Nairn St's historic past

23:04, Oct 25 2012
Nairn St 1858
Then: Nairn St, 1850, with St John's and St Peter's churches in Willis St in the background.
Nairn St 2012
Now: Nairn St, 2012,. The city council-own Central Park Flats, centre left, dominate the view.

Nairn St is said to be home to Wellington's oldest remaining residential building.

The Colonial Cottage, at 68 Nairn St, became Wellington's first house museum in 1980. It was once home to William Wallis, an English carpenter and his family.

Wallis and his wife, Catherine, arrived in New Zealand in 1857.

Soon after, he bought land in Nairn St, one of Wellington's steepest streets, and built a cottage.

It was made from timber delivered by bullock wagon from his timber yard in Manners St.

In 1870, he built another home, Royston House, next to the family cottage. The second dwelling was necessary because of his growing family - he went on to have 10 children.

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The cottage was in the family for 127 years before the council obtained it under the Public Works Act in 1974 from Winifred Turner, William Wallis' grand- daughter.

The council planned to demolish the cottage to make way for parking.

Most of Wellington's early houses have long since been demolished but the Colonial Cottage Museum Society campaigned hard during the 1970s to save the cottage and eventually won the day.

The society then restored the house to its original late-Georgian style and opened it as an educational museum in 1980.

The cottage is now listed as an earthquake-prone building.

Nairn St was named after Captain Alexander Nairne, a director of the New Zealand Company.

Though he never set foot in New Zealand, Nairne helped fund European settlement.

The street named in his honour has always had the final "e" missing, and it still does, despite recent Wellington City Council agitation to "correct" the spelling.

Nairn St is notable for more than just residential land.

At the top is Nairn Street Park.

In 1895, Enoch Tonks, owner of a brick factory in Webb St, was given the right to use the clay at the top of Nairn St in exchange for transforming the site into a sports field.

The ground is now used for football.

The Wellingtonian