Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Gimmee Shelter

Wellington, New Zealand. A favourite spot on our whirlwind tour of this fabulous country. An uphill and downdale sort of place, with elevation changes from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, perilously convoluted roads making their narrow way up and down hillsides. In fact, it seemed like the suburbs were built in separate hollows in the warm flank of Tinakori Hill, each climbing as high as they could, with no thought of easy communication between themselves.

Here's a topo map which may say it more clearly than I.

This view from the window of our 1920s BnB gives you an impression of our Wadestown neighbourhood. Here's our driveway

So when our hosts suggested the local bus as a way to park the rental car for the duration of our stay, we readily agreed. Each day, after a brisk walk downhill to the main intersection, we awaited the number 14 bus at the corner of Lennel and Sefton streets,  at the most delightful bus stop. Here's a great link to its history provided by Absolutely Positively Wellington City Council (who thought up that motto?)

Bill Bryson, who has been known to poke a sharp stick at almost everything, has this to say about bus shelters: "But nobody, absolutely nobody, hates you as much as the people who make English bus shelters...all they give you to rest on is a red plastic slat, canted at an angle so severe that if you fail to maintain a vigilant braced position you will slide off, like a fried egg off Teflon." (The Road to Little Dribbling.)
"320 splendid building sites"

The bus shelter at Highland Park is quite a different place, a charming Arts and Crafts confection, dated my guess around 1910 or 20? Let Streetview take you there.  The best thing about the shelter, which wasn't needed as a refuge from inclement weather,  but proved a nice spot to chat with folks, was a poster of the Highland Park Estate. An invitation to time travel. The poster is a reproduction of the original subdivision offering.

This hilly domain from which these wiggly streets and cliff-hanging house lots were carved was once The Grange, the harbour-view homestead of pastoralist W.B.Rhodes, dubbed the richest man in New Zealand, by about 1849. A  Lincolnshire lad like my guy, Rhodes amassed huge land holdings, and built his home on the hill slightly above our bus shelter. The driveway through the sheep run which led up to the house, later became Wadestown Road. After Rhodes' widow's death, Sir Harold Beauchamp, father of beloved NZ writer Katherine Mansfield, owned the house. (Although we didn't get there, needing a pub more than literary history, here's a Tinakori Road photo of contemporary houses to compensate.)

And in the fullness of time, the old sheep station became the hilly subdivision in which we were short-time residents. The charming cottages were being modernized, but the tiny scale of the houses and lots perched on the hillside told the tale. Have a wander. But don't miss the bus.

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