Large, rambling old building standing defiantly alone at the top of Symonds St while all around is being razed to the ground.
The Lounge Bar (upstairs) has an aura of old-fashioned respectability. Large, comfortably furnished and unpretentious, many would see it as their "local." In a district starved of decent bars, it does a hectic lunchtime trade, then lapses into nonchalant mode before awakening for the evening. Across the passageway is an overspill room wherein dominates a pool table. Drab, and a little remote from the action, it does have access to the food bar.
At ground level is the Public Bar. Even with the attempt at enlivening this barren area with partitioning, a melancholia pervades. Bottle Shop.
Good and Bad Pub Guide to Central Auckland,
Colin E Malden, 1991
Defiant though it might have been The Astor Hotel was eventually razed to the ground, in 1997 - six years after this description was written and one year before this present author settled in Auckland. It must have been nice.
The reason for the demolition was road widening. Here is a picture of the widened road:
As you can see, the widening has not solved traffic problems. If you are especially observant, you might also notice the ghastly Città apartments, which the people at Resene describe thus:
A stone's throw from the hustle and bustle of Queen Street, the Citta Apartments on the crest of Upper Symonds Street and Khyber Pass successfully meld urban location, convenience and modern, stylish design and finishing. Ground floor retail provides a shopfront to the project and protects residents from the passing vehicular and foot traffic while giving them a quick stop shopping option, while the enclosed courtyard is a quiet haven from the busy city. The building design blends heritage detailing with solid masonry and modern comfortSome points worth noting:
1. You would need a pretty good throwing arm to hit this building from Queen Street, although the experience would be satisfying if you succeeded.
2. The residents apparently need to be protected, by shops, from the traffic on the widened road and from passers-by.
3. The heritage detailing and the building it details have replaced real old buildings.
Buildings, especially old ones, do not stand much of a chance in Auckland. If it is not the ever-widening roads, it is the pressing needs of developers wot does for them. And so the local pub is replaced by through traffic, and its surrounding buildings, the places where the locals used to live, are replaced by heritage-detailed apartments for people who want to live in the city but be protected from it. To add insult to the city's injury, the successfully-melded apartments are named Città, a word you may pronounce as you wish. Incidentally, the guilty men and women responsible for this melding are the Brown Day group.
Some memories of the Astor Hotel and its locality remain, at Jonathan Ganley's excellent point that thing, and in the art of Janine Randerson and that of Marie Shannon. Little else remains, although a piece of the hotel was relocated to Grey Lynn.