First Ground Broken For Streets

Thanks to what has been stolen by the earthquakes, it is really hard to recognise where this photo (top left) was taken…trust me, I was standing there and couldn’t believe the changes all around me and I knew the street well.

Embedded into the very pavement is a plaque acknowledging the spot where the very first ground was broken on a Christchurch street.  Up to this point, only survey pegs marked out the roads.  According the plaque, tussock was removed and the ruts left behind were filled in with what I presume was dirt.  The sea of tussock was finally being broken and tamed.

Where did this happen?  Where High and Cashel Streets meet.  As I took the attached photos, I could see the old Post Office Building in the distant Cathedral Square, and thought of the now gone Westpac Building which would have been to my left (or even better, Christchurch’s first pub, the White Hart Hotel that opened there in 1851) and the now gone huge Hallensteins store that sat across the junction with Cashel Street (or even better again, where a Cobb & Co Office and coach stop once sat) which would have been slightly to my left.  Check out the old black and white photo 😉   Interesting to see on that old photo that was taken in 1872, it refers to that junction as the ‘Triangle Corner’ and how we refer to that stretch of Cashel Mall as the Triangle Centre today…so interesting…love when old names still remain in Christchurch 😉

This breaking of ground happened in 1851 when High Street was known as Sumner Road.  The maps show that Sumner Road sat between Hereford and St Asaph Streets.  In 1874, the term of Sumner Road was extended and meet with the East Belt or as we know it today, Fitzgerald Ave.  This second extension was renamed Ferry Road in 1875 and the remaining Sumner Road became known as High Street.

The plaque mentions that James Edward Fitzgerald – among many others – was present at this historic moment.  Doesn’t surprise me at all as this man really witnessed many of Christchurch’s firsts.  He was the first of the Canterbury Association settler’s to step on shore – off the Charlotte Jane of course – and was Canterbury’s first Superintendent.  He also founded ‘The Press’, the first newspaper printed in Christchurch.  Many historians refer to Fitzgerald as the first unofficial premier of New Zealand – because of his impressive political career and works, not only in Christchurch but also in Wellington.

What a gem of a find.

*photos taken by Annette Bulovic*

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