The Harry Potter series has hit a number of records in literary and film-making history. One record that is sure to be unique in the world is the influence of the series on house naming. Here in Dunedin, New Zealand there have been a number of flats that have been bestowed names with a Potteresque flavour.
Something I’ve noticed about the naming of student flats over the years is that popular culture plays a huge part in the naming, and there are examples of films and literature being a source of inspiration over the decades that flat naming has been a thing. Earlier examples are Smerch HQ (1960s), Hobbit (1970s), The Bordello (1990s) and, more recently Zeta.
The first Potter inspired flat is the Chamber of Secrets (2007) from 150 Frederick Street. All Potter fans, the sign depicting the Hogwarts crest was painted by Will. The flat won the Te Roopu Maori “Best Name or Sign” in OUSA’s 2007 House & Garden awards. The judges thought the sign on this flat was “Fucking awesome!”. When the tenants of 2008 didn’t want the (frankly amazing) sign, the Chamber Boys took it with them. When I met up with them the sign was hanging on their lounge room wall.
In the Harry Potter series, the Shrieking Shack was commonly known as the most haunted house in England. In Dunedin the Shrieking Shack on Great King Street received its name in 2010 from Scott Honeyfield, a Potter fan, and his flatmates. Scott told me the age and character of the house suited the name. Interestingly the house is also well known for it’s toilet under the stairs that can not accommodate persons of height. The toilet under the stairs may allude to the shitty living conditions Harry Potter experienced while living with the Dursley’s on Privet Drive. I acknowledge this may be a bit of a reach on my part.
Since 2010 the Shrieking Shack has maintained its name with periods of absence of signage. The current iteration of the sign is the third in 5 years and resembles a white on black version of the Queen Street sign seen below which utilises the Harry Potter style lightening bolt font.
Here’s a photo of the same flat from late in 2015. This sign replaced one which was stolen earlier in the year.
The Shrieking Shack on Queen Street had a short life, this rendition offers a black on white interpretation of the current sign that can be seen on the Great King Street flat (above).
In 2014 I was approached by a property developer, Tim Calder, who wanted to name a few of his flats on St David Street. After some discussion around potential ideas, he and his property manager Megan, decided on Harry Potter themed names. I visited the flats on Friday 27th November but only found one sign still in situ, Godric’s Hollow.
Godric’s Hollow, 114a St David Street
The Leaky Cauldron, 114b St David Street. Copyright Tim Calder. Used with permission.
Honeydukes, 114c St David Street. Copyright Tim Calder. Used with permission.
A shout out to the Dunedin Flat Names Project community on Facebook has connected me with people who have helped fill in some gaps in information (thank you!) and also revealed a further Potter inspired flat, the Three Broomsticks, sometimes also known as Three Broomsticks Racing. This flat is apparently on Great King Street but I’ve not yet seen the sign.
Zeta came into being this year, the name was inspired by a sorority house “Zeta Alpha Zeta” in the movie, The House Bunny, from 2008. The film is a firm favourite of the Zeta flatties, who have painted a house sign to replicate that from the movie.
This isn’t the first time 241 Castle Street has carried a flat sign. Earlier this century, for a short time, it was known as The Cardboard Box and it carried a rather splendid stenciled sign.
Three years ago on a rainy Monday morning in Christchurch, I picked up the phone and called Ji Fraser to interview him about his band Six60, named for their flat at 660 Castle Street. When I asked him about how he found flatting in Dunedin he responded diplomatically, “Flats are not that nice to live in but have heaps of character.” The house and it’s neighbour, were built c 1927-8, and are now looking their age.
Ji hails form Gisbourne but his Otago experience began at University College in 2005, he and Matiu took a couple of music papers – they’d both been turned down for the contemporary rock course. It doesn’t bother them now. They’ve done very well, they signed with Universal Studios on 8 May 2010, and their single Rise Up 2.0 recently reached number 1 on the NZ charts on 24th January 2011 after entering the charts on 6 Sept 2010.
In 2006 Matiu and Ji moved into 660 Castle Street with friends from University College. They had spent time jamming in their rooms and thought it’d be good to flat together and get a band going. Ji bought a cheap PA. Hoani played the bass. Through the course of the year they met Eli who’s still the current drummer (2011). They referred to the flat amongst themselves, and to others, as 660, and as the band formed and they started playing shows, they became known as the 660 boys. When it came to releasing their first EP, they decided to call themselves Six60, after that Castle Street flat because “it was a place that meant so much to us”.
So, why did this flat mean so much to them. “That’s where it all began”. Ji elaborated, “it’ where I wrote my first song, it’s where we had our first practice together. It was the beginning of everything.” Like so many other Otago alumni, Ji feels the experience flatting has a great impact on students because for many it’s their first time living independently. “They’re really special for a lot of people. So many good times, a lot of bad times too. They’re a rich source of memories.”
Before their first NZ tour Ji contacted a friend who has a clothing label called Search. One of their designers came up with a range of ideas for a logo for the band, the brief was to include the name and reference the Castle Street flat. It was used on the Rise Up 2.0 release cover. The guys like the idea of strong visually memorable graphics to advertise themselves.
Their music video for Don’t forget your Roots (directed by Robin Walters, July 2011) cruises through the Dunedin North landscape and highlights a number of named flats of the day.
Six60 are in town for Orientation and took the opportunity to visit 660 Castle St a couple of days ago before playing last night (20.02.14) at the Starters bar (aka The Orie(ntal) or The Last Moa). They play the Forsyth Bar Stadium tonight (21.02.14)
— Ji fraser SIX60 (@ji_fraser) February 16, 2014
See the article: Parcels of goodness delivered / Otago Daily Times 21.02.14