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The historic precinct of South Street demonstrates Nelson's architecture from the period of the mid 1800s.
The first owner of South Street, then known as Town Acre 456, was the Honourable Constantine Augustus Dillon who bought the land from the NZ Company in 1851.
There were no permanent dwellings erected until 1863 when there is record of a two-roomed wooden cottage being occupied by a Mrs Harriet McArtney, wife of a local tinsmith. She appeared to have been the only resident until two four-roomed cottages (now Biddle Cottage and Briar Cottage) were built in 1864 with further building following during 1865/66.
Since those early days there has been a succession of owners of these tiny cottages, a high proportion of whom have been women. In the late 1930s and 1940s many dwellings received additions in the form of outhouses, porches and covered in verandahs and by the 1980s many of the cottages had fallen into disrepair and become very dilapidated. This was because they were often owned by uncaring landlords and occupied by short term tenants.
In 1981 the owners of the nearby Dominion Hotel tried to buy all the structures on the west side of South Street with the intention of demolishing them to give space for the building of a large hotel/motel complex. Luckily a petition by the residents to the Nelson City Council halted the process and South Street was restored slowly to the way we see it today. The City Council has since classified South Street as a historic precinct which safeguards the properties from unsympathetic development and the frontages may not be altered.
The latest improvement to the street is a new development on the corner of South Street and Nile Street West. Originally known as 8 Nile Street West, this land was occupied by a two storeyed house which was destroyed by fire in 1971. The land was never built on again and became a car sales yard which was not compatible with South Street's new status and image. In 1998 the Civic Trust of Nelson bought the car sales yard and built two buildings which fitted the character of South Street. They now look as though they too were built in the 19th Century.
South Street is a dead end road located one block off Rutherford Street on Nile Street West. Please note: Vehicle access to South Street is for residents only as the street is very narrow and turning is difficult.
For more information on heritage walks and heritage sites please contact Arts and Heritage Adviser. The Prow website is a good source of more information on the history of Nelson and the top of the South Island.
You can also check out the Trevor Horne Heritage Trail walk which takes in South Street.