When this map was made in 1865, Freemans Bay was still the place of ‘beauty and calm’ described by Reverend G.E. Mason, a visitor from England. It was also still a bay — a charming seaside spot with a curving, sandy beach.
But by the turn of the century its hillside streets housed a slum. Some families shared a single tap and toilet, and many were hungry. When the Salvation Army introduced the country’s first mobile soup kitchen in 1931, mothers sent children to line up with jugs, saucepans and pudding basins.
Many residents could not afford to have their rubbish collected. In 1900 fears of plague prompted Auckland Council to offer a penny for each rat delivered to the Ponsonby Pumping Station on Karangahape Road. By 1903 they were offering threepence. Finally in 1904 a huge rubbish incinerator known as ‘Perfectus’ was erected where Victoria Park Market is today. Its furnace burned until 1972, sending dubious smells wafting out of its towering brick chimney. Freemans Bay was also home to the city’s morgue, gasworks and abattoir.
From the 1950s the Council started replacing some of the decaying cottages with new flats, and in the 1980s and ’90s wealthier Aucklanders began to move in. Freemans Bay is now one of the most affluent parts of the city.