One of hundreds
By Allie Webber
A WWII U.S.Marines Hut lovingly restored by the MenzShed in Waikanae, will be taken to Queen Elizabeth Park (formerly Camp Russell), on Thursday 11 May – to begin its new life.
The hut will be loaded on a transporter at the MenzShed and moved down the expressway to a new resting spot alongside the U.S.Memorial in Queen Elizabeth Park.
The 2.4m x 4.5m hut has been meticulously restored for the Kapiti U.S.Marines Trust under the watchful eye of Trust Historian, Anthony Dreaver.
“We don’t know exactly which camp it came from, but it was one of hundreds built for the three Paekakariki Camps,” says Trust Chair Jenny Rowan.
“This was a massive infrastructure project, led by James Fletcher and built by Kiwis in just seven weeks prior to the Marines arrival in 1942. Between them the three camps covered a total floor space of over 2 million square feet, including 2,728 buildings, 1,590 huts and 3,401 tents.”
Rebuilt by MenzShed to original specifications
Originally gifted to the Trust by Paekakariki residents Sarah Brown and Grant Cunliffe, the restored hut was previously a 2-bedroomed Raumati beach-house built from two U.S.Marines Huts in 1950.
Using original plans from the New Zealand Archives, the Trust worked alongside heritage architect Christ Cochran, to plan its new life as a four-man hut.
The MenzShed systematically deconstructed the house, removing the usable timber to their depot in Waikanae where a small team of dedicated volunteers rebuilt the new hut – using old and new materials.
Thursday’s move is a “dream come true” for all parties, says Jenny Rowan.
“This has been an incredibly positive project, where everyone has said yes!”
A superb cooperative effort
The MenzShed team, led by Dave Porter has done a brilliant job. Heritage architect Chris Cochran has added his
magic touch and we’ve had very generous funding from the U.S.Embassy, Fletchers, the Wellington Community Trust, M2PP, Placemakers, Firth, Hume and many others.
When the hut arrives in Queen Elizabeth Park it will be placed on foundations in a new U.S.Marines Heritage site on the seaward-side of the Marines Memorial.
It will then undergo an “inter-fit-out” led by Wellington-based design company Story Inc. This will convert it into a “story hub” where people can look through the windows and see a diorama of how the Marines lived during World War II.
“Hopefully, it will give them a glimpse of how four-grown men lived together in a hut the size of a tent…” says Story Inc’s Steve La Hood.
The final stage of the project will be completed later in the year. This will allow the public to look through a “peep” window and see a series of five short videos on how the camps were built.
Grand opening on May 29
The Hut will be opened as part of a short ceremony in Queen Elizabeth Park following this year’s US Memorial Day Service on Monday May 29. The service will run from 10-11am and is open to the public.
Note: The hut is expected to be loaded onto the truck about 8.30am and will travel down the Expressway about 9am – arriving at Queen Elizabeth Park at approximately 9.30am.