When The Rigi was the main coach road

JOSEPH ROMANOS
Last updated 10:38 22/03/2013

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Drivers who use The Rigi as a shortcut from Northland to Glenmore St would be surprised to know that in the 19th century coaches used to wend their way up the steep road.

In the days before the Kelburn viaduct - the old one was built in 1900 and its replacement in 1931 - the main commuter route to Karori was a tortuous journey up The Rigi and over the hill where Karori Tunnel is now.

The Rigi is largely a one-way street these days, except for the stretch at the bottom below the intersection with Governor Rd.

It has existed since the 1850s and was referred to as The Rigi after the Swiss mountain of the same name. Though in the early years the street was called Old Karori Rd, gradually The Rigi became more formally adopted.

The Talavera Tennis Club, built just before World War II, is found at the foot of The Rigi.

There was quite a furore in the 1930s about what should be done with that land, with some suggesting a public park and others apartments. Tennis lovers carried the day.

For many years the dominant buildings in The Rigi were the St Vincent de Paul school and church on the right coming down.

The Catholic Church bought the site in 1916 and had the church and school built soon after. The school was closed in 1982 and the church in the late 1990s.

The school was run initially by the Sisters of Mercy, then from 1941 till 1965 the Marist Sisters, and after that the Sisters of St Joseph.

The site was sold to a developer in 2000.

Many motorists from Northland and Karori still use The Rigi, amusing themselves by trying to beat traffic travelling down the main road.

That task has been made more difficult by the addition of an enormous speed bump at the top of The Rigi, but that merely adds to the challenge.

On a perhaps unrelated issue, there have been some spectacular crashes in The Rigi.

Our files contain reports right back to the 1930s of cars failing to negotiate the sharp bend towards the bottom, flipping and ending up on the road below.

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- The Wellingtonian

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