Hall’s corner: the heart of Takapuna

There was once a time when Hall’s Corner was Takapuna.

The Lake or Lake Takapuna, as the settlement was widely known from the 1840s through to the 1920s, began its Pākehā history as a rural settlement consisting primarily of weekend homes of wealthy Aucklanders intermixed with small farms. For decades, it had no permanent commercial structures and most goods were brought in via wagon from Devonport or arrived at the Barry’s Point wharf.

Image: Detail from: Takapuna villa sites for positive sale by S. Cochrane, 1863. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, Map 4130.

The Parish of Takapuna’s Lot 80 was 39 acres of poorly-tended bush located between the road to Northcote and the North Road. Andrew Rooney purchased the property in 1845 to use as a farm, but he soon abandoned it. Over the next thirty years, the land was subdivided into smaller lots until only Section X, Lot 1—a half-acre triangle at the intersection of The Terrace (Lake Road) and The Drive (Hurstmere Road)—remained.

Image: William Eastwood, Landing place to the Lake, North Shore, Auckland, 1 January 1866. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, T0228.

By the mid-1890s, the triangle was overgrown with only a hawthorn hedge and ditch separating it from the adjacent roads. A lone pine tree planted in 1870 by the Lake Highway District marked the corner and provided shelter to passers by. At some point, a bench was installed around the base of the tree and it became a popular meeting place.

Image: Detail from: R. W. Stanley, Rangitoto Mountain and Channel (from the Lake Shore), 17 February 1894, New Zealand Graphic. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZG-18940217-154-2.

Meanwhile, on Rangitoto Island, John Stubbs had founded a saltworks for the Colonial Salt Manufacturing and Refining Company on McKenzie’s Bay in 1892, but the project failed to turn a profit. David Robertson, who had purchased the triangle lot at the corner of Lake and Hurstmere in 1894, bought the old manager’s office from the saltworks in 1896. He hauled the building to The Lake by scow and then dragged it up the beach to its final resting place at the corner.

Image: Lake General Store & Bakery, Takapuna, 1903. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, T0969.

Robertson renovated the building and opened it as a general store and bakery, the first in Takapuna. Before this time, all bread products and most other foodstuffs had to be homemade or delivered from Devonport. His brother, Henry Robertson, had been a baker in Panmure and took over daily management of the store. The first batch of 100 loaves baked at the corner shop were sent to the nearby St Joseph’s Boys Orphanage.

Image: William Beattie, St. Mary’s College & St. Joseph’s Orphanage, North Shore, early 1900s. Auckland War Memorial Museum neg. B442.

With the Robertson brothers in charge, ‘Robbie’s Corner’ became the heart of the rural community on the south side of Lake Pupuke. The Lake General Store & Bakery soon was expanded to include a stand-alone bakehouse behind it, where Henry could bake cakes, pies, and pastries for locals and weekenders.

Image: Lake General Store and Bakery, Takapuna, 1907. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, T1482.

The Robertsons sold the store in 1903 to William F. Bell, who ran it alongside his wife for the next four years. In 1907, the Bells sold the store to William H. Hall, who saw the potential of the location, especially with the coming of the Takapuna tramway.

Image: Detail from : Turning the first sod on the Takapuna Tramway route, Tuesday, February 9, 1909, New Zealand Geographic. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZG-19090217-29-2.

The Takapuna Tramways & Ferry Company changed the very nature of The Lake and began its rapid evolution into the Takapuna of today. The increased ease of travel from Auckland to Takapuna made the North Shore community nearly suburban. As a result, Hall’s Corner, as it had become known, emerged as the focal point of a new downtown that sprawled from the store down Lake and Hurstmere Roads.

Image: Detail from: “Where the lines part to go round the Lake,” Auckland to Takapuna - Progress of the tramway works, 22 September 1909, New Zealand Geographic. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZG-19090922-17-1.

The tramway company broke ground just outside Hall’s Corner in February 1909. This place also marked where the track split to loop around the lake, meaning it would serve as an important stop and transfer point for trams. Hall hoped to profit from this and expanded his store with the addition of the Sea View Tea Rooms in late 1909.  A casualty of the tramline and the building expansion, however, was the removal of the pine tree that had for so long marked the site.

Image: Detail from: Locomotives and carriages which run around Lake Takapuna, 14 December 1910, New Zealand Geographic. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZG-19101214-25-1.

By the time the tramway opened for business on 22 December 1910, Hall’s Corner looked entirely different. The tea rooms had increased its profile greatly and other businesses had already sprung up around the intersection. By the end of the decade, Hall’s Corner was surrounded by a growing commercial district.

Image: Lake Takapuna Bakery and Sea View Tearooms, Takapuna, 1910. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, T0144.

Little changed in Takapuna for the next two decades. Business continued as usual until the closure of the tramway in 1926 and the start of the Great Depression three years later. By the early 1930s, Hall was struggling to attract customers and finally shut down Hall’s Store & Bakery and the Sea View Tea Rooms. Hall’s descendants retain ownership of the property to this day.

Image: Hall’s Corner and Bank of New Zealand, Takapuna, 1932. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, T0145

The longest tenant of Hall’s Corner was Ingham’s Hardware, which moved in shortly after Hall vacated. The Bank of New Zealand, meanwhile, had long run a small office within the general store and moved into its own section of the building once Ingham’s took over. Other short-term tenants moved in and out over the years, leasing space in available sections of the building.

Image: Hall’s Corner, Hurstmere and Lake Roads, Takapuna, 1966. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, T0148.

In 1953, the structure underwent a major renovation. The old building was stripped to its frame, the roof was lowered, and a new two-storey addition was added to the back. At the intersection, a new concrete facade with large windows was built giving a pronounced curve to the building. It is this facade that still adorns Hall’s Corner today. Separate business spaces were added for the Auckland Savings Bank (replacing BNZ) and Columbus Radios. The renovations were designed by C. B. Watkins.

Image: Ingham’s Hardware Store, Hall’s Corner, Takapuna, 1970s. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, T0900.

The last visible remnant of the old store—the bakehouse built by Henry Robertson in the late 1890s—had served for decades as a storage room for the hardware store. With the new renovations, the old building looked dilapidated and fell into disuse. It was finally demolished in 1957.

Image: David Cass, Paulls at Hall’s Corner, Takapuna, 1986. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, T1201.

Ingham’s Hardware vacated in 1985 to be replaced with Paulls Fashions, and then later Shanton Apparel. By the 2000s, it was occupied by Trade Aid, and today TSB Bank calls Hall’s Corner home. Despite several substantial renovations since it was first built around 1892, the old Rangitoto saltworks manager’s office remains at the core of Hall’s Corner, which has been in continuous use for 125 years.

Image: Boarding the steam tram at Hall’s Corner, Takapuna, 1914. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, T0143.

Author: Derek R. Whaley, Research North