Early Development of Mt Eden and our History:
Mt Eden is prominent mark on the skyline for many parts of the Auckland isthmus. It consists of three cones and measures 196 meters above sea level. The mountain itself has significance for both Maori and Pakeha. Archaeological sites bear testimony to occupation of the mountain by Maori and the mountain remains a focal point for the residents of the suburb for which it is named. The volcanic cone of Mount Eden was made a public domain in 1879.
During the early 1840’s the land fronting Mt Eden Rd, Dominion Rd and Normanby Rd was divided into small farms. Many of these allotments were purchased and resold by speculators. Residential development commenced in the 1860’s. The shopping precincts located on the earliest roads in the area, developed in conjunction with the rapidly increasing population and improvements in public transport particularly the tramlines, with a significant period of built development in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
At the height of development around this time these centers provided most of the every day services, supplies and entertainment needed by the surrounding suburb.
The Auckland isthmus with its temperate climate, fertile volcanic soil and easy access to two harbours and was much sought after by its original Maori inhabitants.
Maungawha (Mt Eden) and Owairaka (Mt Albert) were two of the volcanic cones on the isthmus that were used as fortified pa. Terraced gardens adorned the sides of these mountains while ditches; palisades and stonewalls provided protection. The Isthmus was home to the Wai-o-hua people until the mid 18th century when they were attacked and defeated by the Ngati Whatua. This marked the end of both Owairake and Maungawhau as populated cones. During the 1830’s the musket-armed Nga Puhi raided the isthmus driving its inhabitants into the Waikato.
In 1840 having settled upon Auckland as the site of the capital for the new colony, Governor Hobson secured a 3000 block of land for the government. It was purchased from local chiefs and included the land bounded by a line drawn from Cox’s Creek to Mt Eden and thence to Parnell. This block included the northern part of the suburb of Mt Eden. The following year a 13,000-acre block was purchased by the crown. Included in this area were the suburbs of Kingsland, Morningside, Mt Eden, Mt Albert Owairaka, Sandringham and Balmoral. Mt Eden itself would be a reference point for surveys of the land and it would soon become the principle trig station of the Auckland Province.
The suburban development of Auckland depended on the availability of land, affordable transport and the desire of middle class to move out of the crowded inner city. The population of Auckland had increased by around 25% from 1874 to 1881. However more dramatic increases were soon follow with the population of Auckland Borough doubling from 1881 to reach 33,161 people in 1886.
Estate agents touted the lifestyle benefits of living away form the city and the social prestige a suburban address enamoured. Suburban life offered the fresh and open space that was missing from the small allotments and narrow lanes of the inner city. Allotments in subdivisions in Mt Eden, Morningside and Kingsland found buyers amongst settlers and speculators alike.
At the dawn of the twentieth century housing had largely repaced the farms, which had graced Mt Eden, Balmoral and Sandringham. The increase in the residential population was accompanied by he development of roads, public transport, churches, schools and early business and industry.
Volcanic stone was used extensively for early road building, as well as walls and fences and remains an important characteristic of the area. Allotment sizes demonstrate a pattern of more substantial suburban development and the area retains its early housing stock to a large degree, including largely one and two storied timber villas. The villa including its architecture, decoration and surroundings form a lasting expression of the Victorian middle class in NZ, reflecting a love of home and comfort, spacious interiors, decoration and display.
Early Life on Dominion Road:
It was common sight in early Mt Eden to see residents walking to and from their workplace and on Sundays to church in central Auckland. In the late 1870’s public transport began in the form of horse-buses and two services were set up, one along Mt Eden Rd from Windmill Rd to the city and the other ran along Dominion Rd, known then as the Mt Roskill Rd. William Patterson ran the transport service to the city along Dominion Rd from his farm located on the corner of Balmoral and Dominion Rd. Transport was, however, expensive and tended to be used by the wealthier residents.
By the late 1880’s residents wanted to make Mt Eden into a ‘respectable’ residential area, There were complaints about having to live next to pigs, and having cattle and horses roaming on the roads. Animals were now labeled a nuisance. Residents began putting pressure on the Road Board to get rid of Redshaw’s Boiling-down Factory, situated in the vicinity of Bellwood Ave and Dominion Rd, sighting that the accumulation of animal waste on the property was found offensive and a health hazard. This pressure resulted in all abattoirs being banned in the district.
In 1902 Electric trams were introduced into Auckland and the Auckland Tram Company constructed two tramways in Mt Eden one along Mt Eden Rd and the other on Dominion Rd. The Dominion Rd tramline provided a through service from town, initially going to the corner of Valley Rd and later extended to Balmoral and on to Mt Albert Rd.
with the coming of the trams, concentrated shopping areas appear to have developed. On Dominion Rd this was at Valley Rd and Balmoral Rd. Shops at the Valley Rd intersection were built around the first decade of the century and increased in number after this became the end of the tramline. Life in the first decades of the twentieth century had eased from the hardships of the earlier settlers. Residents’ needs were increasingly being met within the borough. Not only was there a convenient transport system, but also an increasing number of shops provided the basic needs and supplies
Residents were able to have groceries, fish, meat, and bakers’ goods delivered to their doorsteps from the stores in the area, and tinkers would come around in their carts to mend pots and sharpen knives and scissors.
Mt Eden’s Industry and places of workMt Eden’s first industry was Mason’s flourmill established in Windmill Rd. It was during the early years of Auckland’s history the Mt Eden area was a rural locality some distance from the business and residential area centered around the Queen St valley. For this reason Mt Eden was viewed as an appropriate location for industries and institutions that were accompanied by an element of danger. The Mt Eden Prison and the Colonial Ammunition Company factory were both erected prior to the extensive development of Mt Eden as a residential area. The volcano for which the Mt Eden area is named provided the locality with a quarrying industry, which would keep prisoners, occupied and provided the city with building and roading material. It was the proximity to the city of this mountain of rock, which was it being quarried from an early date.