Hundreds of people were on hand to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Durie Hill Elevator and mark the start of Whanganui's inaugural Heritage Month on Saturday.

The elevator opened on August 2, 1919 as a way for residents to easily access the city from Durie Hill.

Building the elevator was an engineering feat, involving major earthworks and 2500 tonnes of concrete to create a 213m-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 St on Durie Hill.

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Heritage Month organiser Andy Savage was not surprised by the big turnout.

"I feel like people really want to connect with heritage again and find out more about it, something like the Durie Hill elevator is quintessential Whanganui.

"People realise it's a big event and it's fun for kids to one day look back and say we were there for the 100th anniversary."

A line-up of vintage cars, sack races and egg and spoon races were also part of the day's activities.

A range of vintage cars at the Durie Hill Elevator anniversary. Photo / Lewis Gardner
A range of vintage cars at the Durie Hill Elevator anniversary. Photo / Lewis Gardner

Limited golden tickets to ride the elevator were on sale for those wanting to keep a souvenir of the celebration.

Savage said the opening weekend had attracted many visitors from outside the region.

"The most encouraging thing is the uptake so quickly from being a heritage weekend around the Downton Abbey movie and historic buildings, to Bushy Park and then Sarjeant Gallery and Durie Hill.

"It's so impressive what we've got in the city and people are really excited.

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"I think because we're becoming so well known for our arts and heritage culture it's just another feather in Whanganui's cap and something that will be cemented in Whanganui's events calendar."

Whanganui District Councillor and Whanganui Heritage Trustee Helen Craig said she was pleased with how the event has been received.

"The response has been fantastic and we've had to do a six-week programme because the demand to put in events. There are lots of events we couldn't fit in this time so there'll be a fresh programme next year."