In my first post I posed the question, what is the future of Cuba St? For me answering this question involves understanding its past a little better. people, history and buildings being subjects that interest me.
I have been cruising the Turnbull library online, what a great place for researchers and I think money well spent from our nations cultural budget. Years ago I wanted to find out about a house we bought on the Terrace which was built in the 1890’s. I ventured into a small 3rd floor room in the central city and was allowed to pull out numerous old wooden draws full of black and white photographs, fascinating early records of our city. That was a great tactile experience, but looking online is so much quicker! The library is now merged with the National library, currently undergoing a massive rebuild, more money well spent. Though I imagine that will be the last this institution will see of tax payers dollars for a while. The accessing of original records in the future I imagine will be surrounded in more archivist procedure, involving white gloves, paperwork and time getting the originals out from storage.
I have been into another of our city’s great buildings the city library, skimming through a few books written about the city and enjoying my enlightenment. Anyone would think I was getting all academic, but I don’t think I could cope with the formal structure or the fee’s an institution would charge me. I am engaging in more of a stroll through Cuba Streets history, looking for info on the people who built the buildings and the residents and business people who lived and worked there, how the street came to have the character it does today.
Back in 1840 the surveyors off the Cuba had a plan, it was drawn up in England, 1,100 plots to be balloted, but of course it didn’t fit! Drawn up in a square with the assumption that it was flat, drawn was also a river running through the middle, supposed to be a wide slow flowing navigable one. But in reality the land was steep with a small amount of flat land leading into the harbour. The large hill ( the Terrace ) and a ravine with a stream separated the two areas, the plots were squeezed into Thorndon and the Te Aro flat area which was much larger . This was the beginning of that distinctive juxtaposition of the two ends of town, that still exists in Wellington today.
Thorndon flats was described as the aristocratic end of town and Te Aro flats the more democratic community end. Where Stewart Dawson corner is now, was known as Windy Point, this point pre reclamations was the dividing line between the two community’s. It is noted that the boys from schools at either end of town, would challenge each other to fist fights at Windy Point. Funny that, I have always considered Willis St to be a dividing line between the Suits and the Bohemians. However the gentrification does seem to be moving at a rapid speed up towards Te Aro with Cuba St and its character being part of the attraction.
Bellow courtesy of the Turnbull library Windy Point is that large rock jutting out on the left.
Barraud, Charles Decimus, 1822-1897Chapman, Frederick Revans (Sir), 1849-1936. Barraud, Charles Decimus 1822-1897 :[Te Aro and Thorndon] 1852. Ref: C-007-007. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://beta.natlib.govt.nz/records/22889551