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Ask Phoebe: Little cottage with rich history an example of early workers' housing

By Phoebe Falconer

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Bankside Cottage is one of the oldest examples of an early workers cottage. Photo / Supplied
Bankside Cottage is one of the oldest examples of an early workers cottage. Photo / Supplied

Do you know any of the history of the little brown stone cottage squeezed between the Waldorf Apartment building and the Fonterra office building on Bankside St in central Auckland City?

It reminds me of the house from the movie Up.

Warren Butler, Auckland Central.

Bankside Cottage was built around 1883-84 and is the one of the oldest known examples of an early workers' cottage remaining in Auckland. It was erected on a narrow road originally called Bank St and reached via a narrow flight of steps leading up to the building. A high plastered brick wall forms the front boundary.

At the time, Bank St was a service lane from Shortland St, the city's first commercial centre, to Princes St, the early seat of government administration, justice and military power, but increasingly residential by the 1880s.

The site is part of the early central section on the eastern side of Bank St, bought by Parnell doctor Frederick William Wright in 1879. Wright subdivided the already tiny land parcel in half, creating the current 152m site. This was bought by John Mulvihill, a settler, and the concrete cottage was built on it.

The house has concrete foundations and walls of Portland cement. The exterior walls are about 30cm thick the interior partition walls 15cm.

All wall surfaces were plastered using a lime mortar, except in the roof space, where 30cm-wide boards were used.

The timber-framed roof is clad with corrugated galvanised iron with the laps sealed in pitch (tar).

The floors were timber, and the full length verandah has a concrete floor with wrought iron balustrades of ellipses and vertical rods.

A verandah was also constructed to the rear, where the southern end was in-filled to provide a toilet.

The house is very simple in plan, containing a short hall and four rooms, two of which have fireplaces. Bathroom facilities have been added to the rear. Although the site is only 150sq m there is a small courtyard-garden at the back, walled on two sides by surrounding buildings.

The cottage was bought by brewer Hancock & Co in the mid-1930s. Hancock was the proprietor of the Grand Hotel next door, facing Princes St. From the 1930s the cottage was used to accommodate Grand Hotel staff.

It was restored when the Grand Hotel was demolished and incorporated into the new development.

The cottage was bought by the Auckland City Council in 1984.

(Reference: Cast In Concrete publication, Auckland City archives.)

* A magazine quiz a couple of weekends ago revealed Wanganui was the site of an earthbound elevator, one of only two in the world. I have been unable to discover where the other one is. Can anyone help?

- NZ Herald

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