Frank Lloyd

All things Art Deco in Napier, New Zealand

All things Art Deco in Napier, New Zealand

At 10:47 a.m. on Feb. 3, 1931, an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale shook the town of Napier, onNew Zealand'sNorth Island, killing 161 people. The fires that followed consumed all but a few reinforced concrete buildings. In 21/2 minutes, Napier ceased to exist.

In a bold move two years later, the residents of Napier broke with their colonial tradition and rebuilt the town in Art Deco style, made popular in Europe of the '20s. This transformation made Napier a leading-edge architectural city and one of the most modern of its day.

I had been obsessed with the 1920s since my stint playing Vera in a community theater production of "Mame." The sartorial style,...

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