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Auckland's historic Palace Hotel demolished

Friday 19 Nov 2010 6:18 a.m.

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Two diggers sitting on top of a pile of rubble and broken bricks greeted commuters in inner city Auckland today after an historic building was knocked down overnight.

The Aurora Hotel had been renamed the Palace Hotel and was being redeveloped as an upmarket brothel when cracks appeared in the wall yesterday. Within hours, the order had been given to knock it down.

The 124-year-old building on Victoria St had been boarded off for several weeks and had been gutted as part of its revamp.

View photos of the demolition

Victoria St was closed off late yesterday after the cracks were noticed in the wall by a passerby, causing peak hour traffic congestion as the city began to empty out after the business day. Buses were directed away from the busy bus stop next to the building and motorists were told to avoid the area unless they were prepared for long delays.

Engineers inspected the building and found it to be moving on its foundations and within hours Auckland Mayor Len Brown had given the order for it to be demolished, saying it was an extremely sad decision.

The building was not safe and demolition was the only alternative as a salvage attempt could put other buildings and people at risk, he said.

Demolition workers and wrecking machines moved on to the site early today and within about an hour the building, built in 1886, had been reduced to a pile of rubble, timber and broken bricks.

The roads remained closed but a large crowd gathered to watch the machines do their destructive work.

A council spokesman said it was not known what caused the problem but it was at a basement level and the building was failing under its own weight.

The Aurora Hotel was renamed the Palace Hotel and there were plans to turn it into an upmarket brothel and take advantage of its proximity top the SkyCity Casino on the other side of Victoria St.

It was bought for $3.3 million by John and Michael Chow.

The council said the old hotel was originally a timber building, built in 1852, but by 1880 at least two parts of the Aurora Hotel complex existed as brick buildings. In 1884 the hotel caught fire and some sections were destroyed, requiring a rebuild.

It was associated with the well known publican Paddy Gleeson and with four other hotels was given to his daughter, Catherine, as a wedding present in 1925.


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