The key to Oamaru’s distinctive look is whitestone, a “free stone” which is easily worked with metal hand tools when freshly quarried but hardens with exposure to the elements. While keeping the prevailing Neoclassical fashion firmly in mind, the architects’ imaginations ran riot, producing deeply fluted pilasters, finely detailed pediments and elegant Corinthian pillars topped with veritable forests of acanthus leaves. Oamaru was given much of its character by architect R.A. Lawson and by the firm Forrester and Lemon who together produced most of the more accomplished buildings between 1871 and 1883. Oamaru stone is still used in modern buildings such as the Waitaki Aquatic Centre in Takaro Park. Enthusiasts can visit the source of Oamaru stone at the Parkside Quarry (woamarustone.co.nz), 7km west of town.

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