In 1939, the first Labour Government purchased a substantial block of land from the Wesley Mission Trust for the development of the first large, comprehensively planned state housing area in Mt Roskill. It formed part of a governmental scheme to address the serious shortage of adequate housing and high rate of unemployment following the Depression. The Department of Housing Construction was set up to plan and manage the developments.
The first area of state housing to take shape was the Upper Wesley Estate on the volcanic slopes of Te Tātua-a-Riukiuta (Big King), on the former school grounds of the Wesley College. The 158-acre site encompassed Donald Crescent and Fearon Avenue, as well as the area east of Parau Street. Up to 500 new homes were planned for the site.
Construction of the state homes and surrounding amenities took place between 1939 and 1941. To service the burgeoning population, a block of shops was established on the corner of Fearon Avenue and Parau Street.
Though small and far from luxurious, the framing, floors and joinery of the houses were mostly built with quality native timber, and the amenities were modern for the time. No more than four detached houses were allocated per acreage of land and the Department of Housing Construction prepared over 400 unique plans to ensure the state houses were sufficiently varied in design. In common they shared: morning sun in the kitchen, afternoon sun in the main bedroom and small windows in the southern rooms.
Mature specimen trees, retained from the former Wesley Estate, brought beauty and colour to the development. New areas for recreation were also created, including Fearon Park and Arthur S. Richards Memorial Park.
Quarrying at Three Kings
From here you can see into the quarry and take in the changes to the landscape from over a century of intensive quarrying.
Locally quarried volcanic scoria was a popular material for retaining walls and roading in the area, and commercial quarrying was a key industry from the 1870s. William John Conelly was among the first to establish a quarry in the area in the mid-1870s. The Winstone brothers, George and William, bought the Conelly quarry in 1924. Their company, later renamed Winstone Aggregates, was purchased by Fletcher Building in 2000 and still exists today.
As much as 80 per cent of the original site, including two of Three Kings, were quarried away at a rapid rate. Trucks would bring scoria to the grading machine, and once a day the machine would roar to life, grading the scoria into piles. Later in the day, the crushing machines would get to work breaking down the larger boulders. Basalt or bluestone, was also valued and quarried for use in building and as street kerb stones.
Such was the pace of quarrying in the area, that in one account from the late 1920s, Tom Grinter, who owned a service station on Mt Albert Road, looked up from his work and was surprised to see Mt Eden through a gaping hole where the Southern King had not long before stood.
State housing resident, Elizabeth Fox, wrote: “Within a few years of living close by we were left with one King. By now from our kitchen window and back verandah we could see as far as the Good Shepherd Laundry at the very end of Dominion Road...and we certainly noticed the wind from the South West more than ever”.