zealand’s first purpose built kindergarten, established by the Auckland Kindergarten Association to serve Freemans Bay, then one of the city’s poorest suburbs.
The association provided free kindergarten education for what it called, in the language of the day, ‘the slum population of Auckland’, and the children of the ‘idle and the thriftless.’
The Campbell Free Kindergarten had a roll of 60 within months, and provided free pre-school education until the 1950s. The building was then used as the clubrooms for the Grafton Cricket Club. It has been unused for the past 20 years.
“When our makeover is complete,” says Mr Parker, “there is no doubt the restored building will reflect the way the community has changed and the next 100 years of its life is likely to be very different from the last.”