Lawlor House & Hawker Street History

St Gerard's church and monastery are Hawker Street's crowning glory. The concrete and brick church was built in 1908 for the Catholic Redemptorists, and the three- storeyed monastery followed in 1932. Funds were raised by public subscription, though it was at the height of the Depression.

Overlooking the harbour and Oriental Bay, the church and monastery form one of Wellington's most distinctive landmarks.

The Redemptorists sold the property in 1988 and the International Catholic Programme of Evangelisation now uses it as a training centre/retreat. The building was heritage listed in 1993.

Watercolour painting of Hawker Street by Alfred Memelink, Artist

Hawker Street, one kilometre long, links Majoribanks St with Moeller St and the roads higher up Mount Victoria.

It was named in 1840, after either CC Hawker, a Cornish supporter of the New Zealand Company, or Rev RS Hawker, another English colonising enthusiast.

Hawker Street was once a street with established family homes and until the 1970s boasted three dairies on or just adjacent to it. However, its close proximity to the city has now made it a prime area for flats and boarding houses of varying qualities.

A bus route winds up Hawker Street, and all the way to the top of Mt Victoria.

In the early 1900s, there was agitation for a tramline along Hawker Street, but in 1919, after years of debate at city council level, it was decided the terrain was too steep to make it practicable.

Two noted Hawker Street residents were pioneer JE Fitzgerald and journalist and author Pat Lawlor.

Fitzgerald, a comptroller- general of New Zealand, owned the site where the monastery is now. The area was then known as Fitzgerald's Point.

Lawlor lived at No 6 from the 1920s to the 1940s.

He threw one famous party in May 1936, when he invited other leading writers for dinner and challenged them to jointly write a murder mystery, each person contributing one chapter.

The story, Murder by Eleven, was such a shambles it was never published as a book, but Maurice Gee used the event in The Scornful Moon, in which character Sam Holloway is based on Lawlor.

Sir Francis Kitts, mayor of Wellington from 1957 till 1974, used to live off Hawker Street and regularly walked down the street to council chambers.

In May 1901, a fire destroyed 22 houses in the street. The fire was bad enough, but was fanned by gale-force winds.

More recently, one of Hawker Street's infamous dwellings was No 41. Known as The Screaming Asylum, the building was noted for its raucous parties and colourful inhabitants.

Some of the tenants formed Screaming Asylum Productions and organised gigs for venues such as Thistle Hall in the 1990s. Tour buses would stop outside the punk house so passengers could take photos of it.

- Article by Joseph Romanos, The Wellingtonian

Download Historical Note: Pat Lawlor (371 KB)

Oriental Bay, Wellington from St Gerard's by Alfred Memelink, Artist