Maungawhau (Mt Eden)

Many 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 Settlement

Life 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 Purchases

In 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.


Surburban Development

The 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 where 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.



Cucksey's Store

Mt Eden Village

In 1881, Cucksey's Store located on the corner of Stokes Rd and Mt Eden Rd opened and heralded the birth of the Mt Eden Village. The 'Est 1873' inscribed on building is a reference to when Alfred Cucksey's started his business located at the Auckland Markets on the Market Reserve which is present day Aotea Square. 1885 the wooden Cucksey building 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.


Mount 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 cafe on the corner of Ngauruhoe St and Mt Eden Rd, built prior to 1905 in the front yard of the house behind. Cucksey'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 boot maker 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.

Mt Eden Heritage Walks

To download a copy of the Mt Eden Heritage Walks brochure click here. 

Mt Eden is full of heritage and character which can be seen in the architecture and buildings, homes and gardens dotted around this leafy suburb.Mount Eden Heritage Walk front

Initially the land around Manugawhau (Mount Eden) was utilised for farms, but from quite early on the area hosted country residents of professionals and business people from Auckland. Between 1870 and 1875 most of the farm land was subdivided into large suburban phots, and the main roads formed by the Mt Eden Transport Board. Mt Eden's first school opened in 1877 on the corner of Mt Eden and Valley Roads which is now the home of the Valley Rd International Church. In 1879 Manugawhau (Mount Eden) was officially progected as public reserve. The tea kiosk located half way up Manugawhau was built in 1927 and in 2006 closed. There are plans to turn the kiosk into an information centre where visitors can learn more about Manugawhau and it's people.

On the eastern slopes of Mt Eden were constructed several large country houses set in extensive grounds these included:

Harewood House, now the site of the Mercy Hospital

Justice Gillies Rocklands Hall, now offering affordable accommodation

Alfred Buckland's Highwic, now a listed historic house open to the public and available for private functions

The Hellaby Family home of Florence Court is a fine Edwardian mansion which is still a private residents but operates as a B & B and wedding venue

Josiah Clifton Firth's home of Clifton House is a private residents

Eden Gardens which is close to the current Government House and official Auckland residence of the Governor General

Mt Eden is a leafy suburb with a large number of houses built during 1870 to 1930 which are lovingly looked after today. The style of these houses reflect the architecture influences of colonial villas and the Californian and English bungalow designs.

Californian Bungalow: The typical New Zealand “Californian Bungalow” of the 1920s was strongly influenced by popular American housing trends of the time. A typical Californian bungalow features a low-slung form, asymmetrical composition, shallow pitched gable roof with wide eaves, deep porches, bowed bay windows, revealed structural elements such as exposed rafter tails, emphasis on hand-crafted and rustic materials (including use of shingles), and an informal open plan.

English Bungalow: By the 1930s, the Californian bungalow was joined by the simpler English-influenced bungalow, sometimes referred to as a “bungalow cottage.” The large porches and layered gable configuration gave way to buildings with little or no ornament, shallow hipped roofs with boxed eaves, projecting box windows, leaded or facetted glass, inglenooks, and hefty porch supports. The state houses of the 1940s share many similarities with these English-style bungalows

Many of the original rock walls made from the volcanic basalt rock are still visible and the trees planted some 80 to 100 years ago are tall specimens today.

In the 1950s and 1960s the Mt Eden suburb became unfashionable and the old houses of Mt Eden were comparatively cheap to buy. This became the golden opportunity to turn the big old houses into flats to meet the growing accommodation needs of those heading to work in Auckland. Unfortunately this also meant that many old houses were demolished or removed and sausage flats were built in their place. These sausage flats which are uninteresting brick and tile rectangle boxes can be found doted in amongst the old houses.

Mt Eden became slightly bohemian during the 1960s and 1970s as a community of artists, writers, teacher and university lectures made it their home. The old houses divided into three or four individual flats became home to the many student and the sausage flats provided one to two bedroom accommodation for the workers.

Mt Eden Village is regarded by many as the Home of the Arts in Auckland, due to the large number of creative activity in and around the suburb and the large number of artists who make it their home.