Street tells a roaring tale

TALIA CARLISLE
Last updated 12:14 16/03/2014

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The Wellingtonian

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Daniell St is the home of New Zealand's first zoo, established in 1906.

The one-kilometre road runs north from Wellington Zoo to Wellington Hospital.

It was named after Captain Edward Daniell, who arrived in New Zealand in 1840.

The zoo was set up when a young South African lion was donated to Wellington during a tour by Wirth's Circus in 1905.

A committee of Wellington citizens then bought a small collection of interesting animals from Australia.

The committee was later presented with a valuable collection of rheas, thar and axis deer by the president of the London Zoological Society, the Duke of Bedford, who sent the animals to New Zealand at his own expense.

Afterwards the Wellington Post Office officials gifted a collection of white storks. The collection quickly grew with leopards, bears, jackals, hyenas, elephants and camels.

But the animals did not seem to enjoy their new caged life, as noted by a Newtown resident walking past the zoo in its early years. The resident noted the young lion, King Dick, newly installed in his cage and "weeping bitterly".

On following nights King Dick's lament could often be heard, author F L Irvine- Smith wrote in the 1948 book The Streets of My City.

"On many a night thereafter to the ears of Newtown folk, there wafted down the southerly the lament of the lonely zoo."

It is hard to imagine Newtown without Wellington Zoo, but the gift of King Dick the lion was viewed differently by Wellington's early residents.

When the lion was gifted by Geo Wirth of Wirth's Circus in 1905, a public meeting was held to decide the animals' future.

The verdict was that most residents would prefer King Dick as a stuffed animal.

When Wirth heard this, he was appalled and took back the offer of the young lion. A second meeting and the decision was reversed. King Dick was returned to Wellington to restart his life at Wellington Zoo.

Opposite Wellington Zoo is a dairy that has served many generations of zoo visitors.

Bowerman School of Design and Red Design Architects are also located in Daniell St.

Off Daniell St is Carrara Park, historically an industrial area.

The park originally housed the Carrara Ceilings factory, which produced ornamental handcrafted plaster ceilings and cornices. Carrara designed and made decorative plaster work for many New Zealand public buildings, including theatres, banks and churches.

Many of the best examples, such as the Grand Hotel and the ANZ Bank head office have since disappeared, as have the buildings that housed them.

Over the past two decades, the area has transformed into green space.

Last year it was noted as a problem area for tagging and illegal drinking.

A 21st birthday was held for one of the trees in Carrara Park last year. A performance by Dance Wellington called Lung Tree was held at the park in November. It was directed by Lyne Pringle, who has lived beside Carrara Park for 22 years.

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- The Wellingtonian

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