Thursday, December 25, 2008

Street Stories 6: Paper Roads

Might I point out to intending buyers of town sections in Avondale that they need to be very careful before doing so, or committing themselves by signing a contract, until they find out if the road mentioned is a legally dedicated road or street. There are several such supposed roads and streets, even shown on all maps, but they exist only on maps. Therefore, in these cases the owners cannot give a title. I think it is the duty of the Borough Council to let people know the actual position.
R. J. Burlton-Bennet"
(NZ Herald, 13 February 1923)

Over the course of development and subdivisions stretching back to the late 1850s in both Avondale and Blockhouse Bay, some streets grandly planned on paper for the auction sales never survived. Mr. Burlton-Bennet's gripe could have been about any number of the areas of Avondale's paper roads.

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In the late 1850s, a Mr. Stark drew up his grand scheme for an "East Whau" township (relative to the Whau South and Whau North townships already laid out -- on paper for the most part! -- by the Crown). What we now know as Blockhouse Bay Road from Terry Street down to Donovan Street had two names completely forgotten by the 1880s -- Commercial Road (to the Taylor Street intersection) and Sewell Street (to Donovan Street). Donovan Street itself was White Swan Road, but only from the roundabout area to around where Lewis Street is today (from that point on, it was "Auckland Road". Later, White Swan continued to include the long track up to Richardson Road by early in the 20th century, and then Donovan Street separated from it. Stories of White Swan Road being associated with a swan's neck may not therefore be correct.)

In the Google Maps image above, the only streets from Stark's design which have survived are: Blockhouse Bay Road, Donovan Street, Whitney Street (Whitaker), Terry Street (Thomas) and Exminster Street (Exeter). All others have either faded into the Blockhouse Bay reserve, or become stub access lanes. The vanished paper roads here are:

Gore Street, Browne Street, Steward Street, Ayr Street, Railway Road, Wynyard Street, Richmond Street, and Clifford Street.

Next came the planned township of Whau Bridge. Only Elm Street and possibly Racecourse Parade remain from that well-laid out township across the swamps leading to the river.

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The southern part of Layard Street is the obvious paper road in the above view. But, where we see St Judes Street, heading straight up the hill eastwards only to cut across in a diagonal towards New North Road -- before 1868, it continued straight up the steep climb towards Blockhouse Bay Road in a straight and unaltered line. The old Blake Street (as it was then, from 1863) track was used up to the early 20th century, as a shortcut for those who wanted to go to socials and meetings at the public hall. A dark and very slippery route in the winter, according to those who recall the journey.

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Directly linking the end of Chalmers Street with the Great North Road, there once was a road named Hamilton. Before the late 19th century, it may have been known as Melville, and was part of John Buchanan's estate subdivision from the early 1880s. Today, the road is just an angled boundary. On the other side of Great North Road, Pecan Place is, oddly enough, in the approximate location of another paper road, this one without a name so far as I know at present, which linked Wingate Street, angling to the south-east, with Great North Road, possibly for a subdivision either by John Potter or John Neale Bethell (who owned land on both sides of Great North Road leading to the bridge up to his death in the 1940s.)

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The above image shows the area which, to me, is where the oddest mystery still unsolved in Avondale's history continues -- why, in early references, does it seem that Taylor Street and St Georges Road were the same and linked together as one? The latest documentation I have is a letter from the Avondale Development Association (14 August 1931) suggesting street names changes in Avondale, "That the name of St Georges Road be deleted and that this highway be called Taylor Street for its full length." I look at old maps from that period, and still can't see just what they were getting at.

The Ambulance Station (misnamed New Lynn Station, although it's really in Avondale) sits right where the paper road part of Taylor Street once extended. Ulster Street to the bottom left also extended over present day Wolverton Street, meeting Taylor Street at an angle. Neither of them joined up with the line of St Georges Road, but a friend has suggested that old walking tracks between them, the most direct way between Blockhouse Bay and Avondale until the late 19th century, may have led people to think there was a connection. I don't know. But when you visit Olympic Park today (which includes the "Wolverton Esplanade") you're also visiting some of the now unseen paper roads of our past.

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