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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Auckland Provincial District]



Visitors from other parts of the Colony entering Auckland from the wharves or railway station, are in most cases agreeably surprised by the very fine appearance of the principal buildings. They are almost all of brick or concrete, such slight earth tremors as have been felt in Auckland having had no effect whatever in retarding the use of rigid building materials. The architecture of the city is decidedly imposing, and despite the unfortunate absence of truth in the lines of Queen Street, and the disorganised, curl-paper shape of Shortland Street, the City of Auckland presents a solid, permanent, and even grand appearance. The Victoria Arcade, the Supreme Court, the Customs House, and the City Library and Art Gallery, are all handsome, and some of them noble, structures. Even the old and over-crowded Post Office was, in its day, an ambitious building; but the authorities must have been “camping out” when they allowed the adjoining site of Victoria Arcade to go past them.

The Choral Hall, and the Opera House, are creditable, semi-public buildings; and the churches are well represented by St. Paul's, the Baptist Tabernacle, Pitt Street Wesleyan, St. Sepulcher's and St. Patrick's, many of them being visible from points of vantage in nearly every direction. Some of the warehouses are of immense size and very handsome, and both the “Herald” and the “Star” are nobly domiciled. The Northern Club and many of the hotels are both massive and ornamental; and a large number of the retail shops are in no way behind.

The houses of the people form by no means the least attractive branch of Auckland's architecture. Many of them are almost princely in their pretensions; and even those of the poorer kind exhibit refined taste and a commendable desire for comfort. Nestling among trees, or, at any rate, surrounded by flowers, with an outlook over the harbour, hundreds of beautiful villas add in no meager way to the many charms of Auckland.

As it exists, the principal business thoroughfare of Auckland has an inveterate unsightliness, which mars the effect of the fine buildings and the width of the street itself. To speak of Queen Street as “decently crooked” were flattery, the grossness of which could hardly be exceeded by calling it “straight” or “gracefully curved.” So near and yet so far from the rectilinear, it is just a vexatious jumble, for which there appears to have been no better excuse than an incurable cast in the eye of the surveyor. The shape of Lambton Quay in Wellington is irritating enough to ensure millennial maledictions, but Wellington was founded by a company of irresponsible enthusiasts, bent only on their own business, whereas the site of Auckland was especially and officially selected as the seat of Government and the locality of a large and permanent centre. It is hardly too much to say that the founders of Auckland had one of the rarest chances ever vouchsafed to men of planning a majestic site for a majestic city; but they missed it as few such chances have been missed since Adam and Eve lost the Garden of Eden. If, reserving the Queen Street gully for later developments, the founders of Auckland had laid out, and by stages formed, two main and even-graded streets, diverging from the beach near the foot of Shortland Street, to equidistant points near the corners of Ponsonby and Khyber Pass Roads, the gradual formation of Queen Street—three chains wide, straight and even-graded—to a point in the neighbourhood of the New North Road, and thenceforward to the heel of Mount Eden—would have been within the means of the people, and from these streets all the principal parts of the surrounding town and country might have been reached by easy and permanent grades, leaving the deepest gullies and the highest ridges for later treatment. With such a start, Auckland might and probably would have become the most convenient and by far the most beautiful city in Australasia. But, in the important matter of convenience, Auckland is deplorably behind. Verily, seldom if ever, has the “stitch-in-time” policy been more ruefully neglected.