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Why Dunedin's Named Scarfie Flats are Part of Our Heritage

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A Heritage Bytes presentation (20 slides delivered in 6 minutes) at the Dunedin Heritage Festival: Town and Gown, September 2019 held at the University of Otago.

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Why Dunedin's Named Scarfie Flats are Part of Our Heritage

  1. 1. Why Dunedin’s named Scarfie Flats are Part of Our Heritage @Sarahlibrarina | @DNFlatNames A Heritage Bytes presentation for Dunedin’s Heritage Festival 2019: Town and Gown
  2. 2. As Patrick Pound, the NZ born, Melbourne based artist, collector and curator says, “Photography is first about observing, then noticing, then recording, then sharing”. For nearly 2 decades, I’ve been recording and sharing the names students hang outside their flats. Named flats are an ephemeral print culture and understanding them provides insight into aspects of our heritage.
  3. 3. h Steve aka BF aka husband Farmgirl I had a camera, a map, a plan, a boyfriend and a friend with a van. One summer we drove the North Dunedin Streets, Sarah driving Stealth, Steve recording the names and addresses in a notebook, and me rolling in and out of the van with a Pentax ME Super photographing the signs on named student flats.
  4. 4. Named flats come and go. I’ve identified more than 700 named flats since 1930s, and where addresses have been confirmed, these have been mapped. This shows the density of population over time and the more popular streets for naming. We know students like to live close to campus, but this area is also filled with character homes.
  5. 5. Looking at the Dunedin City Council’s Second Generation Plan, we can see that within the outlined area of student habitation there are many heritage buildings (red), and even more character contributing buildings (brown). Character contributing buildings creative a sense of a cohesiveness to a heritage streetscape.
  6. 6. Several historic places have become student residences. This notorious party flat was formerly the Pelichet Bay Infectious Diseases Hospital and is situated overlooking what is now Logan Park. Students have thoughtfully named this Category 1 Historic Place, Lake House, reflecting part of its history.
  7. 7. On Great King Street, opposite the park, this Category 2 listed place is an unusual terrace that shows the influence of Melbourne’s architectural style. In the early 2000s it was in bad repair but the ironwork has been replaced and slumping balconies righted. It is also one of several flats with a piratical theme!
  8. 8. Dunedin has lost many of its modest villas over the years. Some due to the expansion of the University, the development of the current hospital and the realignment of the one way system. This flat on Cumberland Street, was named SMERSH HQ by a flat of James Bond fans in the 1960s and is on the site of the Microbiology building.
  9. 9. Named flats reveal aspects of popular culture important to residents. J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle Earth was popular in the 1970s as evidenced by The Hobbit on the left. The house was demolished during the realignment of the one way system. Tolkien had a resurgence in popularity this century with Peter Jackson’s films - Bag End on Ethel McMillan Place is another example.
  10. 10. Another impactful work of literature and film is that of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. The Potterverse has been responsible for a great number of named flats from The Chamber of Secrets, The Leaky Cauldron, Honeydukes, The Burrow, not to mention several Shrieking Shacks.
  11. 11. Overtime a number of cartoons have featured in named flats, Moe’s (the pub in The Simpsons) was one of the longest lived and had an number of signs made of different materials. These included: being painted directly on the lintel, to a sign made of wood, a cupboard door and here, a small yellow skateboard, reminiscent of Bart Simpson’s favoured ride.
  12. 12. While many names don’t last more than a year or two a good number have lasted more than a decade. Footrot Flats has been in situ since the late 1970s and immortalises our own uniquely New Zealand hand drawn heroes, Wal Footrot and Dog created by Murray Ball.
  13. 13. Flat names also tell us about the living environment or state of housing. The tone of the name is often humorous, or utilises linguistic devices like puns or double entendre. Here’s an oldy but a goodie - an ironic name recalling a classy and expensive international hotel chain stuck on a run down flat.
  14. 14. Semi detached flats often have complementary names. In this case, the colour and temperature of the Fridge and the Fridgette are hint at the reason for their naming. The flats situated behind were named The Oven and The Pantry, completing this oversized kitchen on Castle street!
  15. 15. Naming a flat is a marker of identification and belonging. Forth Square plays on the name of the street and refers to a well known kiwi business. I agree with Amy Spurdle who wrote - “These buildings provide a sense of tradition or history which make students feel a part of something more ... they are part of a history and a culture unique to the Otago student experience [Spurdle p146]
  16. 16. Many of Dunedin’s old corner shops have been converted into student flats over the years. Here’s one on Ethel Benjamin Place that incorporates the name of the landlord, Bruce, and the history of the building as a butchery, as well as the name of the street.
  17. 17. Reddens Dairy on Duke Street is seen here still while it was still operating in the 1970s. It is yet another building that has been transformed into a student flat in recent years.
  18. 18. @jonathanwatersart And here it is utterly transformed by local street artist Jonathan Waters boasting the name Legendairy. Named by the resident this was a collaboration between the landlord, artist and students, it reflects their aspirations to have a legendary year while honouring the building’s history.
  19. 19. While named flats are reflective of the interests or proclivities of their residents, the names themselves have influenced others. Poets, novelists, musicians and artists have been inspired by Dunedin’s named flats. This flat was one of several that inspired Scott Eady’s 2002 Frances Hodgkins Fellowship.
  20. 20. Students have said (quote) “their experiences at Otago are intimately bound up with life in the character buildings of North Dunedin.” [Resp’t P1206 Spurdle p.132] And (quote) “Character flats are important because that’s where the culture is. The culture of being an Otago students is to live and co-habit in a Dunedin villa. This is something that you cannot create or manufacture no matter how hard you try” [Resp’t P890, Spurdle p.155]
  21. 21. While the Dunedin Flat Names Project continues to notice record and share the signs, a book titled Scarfie Flats in Dunedin was published this year. It tells the history of a number of the named flats, the origins of their names, as well as the history of the building and the social context in which they existed, thereby preserving a unique aspect of Dunedin’s cultural heritage.