Standing in the footsteps of the wayfaring traveller

Published on 11 November 2021

OTA02 Stanleys Hotel Box71.17-20.1987_369_1.jpg

OceanaGold’s Debbie Clarke arrives broom in hand, in case a spider has had the audacity to spin a web on the pristine new wood of the restored billiard room. One hasn’t - but the Stanley Hotel cat is all about showing us around - and his fluffy grey tummy.

Historic places category 1, built in 1882, the Stanley Hotel’s billiard room is one of a group of buildings that make up the heart of Macraes. Alongside the hotel and its outbuildings (including a pig sty) sits a wee weatherboard building – its central panel door flanked by double hung sash windows. It’s one of the few original hotel billiard rooms still existing. These timber structures were never meant to last a century.

An important hub for an isolated community, the hotel provided commercial travellers’ rooms, a place to hold coroner’s inquests, public meetings and of course, a place to drink and play. In the nineteenth century billiards was a popular pastime – with customers often paying by the game with money changing hands on the outcome. It is easy to imagine a foot-weary traveller ducking into the hotel to escape a sudden snow shower, joining his mates in their waistcoats and shirt sleeves, cue in hand, warmed by the fire at the end of the room, the suspended lights illuminating the green baize of the table … contemplating setting up his next shot.

Today, the squares of the heavy slate billiard table’s supports can still be seen on the floor, and also something really charming: the dips in the floorboards left by players repeatedly standing in certain spots (presumably those offering the best shots) can be felt by your own feet as you literally stand in their footsteps.

The windows, infested with borer, have been replaced, the walls - which sank in at your touch, completely relined. While carrying out the ceiling repairs, the original light fitting was discovered. It is being readied for rehanging.

Waitaki Heritage Advisor Heather Bauchop is a big fan of the project, providing advice and support during the early stages. “It’s great to see an old building looked after,” she says. “OceanaGold has restored the under-used building – dealing with the damp, replacing the match lining (and insulating the walls) to create a modern space, but one that recognizes the value of history.”

Debbie says the idea is to use it for meetings and community events – the Stanley’s complex, which includes the Billiard Room, will be handed over to the Macraes Community Development Trust.

The billiard room is now a place where people can meet and perhaps imagine standing around the long absent billiard table, listening to click of the white ball against the red before it rolls into the corner pocket.

If you love heritage buildings as much as we do, Waitaki District Council’s newly enriched Heritage Fund might be just the ticket for your heritage project. Its open now, application forms available on council’s website. Our Heritage Advisor is happy to help you through the application process. Waitaki Heritage Fund | Waitaki District Council