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Historic Chinese meeting house rolls through streets of Lawrence

Friday 2 Dec 2016 8:58 p.m.

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The main street of Lawrence was shut down on Friday morning, as a historic Chinese meeting house was transported through the small Otago town.

The Joss House is one of only three surviving buildings from the former Chinese gold mining camp.

It was moved into town as a holiday home 70 years ago, but now it's been restored to its original site.

"We'll be renovating it and repainting it on the outside. We'll try and replace some of the decorations," says Dr Jim Ng from the Lawrence Chinese Camp Trust.

It's been a long process getting the project off the ground, and ensuring the heritage-protected building wasn't damaged as it was lifted off its foundations.

The house was transported through Lawrence on Friday morning on a trailer, with contractors lifting power lines along the way so it could pass underneath.

"With a building of this vintage and historic significance, it's very fragile, so we've been making haste slowly," says Fulton Hogan foreman Pete Harrison.

"You don't want to get it wrong and risk breaking it."

The Chinese Camp just outside Lawrence was a thriving settlement in the mid 1800s, down the road from Gabriel's Gully, where gold was first discovered in 1861.

Most of the former camp is now underground and a series of archaeological digs have uncovered a number of relics.

The camp was established during the gold rush, after the Lawrence Council banned Chinese migrants from living or doing business in the town itself.

With the Joss House joining the old hotel and stables, the trust is hoping to gradually bring this once-bustling settlement back to life.

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