Maungawhau - Mt EdenMany separate lava flows contributed to the formation of Mt Eden, a large, prominent, scoria cone which is really three overlapping cones, the southern most cone (present day Mt Eden) is the highest and measures 196 meters above sea level and has a wide conical crater that is about 50 metres deep. Even after the heaviest rains, water does not accumulate on the rocky surfaces, but finds its way through the cracked rock, into the old stream channels underneath the solidified lava, and flows along them to reach the surface again at Western Springs.
Archaeological sites bear testimony to occupation of the mountain by Maori and the mountain remains a focal point for the residents of the suburb. In 1869 a road to the summit was thought to have been built for the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh and in the 1870s a reservoir on top of the mountain improved the Auckland water supply.
At the same time in order to protect the cone 27 hectares forming the Mt Eden domain was set aside as crown land.
In the 1920s access was improved with the laying of paths and steps to the summit and in 1927 a tea kiosk was erected on the mountain. The kiosk was surrounded by rose gardens planted during the depression of the 1930s but have since been removed. The mountain remains a popular tourist attraction and a wonderful vantage point to view the Auckland Isthmus. The people of Mt Eden love their mountain, it looms over Mt Eden Village and people have to look up, making Mount Eden seem higher than it really is. With green pastures and friendly cattle grazing on the slopes the people of the city have a reminder of their rural past.
Pre-European SettlementLife on the Auckland isthmus offered Maori many advantages. The temperate climate, fertile volcanic soil and easy access to the two harbours made Tamakimakau-rau a favored area. It offered a plentiful supply of food from the sea and land and had good communications with areas to the north and south. Thus Tamakimakau-rau was a much fought over area. They called the mountain Maungawhau, 'the mountain of the whau', a shrub believed to have been growing in the area and valued for its cork-like wood, used for floats on fishing nets. Maungawhau (Mt Eden) and Owairaka (Mt Albert) were two of the volcanic cones on the isthmus that were used as fortified villages or pa. Possible build as early as 1200AD a chief, Titahi, taught the people how to develop terraced gardens on the sides of these mountains and ditches; palisades and stone walls to provide protection and defend against enemy attack. The area was well visited and the dominant Waiohua tribe intermarried with visitors from Tainui (Waikato), Kawerau and Ngati Whatua. However these allegiances did not protect the Waiohua from attack. During the 1700s Kiwi Tamaki was the Ariki of the Waiohua people and Tamakimakau-rau experienced a period of peace. However war came to the area after Tamaki went north to a tangi at Kaipara where he and his men murdered several Te Taou chiefs. Te Taou were a sub-tribe of Ngai Whatua and soon Waiohua wree attached by Ngati Whatua. The first battle at Tatitrangi was a resounding defeat for Waiohua. Another battle followed at Parau where Kiwi Tamaki was killed. This marked the end of both Owairake and Mungawhau as populated cones. During the early 1830s the musket armed Nga Puhi raided the isthmus driving its inhabitants into the Waikato. Few had returned by the time Auckland was declared the capital of the new colony.
Early Land PurchasesIn 1840 having settled upon Auckland as the site of the capital for the new colony Governer Hobson secured a 3000 block of land for the government. It was purchased from local chiefs and included the northern part of the suburb of Mt Eden. The following year a 13,000 acre block was purchased by the crown. Once surveyed and divided the land was subsequently offered for sale and gradually the trappings of colonial life grew upon the landscape. The area was farmed and the fertile volcanic soil produced a variety of crops with wheat being extensively grown in the 1850s. Mt Eden's first industry was the Eden Flour Mill established in 1844 later industry was to centre on the Mt Eden Quarry and the Colonial Ammunition Company.
