View posters for South Auckland housing estate auctions during the early 1900s. These are from a collection donated by Miss Ivy Smytheman, a real estate agent's daughter.
Generosity preserves housing estate plans
Donations of historical material enable heritage libraries such as the Auckland Museum’s to offer rare or unique items to the public. These estate plans are an example of that generous philanthropy.
In 1971 the Museum Library acquired a quantity of estate plans from Miss Ivy Smytheman (1907-1976). Her father, Thomas Richard Smytheman (1883-1962) was an Auckland real estate agent, based in Queen Street from 1918 to 1932. Miss Smytheman inherited the plans after the deaths of her father and brother, and generously donated them to the Museum Library. Most of the plans show the growth of South Auckland.
In the early 20th century Auckland's suburbs were spreading out, with great swathes of land being sub-divided and sold for development. The far south in particular was developing rapidly as the growth of the road and rail networks improved travel time into the city, and other infrastructural improvements such as the provision of gas and electricity were promoted (eg. Sunnyside Estate). Posters were a popular method of advertising auctions.
Papatoetoe boomed in the 1920s and 1930s
During the 1920s and 1930s the growth of Papatoetoe was most prolific, lots or sections were advertised with assets such as 'rich volcanic soil', 'elevated sections', 'splendid views', 'sunny aspect' (eg. River View Estate, Roscommon Estate). Working families in need of a large and productive section for a reasonable cost were the target market. Many posters have historically valuable features such as photographs of the area (eg. Bradstreet Estate) or landscaping designs for the section (eg. Ideal Home).
Comparing then with now
Part of the attraction of these plans is plotting their locations in the modern city. It is interesting to note patterns in street-naming, such as the use of native trees (eg, Melwynn Estate), or after well-known locals such as Wyllie, Carruth and Buckland. Occasionally the original homestead and other out-buildings are present (eg. Bent's Estate).
It is quite evident how big the individual sections were, and how much the housing density has increased. With the aid of modern technology, such as Google Earth, you can often compare today's reality with that of the estate plan.
The best examples are digitised
There are presently online 76 plans from Miss Smytheman’s original donation (a definitive quantity is not stated in the Museum's archive). Sadly many of the plans are quite damaged (eg. Sunnyside Estate), due in part to their storage history but also because they were in use as working documents. Many of them are annotated with purchaser names or prices achieved at auction. Considering their age and ephemeral nature it is remarkable that so many have survived; the best of them have been conserved and digitised. Occasionally another plan or two will surface in the backlog of material held in the Library, but chiefly these are small surveyors' drawings grouped together and pasted onto a backing sheet.
Some North Shore posters as well
T. R. Smytheman's real estate business had interests further afield, including the North Shore - Orewa, Rothesay Bay and Torbay are represented in the collection. However, he devoted much of his energies to his home district, serving as Mayor of Papatoetoe 1948-53.
Cite this article
South Auckland real estate plans. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 20 May 2015. Updated: 8 December 2015.
Papatoetoe subdivisions : Bent, Main, Gray, un-named, Sorensen
Smytheman, Thomas Richard, 1889-1962, author
Type: Library / Pictorial › publicationContributor: Smytheman, Thomas Richard, 1889-1962, authorID: G9081.G46P4Description: …Five manuscript subdivision plans on one sheet (largest 44 x 35 cm.)