There's a golden opportunity to celebrate the Durie Hill elevator's centenary.

The elevator opened on August 2, 1919, and, as part of the inaugural Whanganui Heritage Month, there will be a community event on Saturday, August 3, to celebrate its anniversary.

To mark the occasion, limited edition "golden" tickets to ride the elevator are on sale at Whanganui i-Site Visitor Information Centre at 31 Taupō Quay and the elevator. The "golden" tickets are the same price ($2) as a regular one-way ticket.

Building the elevator was an engineering feat, involving major earthworks and 2500 tonnes of concrete to create a 213 metre-long arched tunnel and a 65.8m vertical shaft. The elevator's cab travels through the earth from its base on Anzac Pde to Blyth Street on Durie Hill.


"The idea developed when Durie Hill became part of Wanganui Borough in 1910 and residents wanted easier access than the steep staircase opened in 1897," Dr Penny Robinson, a social historian and Durie Hill resident, said.

"In 1912, after much public discussion, a cableway was proposed then rejected. The elevator idea was then put forward by Wanganui Chronicle editor John Ball and his friend, Wanganui Technical School engineering instructor Edward Crow.

"Crow drew up plans for what he and Ball hoped would be a civic project but ratepayers refused to pay for it. A joint venture co-ownership proposal with potential hilltop residents was looked at next, but lapsed because of insufficient interest. However, the scheme had council approval confirmed by 1914.

"In 1915, recognising the elevator's potential for opening up the suburb, a Durie Hill landowner William J Polson (later Sir) and his brother-in-law, Colonel Alfred Ernest T Wilson DSO, took on the project privately."

The project was awarded to Westport contractors Maxwell & Mann in 1916 and the foundation stone laid. Borough Engineer NC Staveley oversaw the project and a Mr E Moult attended to the electrics.

Because World War I limited the availability of labour, the tunnel was finally finished in December 1917 and the elevator shaft in October 1918. By January 1919, the lift tower was under way and by June the shaft wiring and all machinery had been installed. The elevator cab was swung and the four steel cables supporting it were tested to 10 times the load they were designed to carry.

The Durie Hill elevator centenary community celebration event will be held on Saturday, August 3, from 9am to 1pm by the Durie Hill War Memorial Tower. It will include market stalls, food trucks, vintage games and the opportunity to see the elevator's mercury arc rectifier in operation.