Friday, 23 October 2015

Tauranga Streets: Wharf Street

Wharf Street, showing Bank Chambers, Town Hall and Bank of Australasia, undated
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 03-523
Wharf Street is the logical name for a street which led down to the now demolished town wharf. It was probably referred to as Wharf Street as soon as the wharf was built in 1871, though the name does not appear on maps until 1875. In 2015 it resembles its neighbour The Strand in that the majority of its businesses provide food and beverages of one kind or another, and so it has been reinvented as ‘Eat Street’, with themed street furniture and planned entertainment.

Wharf Street, from intersection with Willow Street, c.1914
(Steamer from Auckland tied up at the town wharf)
Photograph by R.W. Meers, Tauranga
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 00-353
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Wharf Street offered much more variety in the way of goods and services than it does now. By 1916 you could even go to the silent movies at the Town Hall. But the centre of Tauranga business life was still The Strand, and the town was just beginning to creep up the slope towards Cameron Road, and so Wharf Street remained a blend of town and country.

Bank of New Zealand, Wharf Street, c.1900
Photograph by Mary Humphries, Tauranga
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 99-356

It featured some imposing bank buildings, such as the Bank of New Zealand, built in 1876 in the ‘Italian’ style, and the 1914 Bank of Australasia. Munro’s shops were also a cut above the usual, faced with granite imported from Australia and Sweden. The ‘Renaissance’-style Town Hall, built 1914-1916, had a major frontage on Wharf Street. The building did not meet with everyone’s approval, however: it was criticised for lurking in its ‘Gallipoli bunker’, excavations having been necessary to allow for the slope of the street. Solicitors, architects, and dentists had their rooms on the street, and there were residential properties also. But the professionals had to rub shoulders with a shooting gallery, a livery stable business, and an electricity substation, and there remained, especially at the western end, open paddocks with overgrown macrocarpa hedges and gorse.

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