Suburban DevelopmentThe suburban development of Auckland depended on the availability of land, affordable transport and the desire of middle class to move out of the crowed inner city. The population in Mt Eden had grown from 1135 in 1881 to 3144 five years later. At the dawn of the twentieth century the farms which had graced Mt Eden had largely been replaced by housing. The area was were some of Auckland's businessmen erected their country residences. In 1870s further subdivisions followed and gradually villas and bungalows filled the gaps and by 1930s a new form of housing was visible. New buildings containing several flats, these were stylish homes for fashionable people. The population had increased 63% from 1886. Mt Eden and the surrounding areas were fortunate in having a plentiful supply of volcanic stone which proved a suitable material for road making. Mt Eden was doubly lucky in also having a labour resource to help prepare the stone and building of the roads. This was one of the few advantages of having a prison in the area. However, roads were costly to build and maintain in the nineteenth century and toll gates were located on some of the main roads to help pay for upkeep. Horse drawn buses were the first form of regular public transport in the late 1870s. In 1881 a long awaited transport service began with the opening of the railway connecting Newmarket with Helensville. Goods and passengers could be transported more quickly as the trains stopped at Mt Eden, Kingsland, Morningside and Mt Albert. Electric trams began connecting Mt Eden with the city in 1902, the original tram shelter remains at the base of the mountain.
Mt Eden VillageIn 1873, Cusksey's Store opened and heralded the birth of the Mt Eden Village. By 1885 it had been joined by Tills Bakery and in 1886 the first post office in Mt Eden Rd was completed with a daily horseback mail service operating from here for many years. In 1896 the Mt Eden Bowling Club established, purchasing land fronting Mt Eden Rd between Valley Rd and Tills Bakery and the holding was increased by 2 acres in 1910.
Mt Eden in 1905
The Mt Eden Methodist Church on the corner of Ngauruhoe St and Mt Eden Rd, was constructed in 1899, designed by Arthur Herbert White and the Sunday School behind the church was built in 1910 also to White's design.
Land was subdivided for housing and villa construction facing onto Mt Eden Rd. Latter these sites became too valuable and had commercial buildings located on their front yards.
These villas can still be seen located behind shops on Mt Eden Rd. A good example of this is Circus Circus café on the corner of Ngauruhoe St and Mt Eden Rd, built prior to 1905 in the front yard of the house behind. Cusksey's timber building was replaced in 1905 a permit was issued for the construction of the new two storied brick building, the architect was JM Walker and the builder W .Firth and the value of work was recorded as £2.300 and the brick building still stands on this site.
In 1905 a butcher and bootmaker were also operating. Also several blocks of shops had been established by the 1920s and the shopping centre continued to grow over the coming decades.
In the 1930s the land which had been used by the bowling club was redeveloped for shops with dwellings above.
Wilson's service station.
The site on the corner of Valley and Mt Eden Rd was developed as what was probable Mt Eden's first petrol station and garage, In October 1930 the council issued a permit to Mr Dodd for a building valued at £1,000. the builder was Mr CE Heron.
At the other end of the village the blacksmiths shop was altered and converted to a Motor Shed. During WWII the building was taken over by the Air Force and was said to house air craft frame parts. Underneath this site is a well,water was drawn for Crystal Aerated soft drinks who manufactured from this site for some time.
The provision for local entertainment included the Crystal Place in Mt Eden Rd built in 1929 for the Hippodrome Theatre Company with shops on either side and a dance hall in the basement.
The Mt Eden Business Association was formed in 1936, and twelve of the businesses included on the original constitution are still present in the Village.
K.C. LOOKong Chew "KC" Loo's fruit shop is a Mt Eden landmark and consistently rates in the "Best of Auckland" surveys.
KC opened shop in 1949 and wife Eileen joined him in 1953 and they have not missed a day since.
KC arrived in New Zealand from China as a youngster in 1939, just after the outbreak of WWII.
He was one of the last immigrants from China to pay the notorious "poll" imposed to stem the flow of migrants.
The current site of KC Loo's fruit shop is in the prime retailing location in the Village. Its unique design marries well with the older style of the Village and adds to the Bohemian flavour of Mt Eden.