Street history: Wallace St

LYDIA ANDERSON
Last updated 10:06 07/09/2012

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The Wellingtonian

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Wallace St in Mount Cook found fame for a simple epitaph to a 1980s musician, but it is also intrinsically linked to Maori and British history.

In pre-European Wellington, the area surrounding Wallace St was part of Pukeahu pa, which once stood on what is now the old Dominion Museum site at Massey University.

The pa was integral to the New Zealand Wars, which took place between 1845 and 1872.

European troops started occupying the abandoned pa in 1843 to protect Wellington against potentially hostile Maori.

Troops were housed in barracks until 1865. Immigrants then moved in, and in 1879 the barracks were demolished.

Most of the streets of Mount Cook mapped by the New Zealand Company in 1840, but the suburb was developed when the settlers needed it.

Wallace St was named after John Howard Wallace, who also gave his name to John St and Howard St.

He arrived in Wellington on the Aurora in 1840, and set up as a general merchant.

John Wallace played an active role in Wellington, holding an office on the town board from 1863 until 1870.

Wallace St initially extended as far as Howard St, but when tramlines were extended to meet John St in 1925, so was the road.

The area became known for its brickworks, including the Hill Brothers' company on the corner of Rolleston and Wallace streets.

In 1922, Wellington Technical College for high school aged students moved to Wallace and Taranaki streets from central Wellington.

Its academic programmes grew at such a rate that by the 1960s it separated into Wellington High School and Wellington Polytechnic.

In 1999, Wellington Polytechnic merged with Massey University, making some of its technical programmes the first in New Zealand to achieve university status.

Opposite and slightly south of Massey University's Wallace Street entrance, a wall displays a painted memorial to British musician Ian Curtis, from 1980s group Joy Division.

The words 'Ian Curtis RIP' first appeared when the singer died in 1980. The text remained undisturbed until 2009, when council workers removed it.

Since then it has been rewritten by fans and removed several times.

The tag even has its own Facebook page and Wikipedia entry.

As of September 3, the tag was still in place.

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- The Wellingtonian

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