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The stories behind Wellington streets

MARY BAINES
Last updated 14:01 21/12/2012

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The Wellingtonian

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The Wellingtonian has surveyed more than 40 streets since March as part of our popular Streetwise feature.

Many streets have been named from Maori words, after famous New Zealanders, or after early settlers from our colonial past.

Some suburbs have borrowed street names from other countries - many of Brooklyn's streets are named after past American presidents.

More than 20 streets in Crofton Downs are linked to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and streets in Grenada North have a West Indies connection.

But it's what happened on the streets of Wellington that turned out to be more interesting, from mysteries involving babies to opium dens, lunatic asylums to wartime battles.

We were reminded that an 1854 jail on The Terrace, where Te Aro school now stands, was one of Wellington's first jails, and held some of the region's most notorious criminals.

Readers learned that Donald St, Karori, was the site of New Zealand's first lunatic asylum. Poorly run, it was closed in 1875 and the buildings were turned into what is now Karori Normal School.

"The Battle of Manners St" was remembered. In 1943, some American soldiers refused Maori soldiers entry to the Allied Services Club, which sparked a three-hour street brawl.

Hundreds of Wellingtonians joined more than 1000 New Zealand troops who battled the American soldiers with batons, belts and knives.

Another central street's varied past was recalled. Taranaki St was once a pa, the largest in Wellington.

A side street of Taranaki St, Haining St, was noted in the 19th century for its Chinese community, known as China Town. It had a reputation for gambling and opium dens.

A close look at some of Wellington's streets revealed a darker past.

In Onepu Rd, Lyall Bay, there have been several fatal car accidents, fires, suicides, drownings, and a tram accident that resulted in one death and 28 injuries.

At the end of that street, a two- week-year old girl was found wrapped in brown paper, buried in a sandhill in 1922. The mystery was never solved.

In Te Aro's Holloway Rd, there have been fires, major landslides and a murder. Locals even talk about a ghost.

There has been violent crime and prostitution in Marion St, with two prostitutes being stabbed there in recent decades.

However, readers were reminded it once housed a religious hall and one of Wellington's first paint shops.

During the year we revealed why Wellington's steepest street, Weld St, is so steep.

Wadestown's grid pattern, reputed to have been created in London, takes no notice of the terrain. The near-vertical street switches between steps and road to make it accessible.

Devon St in Aro Valley has had its fair share of layout-related issues, too. The zig-zagging and sloping street, really only wide enough for one direction of traffic, has caused problems for lorries, trucks and buses since the 1920s.

STREETWISE FEATURES THIS YEAR

Aro St, Beauchamp St (in Karori and Tawa), Boulcott St, Bould St, Broderick Rd, Constable St, Crofton Downs streets, Cuba St, Devon St, Donald St, Evans Bay Pde, Featherston St, Grenada North, Ghuznee St, Hawker St, Holloway Rd, Kent Tce, Lambton Quay, Manners St, Marion St, Middleton Rd, Molesworth St, Moorefield Rd, Moxham Ave, Nairn St, Newcombe Cres, Onepu Rd, Oriental Pde, Palm Ave, Redwood Ave, Riddiford St, Severn St, Simla Cres, Taranaki St, The Terrace, Vivian St, Wallace St, Washington Ave, Weld St, Yule St.

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- The Wellingtonian

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