A stroll along Jackson Street is a venture into history. Many of its buildings have stood for well over 100 years, and offer a unique glimpse into the life and times of early New Zealand.
Petone became the first European settlement in New Zealand. Despite early setbacks such as flooding and earthquakes – resulting in many settlers relocating to the other side of the harbour to establish Wellington – the people of Petone soon built a thriving community of houses, shops and industries.
Early industries that sprouted up after the railway line reached Petone in 1874 were labour-intensive. The Gear Meatworks (where Pak‘n Save is now), the Railway Workshops near the railway station and the Wellington Woollen Mills on the Hutt Road drew large numbers of workers to Petone, where housing was cheap. The town needed a business and shopping hub, and it was soon formed when merchants bought land along the edge of a property owned by Edwin Jackson.
The thoroughfare that was to become Jackson Street however, lacked any formal design because development was not regulated. The early Jackson Street was by no means straight, and it varied greatly in width from end-to-end. It extended from the old Petone Avenue (now Nelson Street) to Beach Street, with access to Hutt Road via an informal track across Maori-owned land. Jackson Street was extended when the land was bought by the Borough solicitor on behalf of the Crown in 1888.
The first shop was a general store built by a Mr Moss in 1880 on the corner of Jackson Street and what is now Nelson Street. The next shop was also a general store owned by Dave Wilkie on the corner of Sydney Street.
The first school in Petone was opened in 1882 at Johnson’s Hall in Sydney Street, but it was soon moved to near the corner of Jackson Street and Beach Street. However, by 1905 the number of pupils was about 900, so a new school was opened at Price’s Folly in Campbell Terrace, and later in western Jackson Street – giving the street two schools.
By the early 1900s
New council chambers were built in 1903 on the corner of Bay Street and a town clock was installed in 1913.
Jackson Street’s haphazard alignment however, was still a problem. It was finally remedied after a Mr C Tringham proposed to build a large block of shops on Jackson Street from Nelson Street west. The local council decided to enforce a new building line. Twenty-eight buildings extended beyond the new boundary. Structurally sound buildings were jacked up and moved back by up to five metres, such as the Liebezeits building at 129, and unsound buildings were bought and demolished. The project was completed in 1938, after delays brought about by the Great Depression of the 1930s.
By the late 1950s
Over the next 30 years
Developers who were demolishing and rebuilding in Wellington regarded Jackson Street as a place of little commercial potential. However, in an ironic twist, Jackson Street began a remarkable revival in the late 1980s, based largely on the interest in its old buildings.
In recent times, many buildings have been strengthened and refurbished, some to ensure they meet earthquake standards. Many of the old buildings have always housed residents above the shops, but several new low-rise apartment/retail buildings have emerged on the street. The new residents now enjoy up-market living in the middle of a vibrant and exciting location – a far cry from the street’s early dwellers.
In recent times
Hutt City Council has recognised the importance of a co-ordinated vision for Petone by forming a group in 2016/17 called "Petone 2040". Petone 2040 named Jackson Street "the heart of Petone", and it will be the first part of Petone to have a programme of streetscape works.