The Queen St East 100 and 200 blocks were created in Hastings' first subdivision in 1873 and the street name was a common one in the colonies during the Victorian era.

It intersected Hastings first road, Karamu Rd, which was formed from a Maori track leading to the Karamu Pa.

Initially, these blocks of Queen St East were an industrial and agricultural area, with some of the land used for cattle and horse sale yards.

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W A Beecroft bought about half of the block bordered by Russell St North, Queen St East, Karamu Rd North and Heretaunga St East.

His land fronted most of Queen St East and extended to Karamu Rd and was used for a livery (horse stables) and sale yards.

He would move to Havelock North in the late 1890s and establish a transport business there, which is now Nimon and Sons Ltd in Whakatu.

The Hastings Borough Council also had its pound in this location, until it was moved in 1888 to Stortford Lodge.

Stock and station agents Williams & Kettle opened horse sale yards in the 1880s on the corner of Queen St and Karamu Rd (old Public Trust Office corner), where horses captured from the Rangitaiki Plains were auctioned.

As the land on the corner of Queen and Russell St was government-owned, the first Post Office was built there in 1896.

When a new Post Office was being built in 1909, the old wooden one was moved around the corner to Queen St East, where it was used for office accommodation.

By 1897, several buildings had been constructed on the other side of Queen St East to Beecroft's land. The newly formed Hastings Standard newspaper had an office on the corner of Queen St East and Russell St North, and next door was Mr T W Lewis, solicitor and Maori interpreter.

Symonds' Steam Coach factory, which moved to Queen St East in 1893, used an eight-horsepower steam-powered lift to raise the coaches it manufactured during painting.

F C Tipping's general store and a small house on the corner of Queen St East and Karamu Rd existed around 1900.

As Hastings grew in size in the early 1900s, and after the Stortford Lodge livestock sale yards opened in 1903, the Queen St East area slowly began its transformation from sales yards and industrial buildings to a commercial area.

Increased business activity in Hastings and rurally meant professionals such as lawyers and accountants could now be supported.

Lawyer T W Lewis was joined by accountant John Fraser around 1902. Before becoming an accountant, John was headmaster of Heretaunga School, now Hereworth.

Hastings had the unenviable nickname of "Town of Blazes" and many Queen St East premises were destroyed after a fire in December 1906. Because of the brick bylaw, all the replacement buildings had to be of brick to restrict the fire hazard.

A major development towards Queen St East becoming a commercial area was the construction of the substantial Dominion Building in 1907 on the site where Symonds' Steam Coach factory once stood.

Beecroft's land was subdivided in 1912 into 23 "business allotments" for sale and most fronting Queen St East, upon which many professional and commercial firms would build on in the next five years.

Several printing firms were once located in Queen St East in its early history.

Hart Print began in the early 1900s, which was owned by future Hastings mayor William Hart. This business would eventually be owned in 1936 by Ron Wattie, brother of industrialist James Wattie. The Wattie logo can still be seen on the building today at 106 Queen St East.

In 1915, printers E S Cliff built large premises at 117 Queen St East to comply with the brick bylaw, only to have them fall down in the 1931 earthquake.

The National Bank opened its imposing multi-storey building in 1916 on the corner of Queen St East and Karamu Rd, further emphasising Queen St's rise as Hastings' commercial centre. This too was a victim of the 1931 earthquake

Legal firms S J Scannell & Co and Gifford Devine and their predecessor firms are long-time residents of Queen St. S J Scannell & Co at 122 Queen St East can claim to be the longest-surviving firm of the street in building for over 100 years, with the firm tracing its origins to 1897.

When I started work at Ingram, Thompson and Berry as a junior accounting clerk in Queen St East 200 block, I remember my grandma telling me I was going to work in "Sharks' Alley" – the name many in Hastings had given to Queen St East, rather cheekily referring to it being the location of accountants and lawyers.

In the 1990s, some legal and accounting firms left Queen St East into either modified existing buildings, or new ones in other parts of Hastings.

In the 2010s, Queen St began to see a revival, with some professional firms taking up residence in Hastings oldest commercial street.

• Michael Fowler (mfhistory@gmail.com) is a chartered accountant, freelance writer, contract researcher and speaker of Hawke's Bay's history.