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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

Civic Institutions

Civic Institutions.

Wellington Public Library. The establishment of this library is due in the first place to the late Mr. W. H. Levin. On the 23rd of September, 1889, Mr. Levin addressed a letter to Mr. John Duthie, then Mayor of Wellington, offering £1000 as a subscription for the purchase of books for a free public library, on two conditions: 1st., That the library building should be erected in a central position; and, 2nd, That means should be obtained for at least a portion of the building by the 31st of December, 1890. The City Council accepted Mr. Levin's offer, Mr. Duthie headed the list of public subscriptions with a sum of £200, and including this and Mr. Levin's donation, the citizens of Wellington subscribed a sum of £3066 16s. 2d. A poll upon the proposal to bring the Public Libraries Act into force was held on the 4th of November, 1890, when 929 votes were recorded for the proposal and 327 against it. In July, 1891, competitive designs for a building were invited, and the design of Mr. W. Crichton, of Wellington, was recommended by the selection committee and approved by the City Council. In November, 1891, the tender of Messrs. Carmichael and Son for the erection of one wing of the building was accepted, and the foundation stone laid by the then mayor, Mr. A. W. Brown, on the 15th of December, 1891, on a site at the corner of Victoria and Mercer Streets. This wing cost a little more than £6000 to erect, and contains a newspaper-room and a magazine-room on the ground floor, and a reference library and a ladies' reading-room on the first floor. Its erection was completed early in 1893, and the building was formally opened by Mr. Justice Richmond on the 21st of April of that year. Until the remaining wing of the building can be erected, the newspaper-room will have to serve the purposes of the lending library. In 1892, while the building was in the course of erection, certain citizens, at the request of the City Council, formed themselves into a committee to select the books to be purchased. This committee, with Mr. Justice Richmond as its chairman and Councillor F. H. Fraser as its deputy-chairman, met forty-one times, and finally drew up a list of about 4400 works in 6300 volumes, of an estimated value of £2250. Tenders were called for the supply of the volumes chosen by the committee, and that of Messrs. Lyon and Blair was accepted. The books came to hand in Wellington at intervals from August, 1893, to the middle of 1894. With the books thus obtained, together with others formerly belonging to the Wellington Athenæum, and about 1000 volumes presented by the citizens of Wellington, the number of volumes in the reference library on the 31st of March, 1895, was 8395. The nucleus of lending library was formed by the purchase of the books of the Wellington Athenæum for £450. These numbered about 5000 volumes, and though many were in a very dilapidated condition, most of them were worth re-binding, while among the number were some rare and valuable volumes. The purchase of new books had increased the number of volumes in the lending library on the 31st of March, 1895, to 5733. The total number of volumes in the library on that date therefore amounted to 14,128. The magazine and newspaper-rooms are provided with thirty magazines and 120 British, American, Australian and New Zealand newspapers and periodicals. The library has also been presented with a number of excellent pictures. As stated before, the library was opened for the use of the public on the 23rd of April, 1893. For some months after its opening it was in charge of Mr. G. N. Baggett, sub-librarian. The chief librarian was not appointed till August, 1893, when the choice of the City Council fell upon Mr. Thomas W. Rowe, M.A., headmaster of the Rangiora High School, who entered upon his duties at the library on the 1st of September, 1893. On the 31st of May, 1895, the staff was as follows:—Chief librarian, Mr. T. W. Rowe; sub-librarian, Mr. G. N. Baggett; assistant-librarians, Miss E. D. Mowat and Mr. J. E. F. Perry. The lending library was opened on the 6th of April, 1894, and on the 31st of March, 1895, the number of borrowers was already 560, and steadily increasing. The monthly issue of books for the whole year was slightly above 2000. The reference library was opened on the 1st of May, 1894. During the eleven months ending the 31st of March, 1895, the number of works issued in this department was 10,605, to 1358 different readers. It is estimated that from 500 to 700 persons visit the library daily, and this, coupled with the figures relating to the issue of books, shows that though the institution is still in its infancy, it is highly appreciated by the citizens of Wellington. The newspaper and magazine rooms, and the reference library are free to the public, for the privilege of borrowing books from the lending department, a subscription of five shillings per annum is charged. This subscription, and a penny rate on annual rateable values, are the only sources of revenue for the library. In May, 1894, an earthquake damaged the building to some extent, and some alarm was felt owing to reports of the subsidence of the foundations. When the repairs thus rendered necessary came to be carried out, however, the alarm proved to be groundless, as careful examination failed to discover the slightest trace of subsidence.

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Free Public Library, Wellington.

Free Public Library, Wellington.

Mr. Thomas William Rowe, M.A., is Chief Librarian of the Wellington Public Library, which is situated in Victoria and Mercer Streets, and of which an illustration appears herewith. Mr. Rowe was born in Christchurch on the 10th of November, 1863. He was educated at various primary schools in Christchurch, and subsequently at Christ's College and Canterbury College, completing his course in 1885. Mr. Rowe took his degree of B.A. in 1884, and that of M.A. during the following year, with first-class honours in Latin and English. As headmaster of the Rangiora High School, Mr. Rowe did good work from July, 1886, to August, 1893, when he resigned to accept the position of chief librarian of the Wellington Public Library. On the 26th of August, 1886, Mr. Rowe was married to Miss Catherine Alexander, of Christchurch, assistant-mistress of the Girls' High School. Miss Alexander took her B.A. degree in 1884, and this was the first occasion on which a pair of graduates were married in New Zealand. For four years in Canterbury, since 1889, and for two years in Wellington, Mr. Rowe has acted as examiner in various surrounding schools, notably the Boys' High School, Christchurch, Christ's College, Timaru High School, and Wellington Girls' High School. Mr. Rowe was selected for the post of librarian out of fifty-six applicants. He resides at 13 Hawker Street.

