Auckland Midtown Walk

Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
Distance: 2 km
by Anahera Moore

This area is significant in that it demonstrates both change and continuity in the social and commercial history of Auckland.

Auckland Midtown Walk - Cya On The Road

When Auckland became the capital of New Zealand in 1841 the government buildings and military barracks were established on the Princes St. ridge. The route between the landing place and foreshore market place, known as Shortland Crescent, naturally developed as the commercial area. Service lanes grew to accommodate workmen and workshops in what are now High, O’Connell and Chancery Streets.

In 1858 fire broke out in the Osprey Inn in High Street and spread rapidly through the closely built wooden buildings. As a result of the large-scale destruction businesses rebuilt in Queen St where the sites were larger, the gradient flatter and where the drainage problems were being addressed. This enabled more substantial and grandiose buildings to be built. Queen Street thus took over the ‘main street’ mantle.

While Queen St has remained predominantly commercial and retail, High and O’Connell Streets and the connecting lanes have passed through many stages. From early residential and workshop origins, the 1860s saw a concentration of publishing and printing houses. Vulcan Lane’s Queens Ferry and Occidental Hotels were favoured haunts of journalists and printers. Named for the Vulcan Forge established here in 1846, it became known as Vultures Lane frequented by prostitutes, peddlers, cockfights and bookmakers. This changed somewhat when the Magistrates Court, built in 1911, attracted law firms to the area. The concentration of public buildings around Freyberg Place lasted till the late 1880s when the Library, Police Station and Council Offices moved to new locations.

It remains a mixed use area with offices and residential apartments side by side. Numerous shops, restaurants and cafes are a vital part of the vibrant social atmosphere and sense of history.

A rich and varied architectural history is evident including fine examples of Victorian, Edwardian, Arts and Crafts, Art Deco and Modern buildings. From the 1930s depression to the present there has been little new development, only ten new buildings have been built since 1939.

Acknowledgements

This tour is based on/includes Auckland Council's data.

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