PHO2014_0176.jpg Whiteley Church Fire, Liardet Street (1959). Allen Smith. Collection of Puke Ariki (PHO2014-0176).

The dramatic scene captured on this slide transparency preserves something of the frenzied atmosphere in Liardet Street early in the evening of 18 February 1959 as fire-fighters struggled to contain a blaze engulfing Whiteley Memorial Methodist Church. The fire started in the roof while the original wooden church building, constructed in 1898, was being renovated and extensively repaired.  Despite being located directly opposite the Central Fire Station on the corner of Liardet and Powderham/Courtenay Streets, the church could not be saved. Large crowds gathered to watch as the building was completely gutted. Amongst the many onlookers was Allen Smith who was cycling home from work at the time. Smith happened to have a camera on him and snapped off several photographs of the burning edifice and surrounding scene.

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