In 1972 at 72 St David Street, where the St David Street lecture theatres sit now, a group of students hung out a rather official looking sign. It celebrated their “three common kiwi names”, Fudakowski, Nowakowski, Voykovic. As the flat was owned by the University name it made sense to call it, “Department of Slavonic Studies”. Mike Fudakowski told me, “We had a formal-looking plate made for the door by a relative of Anthony Voykovic, one Gary Wyber who with his father had a photographic printing business and could photo-etch a zinc plate. Voykovic thinks that Nowakowski ended up with that plate. I don’t remember.”
The flat cost a grand total of $5 a week. Average at the time. It had a coal range and a gas oven, so it wasn’t too difficult to warm in winter. However it had no hot water at all. “We used to venture down the road to the Student Union or the Phys Ed School squash courts for a shower, so this may not have occurred on a daily basis.”
Kasia Waldegrave who provided the photo, told me the flat was visited by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS), the name having sparked fears of a communist domino effect having infiltrated Dunedin. Mike didn’t recall this incident, but did remember another. “We were certainly visited by a Polish-speaking gentleman who said he was the Polish Consul from Wellington on a visit. A mystified man, puzzled by my own evident inadequacy with the Polish tongue. Nowakowski was called and came to the rescue to explain that the Department was only informally attached to the University. I think he knew the Polish words for “student humour”.”
Curious about the NZSIS visit, I wrote them a letter. They checked their records, but there were no details of an investigation into the inhabitants of the Department of Slavonic Studies.
The flat possessed a small, asphalted back yard from which they could see, on Cumberland Street, the rear of “Free Latvia”, a flat where Jim Mora, Radio NZ broadcaster, used to live.
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.