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Kaeo Post Office building scores a century

Tuesday 21 February 2012, 2:13PM

By Far North District Council

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Kaeo Library
Kaeo Library Credit: Far North District Council

A celebration is being arranged for May to mark the centennial of the former Kaeo Post Office building.

The 100-year-old, wooden building, which was designed as a permanent home for postal services in the rural service centre, opened to business on 4 May 1912.

It served the community in this capacity until services were withdrawn on 5 May 1989.

The building was purchased and renovated by the Far North District Council in 1990 at a total cost of $120,000.

It was initially used as a craft shop and museum.

It now accommodates the council's Kaeo Service Centre, public library and a small meeting room.

Council advisory services officer Sheryl Bainbridge says details of commemorations scheduled for May 5 are still being finalised.

To help complete arrangements, the council would like to hear from people with historic ties to the building.

Staff are particularly keen to hear from former Post Office employees.

"We would love to see your photos and hear your anecdotes to fill in the gaps and help compile a record of the proud history of this iconic remnant of an era since passed."

While the building has reached its centennial, the history of postal services in the Whangaroa area extends back to the Local Posts Act in 1856.

Kaeo was one of four centres across Northland at which postal services were established at this time.

The current building was constructed by Hare Brothers at a cost of 833 pounds and originally included accommodation on the first floor for the postmaster.

A manual telephone exchange was opened in the building in 1920 and converted to an automatic exchange in 1957.

Names synonymous with Whangaroa, the history of the building and postal services in the area include Win Spickman (first postmaster), Richard and Miriam Gibbs, D. G. Lane, Ellen Stephenson, Lillie Boardman, Emily Adams, Albert Bateman, Earnest Hirst, Robert Fryer, and P. S. Miller (postmasters between 1856 and 1946).

Current Te Hiku Community Board member Willy Van der Sluis also has a close association with the building.

In 1960, he was contracted to build the concrete strong room which is still used for security storage.

The building exterior will be painted to bring it up to the mark for the pending centennial.

Any persons with personal information or data related to the history of the building can contact Sheryl Bainbridge on (09) 401 5217 or Kaeo librarian Diana Jenkins on (09) 405 0287.