Blackball Community Centre
45 Hilton Street, Blackball
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 2
Private/No Public Access
19th March 1986
Date of Effect
19th March 1986
Extent of List Entry
Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 1181 (NZ Gazette 1983, p. 4170), Westland Land District and the building known as Blackball Community Centre thereon.
West Coast Region
Lot 1 DP 1181 (NZ Gazette 1983, p. 4170), Westland Land District
Constructed in 1910 as the house for the manager of the Blackball Coal Mine, the two storeyed timber building at 45 Hilton Street in Blackball now operates as the Blackball Community Centre and contributes to an understanding of Blackball’s history of mining, industrial unrest, unionism and change in the township. The Blackball Community Centre is a well-used community hub and has aesthetic, architectural, cultural, historical and social significance or value.
The Blackball Coal Mine began development in the 1880s and was a major West Coast producer. The town of Blackball was established by the Blackball Mining Company to provide accommodation for miners and other workers. The town was the centre of early union activity, and the sordid housing and social conditions contributed to the industrial unrest associated with the colliery. At the end of April 1910, Walter Leitch, mining manager at Blackball, put out a tender notice for ‘labour only’ construction of a residence for the mining manager, with the plans and specifications available for viewing the mine office. In late May 1910 the Grey River Argus reported that good progress was being made with the mine manager’s residence and that it should be finished in three months’ time. Compared to other housing in Blackball, the mine manager’s residence was grand. As well as housing Leitch and his family, it had quarters for servants’ in the garret.
Now forming the heart of the Blackball Community Centre, the former Mine Manager’s house stands tall at the western end of the town, on the road that leads to the site of the Blackball Mine. It is somewhat Gothic in its uneven appearance, with differing roof heights, projecting wings and a broad covered entrance porch with corner turret at first floor level above. The timbers are weatherboard, the roof is corrugated iron/steel, bargeboards on the gables are relatively plain and have narrow truss decoration towards the apex. Windows in the main part of the building are sash, the upper part of some being six-pane mullion and transom ones with coloured lights. The interior has undergone many alterations over the years but the staircase with its carved timber balustrades remain.
By the early 1950s the building became a miners’ hostel and a long dormitory-style hall was built alongside, to its west. The main building was extended to include a laundry and drying facilities. In 1958 the property was declared to be Crown Land and soon after vested in the Blackball District Community Centre as a site for a community centre. The house fell into disrepair until the early 1980s when the building was repaired and restored through thousands of hours of voluntary labour. In 1988 to 1989 ‘Access’ course trainees learned building and restoration skills and helped improve facilities at the centre and at this time the former house became used for the Crib Time Café. Further repair and maintenance has continued to be carried out periodically, often through community working bees. Since the vesting, the building has variously housed the local radio station, art classes, concerts, a boxing gym, accommodation and history room.
Long single storeyed dormitory wing built and laundry wing added
New corrugated steel roof cladding, foundation piles replaced, Crib Time Café opened
22nd July 2020
Report Written By
Historic Places in New Zealand
Historic Places in New Zealand
Wood, Brian, ‘A Distinctive Pocket of West Coast Settlement’: Blackball’s Militant Past, The Past Today: Historic Places in New Zealand, 1987.
Blackball History Group, 1993
Blackball History Group, Historic Blackball: A brief history of Blackball, Roa and Moonlight Districts, 1993
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.
A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Southern Office of Heritage New Zealand.