21 Mar 2022

One of Christchurch’s most iconic streets is marking 90 years since its shops first opened their doors.

The history of the Spanish Mission-style New Regent Street is being highlighted in an exhibition at Tūranga which runs from Monday 21 March until Sunday 8 May.

“90 years is a significant milestone in the history of what has been dubbed ‘New Zealand’s most beautiful street’ so this is the perfect chance to showcase the pastel coloured street today and encourage people to come into the central city,” Head of Libraries and Information Carolyn Robertson says.

“The exhibition has been curated by our librarians and tells the story of New Regent Street, an iconic and treasured precinct in the heart of Christchurch.

“It uncovers what was there before, how the street developed and how it has evolved over time, as well as a visual chronology showing how it has changed and lots of information about some of the shops from 90 years ago,” Ms Robertson says.

For example when it opened in 1932, New Regent Street was a vehicle thoroughfare and often had congestion. It wasn’t until much later than it became a car-free pedestrian friendly area.

Before then the site was a place where visiting circuses set up. The international acts often had exotic animals such as lions, tigers, camels and elephants.

“Some of the information included in the exhibition was uncovered during the archaeological excavations that happened after the earthquakes,” Ms Robertson says.

“But the team has also delved through our library historical archives and old newspaper clippings to pull this amazing showcase together. People need to come in and have a look.”

It will also be linked to the Shared Holiday Trail which involves children exploring Tūranga, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, Canterbury Museum and the Botanical Gardens throughout the school holidays.