The Crown Plaza Hotel in Christchurch is a landmark building sitting next to the Christchurch Town Hall on the edge of Victoria Square.
In days of old when I lived in Christchurch, I was part of a “Breakfast Club” with a group of friends.
We were an all female group who knew each other from various church youth groups and there were about 15 of us, but in general a core group of seven or eight of us would meet early for breakfast at one of the many large hotels that offered a breakfast buffet menu for members of the public as well as for their guests.
Usually we arrived early that we could attend church afterwards, but on occasion, when the breakfasts were only available at a later hour, we would skip the morning church service, make our breakfast into a leisurely brunch and then attend the evening church service together instead.
For our group of students and new to the workforce ladies, it was a chance to get dressed up and indulge in a once a month or six week treat, where for a set price we could dine in a style that for all of us was a small but affordable slice of luxury.
I still count two members of the “club” as firm friends decades after the club eventually disbanded.
Way back then, this hotel wasn’t actually called the “Crown Plaza” but instead went by the name of ”The Parkroyal” and it was rather a controversial building at first because it’s construction blocked off the top end of Victoria Street and changed the layout of a small section of the central city.
The building had met with it’s fair share of opponents but once it opened, it was stunning inside. It was light and calm and the breakfast buffet was not only extensive but also beautifully presented.
Our breakfast club started out with a list of about ten hotels but over time the list was shortened as we returned over and over again to a few firm favourites, the Parkroyal / Crown Plaza being one of these. (The Elms on Papanui Road and Strawberry Fare, formerly of Peterborough street being two others on our favourites list).
I also have another friend, who’s not had an easy road in life… we’ve known each other for decades too and shared many ups and downs and still enjoy excellent contact even though we now live on opposite sides of the globe.
When she found the man of her dreams, Himself and I saved pennies and annual leave to travel to New Zealand and attend her wedding. Kiwi Daughter was three and a half at the time and had chicken-pox the week before the wedding, so looked fabulous in her beautiful princess-like dress and face full of spots.
Since this was one of my oldest friends and family ties and other factors meant that a honeymoon holiday wasn’t possible, Himself and I decided that a stay at the penthouse honeymoon suite and dinner at the Parkroyal / Crown Plaza would make an ideal wedding gift, which turned out to be brilliantly received and they had a fabulous time.
Therefore in recent times I’ve always looked at the top floor of this hotel and remembered what a fabulous gift idea this turned out to be for my friend, and at the bottom of the hotel to think of the fond memories of the Breakfast Club.
After the earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011 the Crown Plaza was extensively damaged… literally broken down the middle. The company that owned it exhausted every avenue they could to see if it could be repaired but entire sections of the building were on a lean and the cost and logistics of bringing the building up to the new increased building code were prohibitive.
When I took these photographs in January 2012 the hotel was in a sorry state, curtains flapped out of open or broken windows… no lives were lost here but the building was evacuated and abandoned, and now work was taking place to slowly empty the building of chattels, then strip it down to it’s bare bones ready for demolition.
When a large, shallow earthquake hits at very high velocity, and your building is standing almost at the epicentre of the quake, then there is little that even the strongest of building codes can do to save it.
This building did it’s job, it stayed up even in it’s broken state, no one died and people could be safely evacuated. Now begins the slow task of taking it down piece by piece.
Across the road on the corner is also an empty space where there used to be a large and I think it was a fairly new building, if memory serves me correctly there was a little Bistro on the corner the name of which eludes me at present.
Another of my top favourite buildings is just in camera view looking south down Durham Street on the Lichfield Corner. It’s the Canterbury Horse Bazaar and is a small but stunningly beautiful brick building. From what I see, the roof is being removed… repair or ready for demolition too? I don’t know.
I’ve included some screen-shots from Google Earth and Google Street View to give you an idea of how the Crown Plaza and the Horse Bazaar looked before the earthquakes struck.
Already by the time I write this post the hotel is gone and all that is left is an empty space… but in my mind’s eye there will always be a beautiful building and many memories.