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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Auckland Provincial District]

Civic Institutions

Civic Institutions.

The Free Library.

Among colonial public libraries the Free Library of Auckland stands very high. It has no equals in the Colony, and in many respects compares favourably with similar institutions in the finest Australian cities. The building is handsome and commodious, the books are numerous and of exceptional value, and the management under the librarian, Mr. Edward Shillington, is in the highest degree creditable. There is a newspaper room on the ground floor, with the upper end devoted to chess and draughts. The principal reading room is overhead and contains about 30,000 volumes, nearly half of which are comprised in the magnificent collection presented by Sir George Grey. Many of the volumes of the Grey collection are worth in the open market more than their weight in gold on account of their extreme rarity. No fewer than 180 languages are represented, and many of the manuscript volumes are elaborately and gorgeously illuminated. A manuscript, inscribed by Thomas at Kempis, and the commentaries on the Book of Job by Pope Gregory the Great, which was once the property of King Henry V., are most conspicuous specimens of their class. There are over 3000 autograph letters of historical notabilities, including the correspondence of Sir Philip Meadows, Cromwell's secretary, and of many others of exceptional interest. The principal reading room is well lighted and very lofty, the upper floor, reached by circular iron stairs, being in the nature of a gallery. It contains old parliamentary and other records, bound newspaper files, etc. When the library was opened in 1880 it numbered about 5000 volumes, chiefly the remnant of the old Provincial Library, and it now contains 40,000 volumes. The old Mechanics' Institute contributed 1000 volumes. There is a lending branch, opened in 1887, for the use of which a small charge is made. The interest on the Costley bequest of £12,150, and the half-penny special rate bring up the total income to almost £1600 per annum. The walls and lobby are adorned with a few valuable paintings.

Mr. Edward F. Shillington is the chief Librarian of the Auckland Free Library. He has filled the position page 123 since the inception of the institution on the 7th of September, 1880, with credit to himself and benefit to the community. Mr. Shillington is of a retiring disposition, but his courtesy has won for him the esteem of the people of Auckland. He has three assistants, namely, Mr. H. W. Farnall, Miss A. M. Williams, and Miss E. B. McIntyre.

The Auckland Art Gallery. Like the Free Library, the Art Gallery of Auckland came in for a share of Sir George Grey's treasures, but while many of them are rare and valuable pictures, the contribution to the Art Gallery cannot be said to compare well with that to the library. Sir George Grey's Maori and other curios are also displayed attractively at the Art Gallery. The Mackelvie collection, which occupies an annexe of about the same size as the original gallery, is valued at over £40,000. The Art Gallery, like the Free Library, is a most creditable institution. Many of the pictures are so beautiful as to be ever full of interest, and the rooms are delightfully cool even on the hottest day.

Interior of Art Gallery.

Interior of Art Gallery.

The Auckland Fire Brigade, which is under the control of the City Council, has its central station in Albert Street. The building is of one storey, and contains a reading room and library, and also sleeping accommodation for six men. A large tower in front of the station contains the firebell, is 75 feet high, and commands a view of the whole of Auckland. No fire engines are required, as the high pressure water supply is used all over the city. The pressure in Queen Street is 135 pounds to the square inch. In the central station there is a one-horse reel, two hand reels and one hook and ladder carriage. Mr. H. F. Gladding is inspector and superintendent; Mr. G. Moore, senior foreman; Mr. W. Harkins, junior foreman; and there are eighteen firemen. There are three sub-stations—Grafton, Ponsonby, and Karangahape. The Grafton station, situated in Upper Symonds Street, is a one-storey building, with a tower and bell; Mr. P. Moulden, foreman; five firemen. Ponsonby station, in St. Mary's Road, Ponsonby, is also a one-storey building, with a small tower and bell; Mr. William Coplestone, foreman; five firemen. Karangahape Road station is situated in Hereford Street, off the Karangahape Road; tower and bell; Mr. William Williamson, foreman. The total staff of the brigade consists of the superintendents, five foremen, thirty-three firemen, and one messenger.

Mr. Herbert F. Gladding, Inspector and Superintendent of the Auckland Fire Brigade, joined the brigade in 1875, when he was twenty-one years of age, and served for three years. In 1884, on the opening of the branch station in Grafton Ward, Mr. Gladding was appointed foreman there. This position he filled for fifteen years, until he received his present appointment in 1899. He was a delegate to the United Fire Brigades' Association at the conference held in Christchurch in 1896. In the same year he took charge of a team which won almost every event on the programme, and competed with seven other brigades at the Fire Brigades' competition, held in Potter's Paddock, Epsom.

Auckland City Swimming Baths. These baths, the finest of their kind in New Zealand, are under the control of the Corporation. They are situated in the heart of the city, with the frontage and entrance facing on Albert Street. The sides and bottom of the baths are tiled, and this gives a clear and refreshing appearance to the water. A life line surrounds the swimming space, and six lifebelts are hung in convenient places. On the eighteen pillars, which support the semiroof, are the varying depths of the slopes from 2 feet to 8 feet. The baths are 108 feet long and 58 feet wide; there is ample sitting room, and a promenade; and there are fifty-four dressing-rooms, four shower baths, and other conveniences. In summer, when water is scarce, the baths are filled with salt water, which is pumped in from the harbour. At night the whole place is well lighted with gas. The concrete cellars, which stretch the full length of the building, will probably be used in the future for hot baths. That the baths are appreciated is proved by the fact that in 1899, 33,176 persons paid the nominal charge for admission. The baths were erected in 1885, at a cost of £7000, and were opened by Mr. W. R. Waddel, then the mayor of the city. The cleanly and well-kept appearance of the premises strikes the observer at the first glance, and reflects great credit on that bluff and hearty old seaman, Mr. L. Calder, who has been caretaker of the baths since their inception. There are salt water baths at Freeman's Bay, and they, too, are under the control of the City Council.

The City Abattoirs, which are under the control of the Auckland City Council, are situated at Western Springs, about three miles and a half from the city. They were established in 1878, and, up to date, have cost over £6500. The abattoirs have not proved to be such a success as was anticipated, owing partly to the existence of other large slaughter-houses in the vicinity of Auckland. The stock slaughtered during the year 1899 numbered—cattle, 4037; sheep, 27,925; calves, 1171; pigs, 926. These figures show a decrease compared with those for the previous year, and the falling off was, in a great measure, attributable to the fact of a slaughtering license having been granted to premises in the neighbourhood.

Mr. John Robertson, the City Council's Inspector of Abattoirs and Meat, has held the position continuously since 1887.