Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 15, June 1971
By Norman Morton
To provide modern premises for Messrs. Wright Stephenson Ltd., the demolition of what had been known for many years as the Waihi Hardware building removed another landmark from the Waihi scene. The building, one of the first substantial business premises in Waihi was a memorial to the foresight of Mr. Archibald Clark, grandfather of the family who have long operated a pharmacy now situated on the diagonally opposite corner. Built in 1897 the building had provision for three shops on the Seddon Street frontage. Mr. Horatio Walter Phillips conducting an ironmongery (as hardware businesses were called then) on the corner. Mr. Clark conducted a mixed business and the Bank of New Zealand operated from the third shop for some years. There was spacious living accommodation on the upper floor and Clarks lived there for a number of years (Tommy Palmer, Builder).
Mr. Phillips became the first mayor of Waihi in 1902 and some years later the hardware business was taken over by R.H. Wynyard Ltd., who had several branches around the country. Wynyard's had a number of local managers including Thomas Sheen and Jack Oates who ran a hardware business in Upper Symonds Street, Auckland, after he left Waihi about 1919. In addition to the Seddon Street shops Wynyards had a cabinet-making department at the rear.
Part of the rear yard and a building fronting Moresby Avenue was used as a store and works depot by the Waihi Borough Council until 1912, after which a plumbing business was conducted by Mr. Albert ("Skinny") Oates, a well-known local wrestler. The most eastern shop was occupied for some years up to 1914 by Mr. Fred Fraider who ran a cycle shop in conjunction with a taxi and also did motor repairs, the pioneer motor garage operator of Waihi.
Messrs Hague-Smith Ltd., of Thames, Paeroa and Waihi lost their Waihi premises in Upper Seddon Street on in 1919 in a disastrous fire which included the old Sterling Hotel. They then took over Wynyards business and reconstructed the rear premises and cut the partitions out making the whole frontage one shop. The Brothers closed their other branches and employed Mr. E.D. ('Boots') McLeay and Gwyn Morgan who later was a partner in the Waihi Hardware Company. Hague-Smiths were the local Ford agents and although they did not run a repair service, they sold petrol and stocked Ford parts.
However, in 1922, Mr. B. Roberts opened Waihi's first full-time motor garage in the rear premises. Mr. H. Wrigley with modern plant operated a garage from 1923-25 before moving into Seddon Street and the premises housed Mortons Garage from 1934-1940. They closed down during the depression and Mr. Frank Timanus transferred his hardware business to the old building after a fire in his Rosemont Road premises. Mr. Stanley Miller of the Waihi Hardware Company, Rosemont Road, bought the building in 1933. His first tenants were McLoughen Brothers, who ran a billiards saloon.
Upstairs Mr. S.M. Hovell conducted a dental practice from 1930 - 1939 and also used it as his campaign office for the Eastern Maori seat. Mr. H.L. Boughton started his legal practice there in 1934 and in 1935, Paine Campbell Motors, Morrinsville, used the building as a car sales depot.
Shortly afterwards, Mr. Miller gave the building a major face-lift, transferred his business there from Rosemont Road, and expanded its scope considerably. He conducted the business very successfully, particularly through the war years, displaying the Hammer and Sickle as a symbol of service. Mr. Miller bowed out of business about sixteen years ago and Messrs G.E. Hands, S.C. Morgan, Geo. Nicol and Fred Fuller conducted it. Mr. Fuller returned to Auckland. Mr. Nicol retired and after the decease of first Mr. Morgan and then Mr. Hands, the company was taken over by Messrs Wright Stephenson whose plan for new premises involved the demolition of the old building.