Who lived there?

A new book out this month looks at the fascinating stories behind some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s historic buildings. 

Front cover of 'Who Lived Here' book featuring hut in Arthur's Pass
New Zealand is full of buildings whose back stories have been lost over the generations. Wondering about the stories behind some of these, from cute colonial cottages to abandoned industrial buildings and ghost towns, Nicola McCloy and Jane King went looking to find out ... who lived there? 

Having worked together on the highly successful 2018 title Let’s Get Lost, the two friends hit the road once again. On their travels they sought out the fascinating stories of the people who lived, worked and died in buildings that range from basic stone cottages in barren-looking countryside to pretty coastal villas, romantic churches and small-town taverns - including some Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga sites, such as Thames School of Mines, Fyffe House and Pompallier Mission, as well as many Category 1 and 2 listed buildings. 

Jane King’s photographs and Nicola McCloy’s words weave the facts back together to present gripping stories of these places and their ups and downs over time. 

Nicola says it was often the smaller more ordinary buildings that ended up really grabbing her attention. 

“In terms of what I learned in my travels, the main thing was that just because a building is spectacular or significant doesn't mean it will have a story that grabs your imagination. As such, it was often the most unassuming, small or ordinary buildings that offered up the most amazing stories.” 

She says a good example is the WEA building in Invercargill. “From the outside, it's not that different from a lot of buildings in the city, but when I found out it was built by - and named after - David Strang, the man who invented instant coffee, that changed everything!” 

Turn the pages to find out about places as diverse as the old School of Mines in Thames, Rush Munro’s Ice Cream Garden in Hastings; Couldrey House at Wenderholm, near Auckland; Mt Cook Police Barracks in Wellington; Langlois-Eteveneaux House in Akaroa; Donovan’s General Store in Okarito; the Empire Tavern in Dunedin and Invercargill’s David Strang Building. 

With beautiful photographs by Jane King, supplemented with historic shots to show how little or how much some of these places have changed. 

The book is published by Penguin Random House New Zealand on 2 November 2021.

- Anna Knox