Posted by Sven Thelning on Oct 10, 2019
The Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust is a 1,000 year organisation according to Dr Mark Smith who conducted a detailed tour for Rotarians, however they certainly aren't simply watching the time pass by. As well as an interesting description of the history, current challenges and plans for each of the trust's historic limestone buildings Dr Smith also provided access to a little-known corner of Catto Wool's building where two seed cleaners have sat since being abandoned in the mid 1980's. Built by Christchurch firm Andrews and Beaven, the seed cleaners were used to clean debri and weed seed from grain when the Catto's Wool building was Meek's Grainstore, presumably before the grain was milled in what is now the Smash Palace building.
The machines are still largely intact but some parts are obviously missing and engineer Brian Harrison explained the plans in place to restore the seed cleaners in consultation with the operators at Clark's Mill who advise the project is viable.
The machines are powered by the main electricity grid, but were previously run off the towns falling mains water supply which used gravity to provide the pressure to run a Pelton Wheel generator.
Besides the nostalgic smell of lanolin, another stunning feature of the Catto Wool building was the single span wooden rafters which are a single 60m length of timber.
As we toured further we saw the middle floor of the Loan and Merc building which is presently vacant and for lease. It is a huge space but at present only 50 people are allowed in it at any one time for fire safety reasons. A new elevator has recently been installed in the building to give wheelchair access as well as to aid the top floor tenant, Moke, which warehouses clothing. The renovations have left room for a new staircase which will greatly increase the capacity for the middle floor which is presently only occupied by several 12 and 14 pointers.
Following a return trip on the new elevator the tour concluded at Scott's Brewery where many clean seeds were enjoyed in liquid form.