The artery of Kelburn

17:00, Jul 24 2014
Upland Rd
THEN: Looking east across Kelburn towards Upland Rd. The viaduct is under construction and workers are pouring concrete onto the splan. Photo taken February 17, 1931 by F G Fraser.
Upland Rd
NOW: The Kelburn shops along Upland Rd, including the Kelburn Village Pub.
Kelburn Viaduct
STILL STANDING: Completed in the 1930s, the Kelburn Viaduct was a major feat of engineering.

Stretching from the Botanic Gardens to the end of the Kelburn viaduct, Upland Road is Kelburn's main artery.

Named after Upland Farm, bought by William Moxham in 1860, the street traverses most of the leafy suburb and is a key access route to the larger western suburb of Karori.

Upland Rd follows the ridge above the Glen in Kelburn, an area that previously formed the lower levels of Moxham's farm.

The farm's undulating knolls were levelled by use of an aerial wire tramway.

At the northernmost point of the road is the top cable car stop, the Cable Car Museum and the path to the Carter Observatory, through the Botanic Gardens.

In 1895, a group of Wellington businessmen purchased Upland Farm for residential development.


At the same time businessman Martin Kennedy secured an extension on his lease of five-acres of land just below Upland Rd, which included the current grounds of Weir House and the Salamanca cable car station.

Cable Car Company records show Kennedy as having had the original idea for the cable car and no one at the time or subsequently has disputed this.

In the late 1890s Kennedy convinced the Upland Estates Company that the cable car was a good investment and it opened to the Wellington public in 1902, following three years of construction.

It was instantly popular - by 1912 the annual number of cable car passengers reached one million.

The cable car terminal received a $1.9 million upgrade in 2013, which closed in the platform and provided better views of the harbour.

Construction of the observatory began in 1937, but took four years because of World War II.

Initially a base for astronomical research, the observatory became New Zealand's national observatory in 1977 and nowadays has a focus on public education.

On the eastern approach to Kelburn Village, halfway along Upland Rd, is a small Anglican church, St Michael and All Angels. Construction of the church began in 1912, with the foundation stone laid 1919.

The church's nave was significantly damaged during a 1940 earthquake, but in spite of wartime austerity, the damaged section of the church was rebuilt by 1942.

A hundred metres west of Upland Rd's small shopping centre is Kelburn Normal School, on the corner of Upland and Kowhai Roads.

The school was built in 1914, along with the Wellington Teachers' Training College.

As a result of both the school and college rolls growing, the college relocated to its current site in Karori in 1970 and the school was expanded across both Kelburn sites.

At the far western end of Upland Rd lies the Kelburn viaduct, linking the suburbs of Kelburn and Karori.

The bridge is one of the oldest concrete-reinforced bridges in New Zealand and was completed in 1931, when it crossed above the tramline on Glenmore St.

Shortly after completion, and following a number of suicide attempts, the balustrades on the bridge were made taller.

Upland Rd has been home to several colourful goings on over the years.

It was raided for "houses of ill- repute" in 1918, with one suspect accused of "getting her daughter away", a 1996 hepatitis outbreak was traced back to a delicatessen in the village shops and a 2001 car crash involved a Brazilian diplomat, who rolled a four-wheel-drive and then refused to be breath tested.

The 1.2-kilometre road is today home to two medical centres, a vet clinic, the Kelburn Village Pub, two cafes, an antiques store, two Indian restaurants, a pizzeria, a superette, video store, deli, pharmacy, antiques store, florist, beauty parlour, liquor store and two clothing boutiques.

The Wellingtonian