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Drawings for Victoria Theatre found in safe hands

Flagstaff Team

Devonport history protected… Sarah Cox, University of Auckland special-collections archivist, and Nigel Bond, special-collections team leader

A chance conversation at the Victoria Theatre has revealed historic drawings of the cinema, which have been hiding in plain sight at the University of Auckland Library.

Nigel Bond, Devonport local and the team leader of the university’s special collections, was at the Vic about to see a movie, and chatting to manager Philipp Jaser about plans on the wall of a proposed building refurbishment.

“I mentioned we had a set of drawings of a 1929 reconstruction and it was news to Philipp.” The discovery sparked a “flurry of emails” from Victoria Theatre Trust co-chair Margot McRae.

Trust members are planning a trip to the archives to view the material. McRae hopes to secure print copies of the drawings to hang in the theatre foyer.

The Flagstaff visited the archives last Friday and can reveal the drawings are truly memorable historical documents.

The four pages of plans by architect Daniel Patterson are intricately drawn – ink on linen and water-coloured, a common practice at the time, most likely to impress clients.

They are titled: Reconstruction of Theatre Devonport for NZ Picture Supplies.

The plans are dated 11 April 1929 and signed by two witnesses, the employer and the contractor.

Sarah Cox, a special-collection archivist, said the signed plans were evidence the work was signed off and ready to go, and most likely would have been accompanied by a written contract.

Patterson was a well-known architect of the era, who designed many notable buildings and theatres around the country. He was also active in Devonport, designing a number of houses, including one for the Duder family.

The University of Auckland special collection has around 80,000 sheets of drawings, including others from Devonport, among them several houses in the suburb that were designed by “The Group” Architects.

The collection began to expand in the 1960s, with drawings often donated when architects retire or by trusts and other benefactors.

They are accessed by research students and others and used in classes for architecture students.

The Victoria Theatre was built in 1912 and is the oldest surviving purpose-built cinema in the Southern Hemisphere.

This article originally appeared in the 23 October 2020 edition of the Flagstaff. Read online here.

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