Auckland Downtown Walk
The waterfront area of the fledgling settlement of Auckland was markedly different from that which is seen today.
Initially Fore Street (now Fort Street) ran along the beach. By 1870 the shoreline had been changed with the reclamation of Commercial Bay reaching as far as Customs Street East and the formation of Quay Street in the 1880s.
Auckland’s newest land was close to crucial means of transport. Not only was it on the doorstep of the wharves but soon the new railway station would be at its hub and the heart of the country’s largest commercial centre was just a stones throw away.
The extensive development of wharves and surrounding coastal land during the 1870s and 1880s helped Auckland become the country’s re-export trading capital.
The 1870s investment boom encouraged the growth of Auckland’s industries. Merchants and factory owners alike saw the advantages of land close to the port of Auckland. From the 1880s the area bounded by Customs, Queen, Quay and Breakwater Streets was developed with warehouses, factories, shipping offices and a 24-hour flour mill. The city’s most prominent businesses were well represented in the area.
The depression of the late 1880s and 1890s halted further development for a number of years, but the first decade of the twentieth century witnessed a flurry of building activity in the downtown area.
No doubt, the promise of further harbour improvements spurred on local businesses. In 1899 the Auckland Harbour Board adopted a plan to extend the wharf facilities. Work on Queens Wharf began in 1907 and in 1912 the northern side of Quay Street was adorned with the new Ferry Building. Further improvements were made over the following years.
The eastern ends of Customs and Quay Streets had become the favoured location of warehousing and shipping enterprises. It was a bustling, noisy place with trains entering and exiting the railway station and goods making their way to and from the ships, trains and warehouses in the area. In 1912 railway tracks were installed in Quay Street to connect the railway station with the wharves. Trains would travel the street alongside other vehicles for more than 60 years to come.
Today the downtown area to the east of Queen Street stands in stark contrast to the area to the west. While the western side was extensively redeveloped in the 1960s and 70s the eastern side has retained much of its late nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture.
This tour is based on/includes Auckland Council's data.
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