Ohiro Rd's chequered history

THEN: Ohiro Rd, 1913, looking north towards where Brooklyn Village is now.
THEN: Ohiro Rd, 1913, looking north towards where Brooklyn Village is now.

Ohiro Rd, all 3.3 kilometres of it, starts at Aro St and ends in Happy Valley with all the pleasures of Brooklyn in-between.

It runs through Central Park and Tanera Park, Brooklyn Village south towards Carlucci Land.

It's a controversial road with a turbulent history.

NOW: Looking toward busy Brooklyn Village. The Penthouse Cinema is halfway up on the right.
NOW: Looking toward busy Brooklyn Village. The Penthouse Cinema is halfway up on the right.

In the 1880s, it was one of the main roads out of the city, often traversed by horse and cart.

It was in horrendous condition, inspiring large numbers of Evening Post readers to complain about it for more than a decade.

A contract had been awarded to pour metal on the road, but it was not fulfilled for a long time.

One reader said it was almost impassable, and required him to wade knee-deep in mud to walk along it. Another described how a horse had to be put down after breaking its ankle in a pothole.

A third said the road had "ten to twenty large holes, large enough for a man to lie in", and another simply described it as "forsaken".

It wasn't just the road in a dire state.

Properties were required by the council to be fenced in, but that rarely seemed to be enforced.

In 1905, complaints were common about the wild state of residents' front yards.

One property was particularly infamous, with carts scattered all over the unfenced property, almost spilling on to the road.

A man was so alarmed he wrote to the paper claiming to have witnessed an act of "gross indecency" amid the debris while walking home from work.

The Ohiro Benevolent home, near the Te Aro end, was a premiere establishment for retirees. It was established in 1893, and was home to many colourful characters before becoming Central Park Hospital, which closed in 1975.

Reports of the home varied.

About 1905 it was said to be in great condition, while others claimed the retirees were being put to work.

In 1906, the manager of the home was arrested for stealing money from the home's trustees, causing a city-wide scandal.

In 1908, a one-legged resident of the home went on a rampage after a cork leg given to him did not fit. He reportedly threw tea on his fellow residents and "kicked up a terrible bobbery" before he was locked in the bathroom.

Scandal was ever-present outside the home, too.

At one point a complaint was made about the "very rough characters" lurking on the road at night. The person called on the council to erect three more lamps on this "miserable dark Ohiro Road before some murderous outrage is committed".

The prediction came true. In 1933, George Edward James, a 57-year-old train driver, was convicted of murdering his partner at their home at 27 Ohiro Rd. Her 4-year-old son had been found the same day floating in the harbour.

James was sentenced to death, and was hanged less than a month later.

A few years later, a well-known police officer's Ohiro Rd home was partially destroyed in an explosion, which was believed to be related to his strict enforcement of liquor laws.

In 2008, a modern form of sordidness occurred.

A planned subdivision comprising 600 houses along the road failed. Lombard Finance, a prime investor, lost $40 million. It went into receivership, and several of the company's directors were convicted of making misleading financial statements.

In 2012, Ohiro Rd made the news for a happier reason. A bus stop was made to look like a cosy living room, complete with couches, artwork, and a bookshelf. It was a big hit among locals, and added much-needed personality to the brick structure - until it was all removed by the council.

All good things must come to an end.

The Wellingtonian