On 1 November 1906, the International Exhibition opened to the public from its location in North Hagley Park. A foot bridge was specially built over the Avon at Kilmore Street to help direct visitors to the main gates.
Thought up by Prime Minister Richard Seddon, it was a physical representation of the national pride in New Zealand and her position on the world’s stage. Seven main aspects were covered: From promoting New Zealand made products, advertising her beauty and abundance for tourism and overseas investments purposes and displaying the inward respect and pride felt by the common working man who made New Zealand who she was.
A purposely built exhibition hall was erected with two towers reaching a height of 49 metres. Inside were electric lifts – transporting visitors up to viewing platforms showing Christchurch city on the eastern side and the beauty of the Canterbury Plains and the Alps on the western side. It was at that time the largest structure built in New Zealand, covering 14 acres of land with many stalls and displays out in the open of Hagley Park.
About two million people wandered around the exhibits which included a machinery hall, a fernery, an art gallery and a concert hall. As there were less than 50,000 people living in Christchurch at the time, it is surprising to learn that the exhibit operated at a loss but was considered a huge success. Entertainment was also a must and an amusement park was also included. A Maori Pa and a Samoan village were also part of the attractions.
The exhibition closed its gates on 15 April 1907 and by the end of August the same year, all traces of the show had been dismantled and taken away. Sadly, the man behind this historic event, Richard Seddon died before the gates were shut for the last time.
* Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library – Exhibition hall, New Zealand International Exhibition, Christchurch. Webb, Steffano, 1880?-1967 : Collection of negatives. Ref: 1/2-049620-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22302405