Mr. George Noyes Baggett, the Assistant Librarian of the Wellington Public Library, was born at Jamaica, West Indies, and left there for Melbourne in 1858. After two years he came to New Zealand with his parents, in 1860, and was educated at Scott's School, and subsequently at Christ's College, Christchurch. On leaving college, Mr. Baggett entered a merchant's office, and two years after spent a short time in a solicitor's office at Christchurch, and later on still, at Napier. He joined the Armed Constabulary Force in Wellington, and was through the Uriwera Country, Poverty Bay, and Taupo districts at the time of the Te Kooti outrages. Subsequently he was removed to Patea, where he received an appointment in the Crown Lands Department, which position he held for twelve years. He was afterwards transferred to Wellington, and here he remained till 1893, the last two years of which time he acted in the capacity of Receiver of Land Revenue for the Land District of Wellington. Mr. Baggett was appointed to his present position on the 20th of February, 1893.

Wellington Municipal Fire Brigade. The present efficient brigade is the outcome of several organised bodies, established at different times for the purpose of protecting the properties of the ratepayers and inhabitants of the Empire City from the ravages of the “Fire Fiend,” Like most other colonial cities, Wellington is largely built of wood, and the destructive fires of the earlier days resulted in practical measures of a preventive nature. In 1865 a strong force of one hundred men, under Captain Black, was formed, known as the “Wellington Volunteer Fire Brigade.” Two years later an offshoot of the above, consisting of fifty men, was established, under the name of the “Central Volunteer Fire Brigade,” of which Captain Black took charge, Superintendent Whiteford taking control of the older body. Captain Moss succeeded to the superintendency of the Central Volunteer Fire Brigade in 1868. For twelve years after this the interest of property-owners was conserved by these volunteer brigades, assisted from 1878 by a company of fire police and salvage corps, numbering forty, under the command of Captain Asher. In 1880 an arrangement was made whereby the City Council took over the buildings and all apparatus used by the two volunteer fire brigades, which bodies were then disbanded, and the present Municipal Fire Brigade was established, Superintendent Whiteford taking command. The fire police and salvage corps was disbanded in 1881, and reformed as a fire escape company, twenty strong. In the same year a salvage corps, which consisted of eighty men, was formed, with Captain Palmer as chief. He was succeeded by Captain G. V. Shannon in the following year. After several years of useful work, these two bodies were disbanded. This was in 1886. During this year the late Captain R. Page was appointed to succeed Captain Whiteford as the head of the Municipal Fire Brigade. On the death of Captain Page in 1889, Captain Kemsley was appointed to the position which he still fills. The present strength of the brigade when fully manned, consists of thirty firemen and six auxiliaries, with one chief officer, two stationkeepers, and a night-watchman. The principal station is situate in Manners Street, and here the greater part of the apparatus required in the work of the force is made under the eye of the chief, special workmen being employed. There is another fire station at Brandon Street, and four out-stations at suitable points in the City. The appliances used by page 286 the brigade are of the best and most modern designs. The firemen are well trained, and are speedily on the ground when an outbreak occurs. Besides building and repairing the apparatus, the whole of the electric work is done by the staff of the brigade. The stations are well equipped, and include comfortable provision for the convenience of these guardians of the public.

Manners Street Fire Brigade Station.

Manners Street Fire Brigade Station.

Captain George Vincent Kemsley, Chief of the Municipal Fire Brigade, was born in Hayes, Kent, England, in January, 1844, and after leaving school entered the Mercantile Marine service. He has been more or less associated with fire brigades in England and America since 1866. In 1874 he finally located himself in New Zealand: living for a short time in Auckland, and then in Napier, where he was engaged in mercantile pursuits, and afterwards in the employ of the Public Works Department as overseer of roads and bridges. In October, 1876, he took a prominent part in organising the Napier Fire Brigade, and took charge of it for about six years. The captain resigned his position in the Public Works Department, when he entered upon his duties as chief of the Wellington Fire Brigades in October, 1889.

Captain Kemsley.

Captain Kemsley.

Lieutenant James F. Adams joined the Brigade as a fireman in 1874, and has served continuously ever since. In 1880 he was raised to the rank of foreman, and in 1887 was made lieutenant. He has won eight gold and silver medals in Fire Brigade competitions, and in 1890 he gained Wirth's silver cup at the United Fire Brigades' Demonstration, for life saving. Lieutenant Adams won the Bland Holt trophy in 1892, and in the following year gained Bell's ten guinea trophy for the “surprise event.” For further particulars see “Wellington Plumbers.”

Foreman Henry Stephen Woolcott, of the Bran lon Street Fire Brigade Station, was born in London in 1850. He arrived in Wellington in 1872, and joined the Central Volunteer Fire Brigade three years later. Rising to the rank of foreman in the following year, he retained the position till the disbandment of the Brigade in 1880. Mr. Woolcott then joined the Municipal Fire Brigade and was soon appointed branchman. He was promoted to the post of foreman of No. 3 company in 1890, and appointed to the staff in 1895. Foreman Woolcott has acted as station keeper at the Brandon Street Station since 1880.

Foreman James Lawrence, the Senior Foreman of Brigade, was born in Surrey in 1850, and came to Wellington in 1872. He joined the “Wellington Volunteer Fire Brigade” in 1874, and was shortly afterwards appointed a branchman. Mr. Lawrence retained this position up to the disbandment of the Brigade in 1880, when he took service with the present “Municipal Fire Brigade,” retaining his appointment as branchman. He was appointed foreman of No. 2 Company in 1890.