Street history: Aro St

Last updated 10:54 05/10/2012

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Aro Valley is noted for its old wooden houses, colourful street art, student population and general quirkiness.

At its centre lies Aro St, which stretches from Willis St to Holloway and Raroa roads.

It was named after the Aro Stream that flowed down what is now Epuni St.

Though the correct term for the stream was the Wai-Mapihi, it was often called the Te Aro Stream because it ran through Te Aro flat.

Aro St was established as a residential area for settlers in the mid-1800s.

Between the 1870s and 1900 many houses that still stand were built - 13 of them are now heritage listed.

They include the Aro St Shopping Centre, which was built between 1899 and 1900.

In 1904 an electric tram was installed in Aro St. It took passengers from Aro St to the central city and the railway station, and operated until 1957.

A notable feature of Aro St is the former William Booth Memorial College. The Georgian-style brick building was built in 1913 and for almost 70 years was the national training college for the Salvation Army. It was named after the Army's founder, William Booth.

Training took place at this site until 1982, when the Salvation Army moved to Upper Hutt. The building is now home to the School of Philosophy, a non-profit teaching organisation.

Aro St also boasts a significant connection to the movies. Since 1989 the street has housed one of the most popular video stores in Wellington.

It was also the site of several scenes in the popular 1981 film Goodbye Pork Pie. Aro St was home to Mickey Mouse Motors in the movie.

A notorious Russian spy drama also unfolded in Aro St. In 1974, Bill Sutch, an economist, historian and writer, was charged with trying to pass classified information to the Soviet Union.

Before he was arrested, police observed Sutch meeting a Russian diplomat near the Aro St men's toilets. Sutch was later acquitted.

With Victoria and Massey universities nearby, Aro St has a high concentration of tertiary students.

The area has also become a stronghold for the Green party.

Street art and murals are very much in evidence in Aro St, many appearing over the last year as part of an initiative to improve the quality of street art and reduce tagging in graffiti-prone areas.

Three of the street's brightly coloured bus shelters were painted by artists Christie Wright, Xoe Hall, Dhyana Beaumount and Freeman White.

The Aro Valley Community Centre, at 48 Aro St, was established after the formation of The Aro Valley Community Council in 1978. Each year the Aro Valley Fair is held at the centre.

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- The Wellingtonian


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