The Dargaville Museum (New Zealand) presents...
'Accordion Gems' by Kevin Friedrich
...A Master Collection of Accordions through Time...

Aratapu Library Purchased - June 2006
Dedication of the Accordion Gems Display - 3 December 2006
Aratapu Library relocated to Harding Park - January 2007
Grand Opening of New Music Wing at the Dargaville Museum - 21 October 2007 at 1:00 PM
Launching of Accordion Gems Exhibit in Display Cabinets - 29 March 2009

Preserving the Heritage of the Dargaville Community

The Dargaville Museum secured the purchase of the historical Aratapu Library, which was the subject of much attention when it came up for tender after the land it was situated on was sold. The Aratapu (near Dargaville) Public Library (1874), a building of great historical value to the community, was purchased by the Dargaville Museum and subsequently attached to the existing Museum building. The Library is now known as the Music Room, and houses the Accordion Gems collection as well as other items of musical historical importance from the community.

The community lobbied strongly to keep this building in the area, and fortunately, the Dargaville Museum was able to offer the successful bid to purchase it. The building was relocated to the Museum grounds, attached to the existing Museum, then restored to its original glory as it was incorporated into the current Dargaville Museum facilities. The 'Accordion Gems' exhibition serves as the anchor display in this new Music Room.

The following pages profile the journey of the Aratapu Library and the establishment of the Music Room and the Accordion Gems Exhibition.

History of the Aratapu Library

Extracts from M. Blucher thesis written in 1973 on the Aratapu Library.
The Library building was originally built in Monk Street but in July 1893 it followed the movement of the central business area from there to Heawa Road.

Interview with Mrs. K. H. Fricker, former resident c. 1900 - 1920.
The front room was furnished with a large round table and wrap-round wooden chairs, which stood in front of the fireplace. Above it on a chain from a fretwork centerpiece, hung a large kerosene lamp. The room was used mainly for social purposes and small meetings.

The actual library occupied the larger rear room and was furnished with two long tables down the center of the room and wrap-round chairs. Above the tables hung, equally spaced, two large kerosene lamps from chains as above. The books were kept in cabinets placed between the windows on the raised floor down the sides of the room. This room also had a fireplace above which hung a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I.

The building always seems to have an unpainted appearance both inside and out. The rear door was not used - dropped about two feet to the ground which was swampy. In front of the building standing taller was the town bell (see Sketch) which was used in cases of emergency and in times of celebrations.

Interview with Mr. Frank Campbell former resident c 1886 - 1900's.
The library was mainly used by the older retired men of the town and was always full of pipe smoke and its stench.

Besides the books on its shelves its greatest attraction was its display of the 'Weekly News" shipped up from Auckland every week. For many this was the only link with the world outside the Northern Wairoa. The local paper the 'Wairoa Bell' was also displayed. The exterior of the buildings was originally painted as were most of the town's buildings with red ochre. This was dug locally and mixed amongst other things with raw linseed oil and mutton fat. The interior was probably coated with Kauri gum oil.

The building is constructed in Kauri utilizing framing and sheathing methods similar to those in use today ie: timber, floor joists, studs, roof framing. Great care and expense was taken in ornamenting the facade of the building distinguishing it from other buildings in the town.

The sides and the rear walls are plain except for the use of decorative glass in the windows which are all double hung. The large central panes of glass were plain but with a while lace pattern over them. These were surrounded by stained glass panels. The standard of finish inside is also extremely elaborate with great care being taken in matching, jointing and finishing. The building is set on timber blocks at present and about 1' above the ground level, originally around 2' 6''.

Floor construction 6'' x 3' sleepers
  6" x 2" joists at 20" corners
  T & G flooring

Wall Construction 4" x 3" studs
  Rusticated weather boards
  Match lining inside

Roof Construction 10" x 1" ridge
(Couple close & Collar) 7" x 2" ceiling joists at 20" crs
  6" x 2" rafters at 20" CRS
  6" x 1" collar ties every fourth space
  6" x 1" sarking at 10" center to center
  Corrugated iron sheathing

Windows Double Hung

Doors Timber framed, timber panels beaded in. Internal doors fitted with spring.
The Aratapu Library after
moving to Heawa Road in 1893
The Aratapu Library was more recently
used as the Post Office
Aratapu the Town

Aratapu was typical of many towns in the late 1800's that grew out of the exports of timber, gum and flax. With the building of the first mill in the district (1865) Aratapu became the center of commerce with a population of two thousand people nicknamed "Sawdust Town". Building followed in quick succession including a large two story boarding house, a store and scores of dwelling, and soon there were three good streets, Monk, Bride and Parnell Streets. Mr. Thomas Woollam, the mill carpenter, built a large number of these buildings under contract.

The Aratapu Village sections, generally of one acre, were first opened for settlement in the year 1888 and sold at five pounds. The settlement which previously had been built on sawdust near the sawmill in Monk Street, soon extended up Heawa Road towards what is today, the main Te Kopuru - Dargaville Highway. As the population increased there was every type of business to meet the needs of the people and the foreshore was spalled for erosion, although this did not stop the flooding however. There was a Hall, Library, two Churches, School, Post Office, Police Station, Hobson county council offices, Hotel and several boarding-houses. The Wharf was a thriving hive of activity with ships loading timber and regular ferry services to Dargaville and Helensville. Community spirit was high with a band, choral society and plenty of Church functions. Sport played an important part with several rugby, tug-of-war and cricket teams. In years to come, there was also a skating rink and even motion pictures.

