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 Caption: Bond Street, c. 1959, photographer: Gordon Burt, 1/2-037223-F, Alexander Turnbull LibraryAlley­ways give a dif­fer­ent, scruffily inter­est­ing, back-door view of a city and Wel­ling­ton is no excep­tion. I spent a recent after­noon wan­der­ing the alleys of Te Aro. There is a lot of hid­den his­tory there.

Most alleys date back to the 19th cen­tury, when they some­times housed stables and provided horse-drawn ser­vice access to busi­nesses and homes. Many ori­gin­ally cut past the cramped back­yards of work­er cot­tages then cov­er­ing much of Te Aro. Those houses have long gone, to be replaced by ware­houses and light industry, and then apart­ment blocks and multi-storey car parks.

Some alley­ways now reveal little but graf­fiti-covered con­crete walls. Oth­ers, like little Edward Street off Vic­tor­ia, or Eva and Leeds streets between Ghuznee and Dix­on, are trans­form­ing them­selves with cool little bars and foody busi­nesses. Some look unpre­pos­sess­ing but can con­tain sur­prises, like the sunny square and bright Sus­tain­ab­il­ity Trust shop that you can now find at the end of For­res­t­ers Lane off Tory Street.

It is hard to define an alley­way. Are the steps that wind their vari­ous ways up to The Ter­race alley­ways, or just paths? They seem like alleys to me, and a favour­ite of mine is the route up O’Reilly Aven­ue past St Mary’s on Boul­cott Street, then turn­ing left onto the Ter­race Gar­dens walk­way, past Flag­staff Hill. You can sense lost his­tory there, amongst the ghosts of grand homes that once looked out over the city.

This pho­to­graph is of the nar­row east­ern end of Bond Street, taken from where the exit-way of the Lom­bard Street park­ing build­ing is now situ­ated. Bond Street used to be called Old Cus­tom­house Street and, before the 19th-cen­tury reclam­a­tions began, was on the water’s edge, at the heart of city com­merce. A hun­dred years later it was a very run-down back alley. Most of the build­ings you see here were knocked down soon after­wards. The build­ing on the left is now a sunny little park and at the right-hand side is the back of the West Plaza Hotel. The only sur­viv­ing land­mark is the cupola of the Domin­ion Build­ing on Mer­cer Street, pok­ing up at the back of the picture.

The pho­to­graph­er, Gor­don Burt, was best known for innov­at­ive com­mer­cial pho­to­graphy. This was not the sort of pho­to­graph he usu­ally took. Clearly he enjoyed the con­trast of that old street sign and the gleam­ingly mod­ern Mor­ris Minor.


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