What is now one of Riverside Community's most frequently used spaces and home to a variety of classes, workshops and special events, started out as a humble church over half a century ago. Built mainly by Riverside Community residents intent on creating a church not only for worshiping, but also for celebrating a wider community spirit, the construction started sometime in 1959. The building was finished completely in 1961 with the first service being held in February of the same year.
Over the decades - first as the Church, then as the Centre - the building was used for all sorts of events: church services, weddings, political gatherings, community meetings, large communal meals, games, dances, plays and more. Open to everyone, and elevated on top of a hill in the middle of Riverside, the Centre became quickly an important landmark, and many people still have fond memories of this place and the stories that played out here in the 1960s, 70s and so on.
As time passed, the usage of the building became more varied and also more accommodating for increasingly non-religious events. Some time in the early 1980s, the Cross was removed from the Hall window - a move signifying the loss of the building's religious functions and the last step of turning the space into the Riverside Community Centre.
Then, in October 2003 the unthinkable happened! A fire destroyed parts of the Centre, mainly the old kitchen and smaller hall.... Riverside Residents can still remember the night of the fire clearly: the banging sounds of the roof giving in, how the flames leaped up into the sky, raging on and on, wondering where the fire would stop...
Then the rebuilt began. Once again the pieces were put together. A grandson of one of the original builders (Norm Cole) was part of the reconstruction and of the weaving together of the old and new. Though this time it lacked a religious impetus, the constructions' goal was very similar to what it had been 40 years earlier. To turn this space into a place for anyone wanting to connect, to learn, to share, to celebrate.
The Centre, with its main hall almost untouched by the fire and with the additions of a big, commercial kitchen, a beautiful meeting room, and an artistically designed courtyard, was reopened in April 2006. Since then, the Centre has flourished as a meeting place for people from close and far away, all adding their own stories to the history of this building.
Today - just as it has always been - Riverside Community Centre is open to everyone and whether YOU want to join in here for Community Lunch on Wednesdays or hire the Centre as a venue for regular classes, one-off workshops or special events, we invite you to come, to have a look around and experience this special place with your own eyes and hearts.
For more info on hiring the Centre: https://www.riverside.org.nz/venue