The iconic Norfolk pines on Napier’s Marine Parade were the brainchild of mayor George Henry Swan.
He had a vision for Marine Parade after many, many years of problems with the ocean, pounding right up to houses and storms sweeping away anything on the foreshore.
Planting began in 1888 and originally there were 82 of the trees which now tower over the parade.
The trees, as well as being decorative, had a purpose - they were designed to stop sea spray coming from the ocean. Many also had benches built around them for walkers.
The 1931 earthquake changed the foreshore, raising it considerably and altering the development that would be done. Now work would not have to compete with the encroaching sea.
The seawall had already been built by the time the earthquake hit but now the land beyond the seawall could be reclaimed.
The gardens and rock gardens were the first to be completed and later things like the Soundshell - and much later - in 1954 - the equally iconic statue of Pania.
The trees of course survived the earthquake and even now drivers travel beneath the shade of the massive trees.
Swan had been born in 1833, in Sunderland, England, and went to Australia in 1854 before settling in New Zealand in 1857. He had initially trained as a chemist but became interested in photography. Arriving in Wellington he became a photographer then moved to Napier where he opened a studio which continued until 1870 when he sold it to his assistant.
He then became a large shareholder and managing director of the Hawke’s Bay Brewing company and in 1869, it purchased the White Swan Brewery in Hastings which he ran for many years.
He became Mayor of Napier in 1885 and served until 1901 (at the time being the longest serving mayor in New Zealand).
As mayor, he started process for the public salt-water swimming baths as well as the changes to Marine Parade.
He was also chairman of the Napier Hospital Board, and of the Hawke's Bay United Charitable Aid Board for many years, and a member of the Napier Harbour Board for seventeen years. He represented Napier in the House of Representatives from 1890 to 1893.
Swan married actress Frances Stopher in 1884.
There is a bust and plaque in the wall of the pool on Marine Parade dedicated to Swan.
He died in Whanganui on July 25, 1913 and is buried at the Old Public Cemetery in Whanganui.
Fran and Deb's updates