Saturday, September 3, 2011

Some Onehunga landmarks

We'll start with a loo -- "De Loo", to be precise, a wrought-iron artwork dandifying what is otherwise just another Auckland Council public convenience of the modern age. The artist is Dave Vazey, and the ironwork was installed in 2002.

St Peters Anglican Church has been at the corner of Church Street and Onehunga Mall since 1848, although not with the appearance it has today. A wooden church was replaced by a new church in 1930, shifting the old building back for a tower and chancel, designed by D B Patterson. The new church was consecrated in June 1931, but the foundation stone was laid a year before with Masonic ceremony, with corn scattered over the stone by Provincial Grand Master Oliver Nicholson, then the stone was anointed with wine. The stone is a time capsule as well: a copy of the architect’s plans, several silver coins, and copies of Auckland newspapers were deposited in a cavity before the stone was placed in position. In 1979, a new church was built around the tower, to the design of architects Gillespie Newman Pierce. 

Outside the church grounds on Onehunga Mall itself: the Mainstreet Table and Sofa, installed 1999, and designed by ceramic artist Karen Kennedy.

If you look under the table, there are apparently secret messages. Sorry, folks, I didn't look ...

I don't include commercial murals here as a rule -- but this one on Pearce Street is an eyecatching beauty. The artist is Phat 1 Diva, dating from this year.

Scotlands on Onehunga Mall, a site originally purchased from the Crown in 1854 by Presbyterian Rev. David Bruce, possibly in connection with the nearby church. The property was purchased in 1884 by Dr. William George Scott (who was apparently born in Staffordshire in 1852 according to internet sources, and died in Onehunga in 1930). Dr. Scott was in active practice in Onehunga for nearly 50 years. He served as Mayor of Onehunga Borough 1883-1884, and again in 1885-1887. He was one of the chief supporters of a water reticulation system for Onehunga, which led to the building of the pump house at the borough’s water reserve. He served on the staff at Auckland Hospital, was a Fellow of the Royal Laryngolical Association, and from 1900 President of the New Zealand branch of the British Medical Association.

A very nice interpretive sign is in place here.

The house has certainly changed over the years. The inset photo is of Dr. Scott himself.

The property has had successive owners since Dr. Scott passed away. The Women's Division of Federated Farmers bought the house in 1948, the NZ Railways took it over in 1953 when everyone thought (at that time) that the Avondale-Southdown link would come to fruition. We're still waiting.

Finally, the Onehunga Club, which formed also in 1953, began to lease the building and have been there ever since.

Further up Onehunga Mall, at the intersection with Trafalgar Street, is Tin Tacks Reserve. Which is named after the corner just across on the other side with Trafalgar.

But ... why "Tin Tacks"? Well, I'm still not certain, but Norine Borchard in her book Untold Stories of Onehunga (1993) included research by Margaret Ashton at the time on the matter.

Tin Tacks was actually Alexander Wright, a wood carver by trade. Born in Scotland in 1873 he and his wife Helen came to New Zealand in 1912.  A mere 4 ft tall, Mr Wright was physically dwarfed by his spouse. They ... opened a shop in Trafalgar Street. His wife Helen ran the shop while he ran the horse and three wheeled cart. He visited the Onehunga Woollen Mills at Wednesday lunchtime, the Onehunga Sulphur Works in Church Street and primary schools in the lunch hours.

Tin Tacks also supplied icecream for the Onehunga cinema in the Onehunga Mall, which was then called Queen Street.
The corner was initially Wright Corner -- but then took on the name Tin Tacks. But, as I said, I'm still somewhat hazy as to exactly why Mr Wright had that nick name. Still -- he came in 1912, which is the same year my paternal grandfather came to New Zealand, and made his mark.

Walking along Trafalgar Street -- a former Church of Christ, now a NZ Chinese Mission Church. The brickwork at the front is interesting, given the wooden structure for the rest of the church.

Finally, this mural on the side of the Jellicoe Dairy.

You can't go wrong with a tram. Well, not too far wrong!


  1. The ironwork over the public toilet is wonderful but it looks like it would have cost an awful lot of money. The tattoo mural partly covers another interesting mural. I must remember that exterior painted murals are never meant to be permanent.

  2. I'd say you're right about the cost of the ironwork -- but I can't readily find anything else Vazey has done via online sources since. Wish they'd do something arty around other news loos in the city, though.

    Yes, I noticed that one mural had been covered by another. There seems to have been, at one point a series around Onehunga. What's left seems to show forests, birds and deer. That may have been one of them

  3. This comment accidentally deleted. From Helen Wenley.

    "I have just added this post's link to my post

    I had done a search on Tin Tacks Reserve because I was curious about it's name, and found your blog. "

  4. I, too, was curious about Tin Tacks Reserve. Now I'll have to investigate some of Onehunga's other hidden treasures. Thanks!

    1. I grew up playing around 'Scotlands' or the Onehunga Gentleman's Club as it is known. We used to play in some of the lava caves that run under Scotlands, across the Onehunga Hotel carpark to an entrance in the yard in our house in Galway Street. There were lots and lots of sea shells, muskets, crockery, bottles, a small stream. I'm sure it is all still there, it the earthworks haven't filled them all in. The ground is quite hollow there.

  5. My father says his older brothers worked at Henahan's grocery store in the 1940s (opposite what is now the Mad Butchers). Back then it was well known as Tin Tacks corner because people in the area had seen Mr Wright working away with tacks in his mouth.

  6. According to my father it became known as tin tacks corner because the man who worked in the stationery shop during any conversation would invariably at some stage say "Lets get down to tin tacks...." and so people began to laughingly refer to the local shops as tin tacks[corner]

  7. My family, the Auckram's, were an original Fencible family. I remember them talking about 'Tin Tack' back in the 1960's when I was a young girl. They said it was because he was only the size of a tin tack and no taller.

  8. My family were the Auckram's, an original Onehunga Fencible Family. When I was a young girl living on family land in what was then Albert Street and later renamed Galway Street, during the 1960's. I asked my relatives why it was named Tin Tacks Corner. They knew the man and said it was named that because he was 'no taller than a tin tack'.

    1. Thanks, Heather. Really great hearing from a member of the Auckram family! Cheers!