Many photographs of "Old Whangarei" street scenes have been taken from the most popular viewpoints showing panoramas such as that from the corner of Bank and Cameron Streets.
Recently however, Whangārei Museum has been presented with a unique black and white photograph from Mr Greg Weaver, depicting a rarely seen view of one of the city's now secondary streets at the turn of the 19th century.
The unknown photographer has captured perfectly the essence of what life was like in Whangārei during the early 1900s with a vista of Water St looking eastwards towards Bank Street intersection. The view is bustling with horses, riders, coachmen and wagons parked up or milling about on the semi-metalled and dirt thoroughfare of what was once one of the main routes to the western outskirts of town that led further afield.
The wooden building of Tibbits & Co Cash Butchers in the foreground is typical of shop fronts of the time with large covered supported verandas for the convenience and safety of patrons.
Tibbits & Co, originally started a butchery in Kamo but owing to the increase in business found it necessary to establish a branch in Whangārei. Their new Water St butcher's shop was officially opened on March 31, 1910, where their customers were assured that by selling for cash, they could supply the best quality of meat at the lowest possible prices.
"First class goods and attention to customers" was Tibbit's resounding message as well as their ability to deliver daily to all parts of town.
Slightly obscured next to Tibbit's is Fulljames & Son, Plumbers, Gasfitters & Tinsmiths, manufacturing in cream cans, strainers, buckets, spouting, baths, tanks and sinks amongst other wares.
Although this business was initially situated by the Water St railway crossing, by late 1915 it had ceased trading from these premises. While Fulljames remained in Water St for a number of years, in 1925 the firm had relocated to Rathbone St where Sydney & Alfred Edward Fulljames continued operating, unfortunately going into receivership around 1934.
As early as 1904, Jas Hammond, Saddler & Harness Maker, had occupied the next shopfront, while the more imposing two-storeyed building beside it housed Marsden Livery & Bait Stables.
Here, under the proprietorship of Webb and Pearson, cabs, buggies, gigs and saddle horses could be hired at short notice with special catering for tourists. During 1910, they advertised regular services to Kamo Springs along with daily return coach trips to Tangiteroria.
By 1914, Marsden Livery & Bait Stables were operating from both Vine and Water Streets and their scheduled services were extended to include Kiripaka. They were also specialists in supplying and arranging transportation for weddings and funerals, including the furnishing of an undertaker.
Marshall's building, the other impressive structure in the distance on the corner of Bank and Water Streets, known as "Hardware Corner", was built in 1896 for James Marshall who founded a large ironmongery and general merchant business.
Even though cars had already been introduced by 1910 when this photograph was most likely taken, the vista emphasises that if you didn't have a horse, or access to horse transport, you weren't going far.
It depicts a slower pace of life when hitching rails and equine transportation were the norm in Whangārei streets and when, for a few seconds, life stood still.
■ Natalie Brookland is collection registrar, Whangārei Museum at Kiwi North.