With the closing of the Mill in 1909 the once thriving little town was soon reduced to a village. Several stores remained to serve those who stayed, as well as the surrounding population but the closing of the Post Office in 1942 spelt the end. Glamuzina & Sons operated a mill until the 1970's but most of the houses have now been removed or demolished.

Today, not much remains of Aratapu but the Hotel on the main road and the old Hall to remind visitors that this was once a township of two thousand people full of energy and purpose.

The Aratapu Library is re-aquired on June 9, 2006

Ironically, the Aratapu Library was formally owned by the Dargaville Museum. The museum acquired the Aratapu Library about 30 years ago and had it moved to the then museum site in Normanby Street, Dargaville, now the Norfolk Court Resthome. When the museum moved to its present site at Harding Park in 1985 the Aratapu Library, deemed surplus to requirements, was given to the IHC and shifted to a rural training unit for Intellectually handicapped individuals near the Dargaville racecourse at Awakino Point. However, the IHC sold that property and the new owner, Steve Griffiths, then put the library up for tender.

The pending sale sparked calls from the community for the old building to be kept in the district and the Dargaville Museum put in a tender which included $20,000 from its reserves, donations such as $1500 from the Northern Wairoa Lions Club, and a bank loan. Mr. Griffiths said he received tenders from Whangarei, Auckland and Te Puke, but he had taken a "sympathetic view'' of the Museum's situation and the prized 1874 Aratapu Library was returned to its former owner for an undisclosed price.

The Aratapu Library sitting in the field at Awakino Point after it had been abandoned and put up for tender.
Museum Committee Member, the late Tony Cocurullo taking Kevin Friedrich on a tour of the building after finding out that it had been successfully acquired by the Dargaville Museum to be used for the Music related displays. Tony later donated all the Kauri wood to make the new double front entry doors of the Aratapu Library.
Penguins and Power Lines

On Wednesday, 18th January 2007, after the roof was removed to allow the building to be moved safely under the power lines that had been added since the building was located on this particular site, the relocation took place in the middle of the night to cause the least amount of disruption, and went almost without incident.

Almost without incident! The midnight procession had to be halted enroute, to remove a Penguin that had chosen the middle of the road next to the Northern Wairoa River (which connects to the open sea) to make its home for the night. The Penguin was safely returned to the water, and the move continued!

The Aratapu Library being loaded onto the removal truck
The Aratapu Library passing by the Dargaville Post Office. The only hitch during the trip to the Dargaville Museum grounds was when the procession came to a halt when it encountered a friendly Penguin who had made itself at home on the road. The Penguin was removed and put back into the water and the move continued!
After navigating the narrow and windy road up to the top of Mt. Wesley in Harding Park,
the Library is safely delivered to its new home.
Restoring the Aratapu Library to her former Glory
Museum volunteers showered the Library with their community spirit and spent countless months restoring the Aratapu Library to her former glory, turning the poor disheveled abandoned building into the spectacular Kauri gem it once was. You can follow along the progress through this series of pictures.
After being relocated to the Dargaville Museum grounds, the work began to restore the building to its former glory.
Museum Manager Pene McKenzie showing Val Friedrich around the facility.
As work progressed, the roof was refitted to the Library where work began restoring the roof section.
Above and below: Ron Halliday (Museum Committee Member) with the original 1874 Sign from the Library
Margaret Tier, Graeme Fell, Ted Tier working on the restoration of the Aratapu Library
...a little musical interlude as Museum staff Ron Halliday and Ted Teir continue their restoration
The refurbished Library sitting proudly in its new home, attached to the Dargaville Museum, accessible to visitors, from the main Museum facility, where the Music Room is attached to the Collections Hall
The Dargaville Museum, situation on Mt. Wesley in Harding Park, affording magnificent views of the
Dargaville Township and the expanse of the Northern Wairoa River and the Northern Wairoa Bridge
Dargaville is approximately 2 1/2 hours drive north of Auckland, or 1 hour drive west of Whangarei. From Dargaville, visitors can proceed north through the magnificent Trounsin Park and Waipoua Kauri Forests towards the Bay of Islands, Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga, where the Pacific Ocean collides with the Tasman Sea.
Above: the spectacular view from the Dargaville Museum Entrance where visitors can see the
Tangihua Mountain Ranges looming over the historic Northern Wairoa River and the Dargaville Township
Above: The Dargaville Museum viewed from the Band Rotunda in Victoria Street in the center of Dargaville
Above: The Northern Wairoa Bridge leading into Dargaville
Below: The volcanic plugs of Maungaraho
(left) and Tokatoka (right)
The Dargaville Museum as viewed from the banks of the mighty Northern Wairoa River

Contact for the Accordion Gems Exhibition: Kevin Friedrich
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