From Victorian teaparties to New Zealand's Top Town this book is the complete history of Wellington during the 20th Century.
War, Depression, Riot, Earthquake, Demolition and Restoration - the story of the harbour city is as vigorous as the winds that swirl through its streets. The capital has always been a magnet for movers and shakers like controversial mayors Michael Fowler and Fran Wilde, national politicians King Dick Seddon and Peter Fraser, visionary exhibition designer Edmund Anscombe, pioneering transsexual Carmen and film director Peter Jackson, personalities at the forefront of the surge from Victorian teaparty town to the country's most cosmopolitan city.
In 1900 Wellington was a scruffy little town with no civic centre. This book traces Wellington's surge from dull Victorian days to the present entertainment and lifestyle hub of the country. Several outstanding civic leaders -- with a few duds in between -- drove the capital to recognition by an Auckland magazine as the country's top 21st millennium town. It was an almighty struggle, with many of the country's cultural, political and civic tensions played out in their most concentrated form in the few square kilometres of this harbour city. A culture of political interference by politicians passing through and the bureaucratic lethargy, indifference and in recent times corruption had to be confronted, along with the 1980s body blow of the public service infrastructure cut out of the city. Like successful surgery, the removal of this grey blight allowed the city to finally put its houses in order, a breezy and beautiful harbour city emerging from under this stifling fog, inspiring its rich and compact cultural mix of citizens to establish the most innovative and creative lifestyles in the country.
This century of struggle is brought to life by the personalities both involved in and observing the city's emergence:
· Old Wellington chronicler Pat Lawlor recreates the fighting in Wellington between 'swaddies' and pro-Boers, the opening of the Victorian town hall that gave the city a centre and a catalyst for change, the city slums and the socialist agitators, King Dick Seddon the politician and King Dick the lion, the bubonic plague kept at bay and the mysterious man calling for help in the new sewer system that replaced the night cart.
· Charles Norwood is remembered for the Lady Norwood Rose Garden, but this is the story of how he turned a venal and dangerously unhealthy milk delivery system into a model exported round the world.
· Pat Lawlor and other reporters provide eyewitness accounts of the 1932 rioting that left smashed shopwindows through central Wellington and a gun holding back crowds attacking Whitcombe and Tombs shop in Lambton Quay.
· George Troup is known as Gingerbread George for designing the Dunedin Railway Station, but here is his remarkable post-retirement career as mayor of Wellington building the National Museum, Art Gallery and Carillon and creating our airport.
· American Marines are remembered for fighting Maori in Manners Street, this is the record of what actually happened from secret government files.
· Allona Priestley was an elderly street protester in the 1981 Anti-Springbok Tour demonstrations and this is her account of her arrest.
· Mayor Belich presided over the disastrous Sesqui but deserves this account of how he destroyed a corrupt council staff culture and paved the way for Fran Wilde's rollicking good term and the absolutely positive café culture that made this the country's top town.
This book is a continuous commentary from Pat Lawlor's childhood investigating Katherine Mansfield's Thorndon, the sighting of the country's first car and the wreck of the Penguin. The story moves through the grim times of Depression and earthquake and war, waterfront strike and rebellious youth, the better days of test matches at the Basin and Athletic Park and street festivals, the worst day of the Wahine wreck. The modern era saw Wellington the proving ground for the mixed blessings of public housing, a motorway through the heritage heart of the city prompting the country's preservation movement to fight rampant progress. This climaxed in the demolition frenzy of the 80s, the stalemate of preservationists and progressives failing to destroy the Michael Fowler Centre and the old town hall. The result was both structures combining to make Wellington the cultural capital of the country.
Many of the pristine pictures of developing Wellington have not been seen before, including fold-out panoramas as only the old plate photographers could make them, of beach and city vistas, culled from Wellington City archives, the Museum of Wellington City and Sea and the Alexander Turnbull Library. Appeals to the public have also yielded personal images of the way we were in war and peace, offering one of the most comprehensive records of any 20th century city.
"A treasure from start to finish" - New Zealand Memories
'If there's something you want to know that isn't in this book, I'd say it's not worth knowing. This is a book for lovers of Wellington and I'd love to see it in every home here.' - Mayor Kerry Prendergast
"By far the best book on my hometown that I've seen"
- John Reed, Sydney
"I bought a copy of "Wellington - A Capital Century" from Dymocks this
morning. What a stunning book! I'm particularly thrilled as a transport enthusiast - so many photos of trams, ships and planes that I've never seen before. Even my house above Worser Bay as it was in the 1930s! Please pass on my thanks and congratulations to David McGill and all others involved in the book's production."
- Anthony Cross, Wellington
"...for all who share an interest in New Zealand's history and its transport this important book has a lot to offer" - NZ Railway Observer
Nominated for the 2004 Montana NZ Book Awards.