Saturday, May 24, 2014

Paradise lost

It was so sad to watch the TV news last night and see Paradise Lodge consumed by fire. It was hit by lightning yesterday morning and burned almost completely to the ground, despite the fire crews who came from nearby Glenorchy and from Queenstown (40 minutes away). All that's left of the main building are the chimney stacks and part of a wall. I stayed there just a few months ago.
It's such a shame, on many counts. It was built in 1883, which is pretty old for New Zealand. It had lots of local history. It had been rescued from neglect and sensitively renovated by a trust of local people, who poured much time, care and personal energy into it. It was full of period furniture and books and original paintings of the area done long ago by people visiting to study art (it was always a tourist operation). It was the high point of the Paradise Trail, cyclists spending two nights under its roof. And it was a beautiful building, cosy and welcoming, under its huge chestnut tree, with bantams and chicks scratching in its garden.
The initial reaction of the Paradise Trail people is that the Lodge will be rebuilt, as a replica, and things will continue as they did. I hope so. Apart from regretting that it was necessary, I wouldn't be that bothered about the building not being authentic, if it was well done, as it will be. There's plenty of precedent for that sort of thing: Europe is full of reconstructed medieval towns that were destroyed during the war. I'm thinking Frankfurt, Dresden, Warsaw, as examples. The people wanted their buildings back, so they replicated them and now it's hard to tell that they're not original. I don't see anything wrong or dishonest about that - it's a comfort, not a con. It's also become a huge economic boon: what tourists would come to see towns built in 1950s and 60s architecture?
There's no reason, given enough determination and, cough, insurance money, why Paradise Lodge can't one day be Paradise Regained. I hope so.

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