The large house at on the corner of Brougham and Elizabeth Streets operated as Crossways Community Centre for 30 years until it was sold in 2008 by its owners the Presbyterian Church. [http://crossways.org.nz/about-crossways/crossways-background/]
The land on which the building sits was originally part of Town Acre 312, one of two Town Acres (also 311) bought by William Nicol from the New Zealand Company in 1857. William Nicol was an early settler in Wellington, being listed on the burgess roll for the first municipal elections in 1843, with an address of Pipitea Pah, but little more is known of him.In 1873 Town Acre 312 was bought by Thomas Whyte Young, along with 311 and 313, and he had his residence there. Young was a Wine and Spirit Merchant with his business on Jervois Quay. He had arrived in New Zealand from Scotland in 1859, with his brother. They established their business in about 1865, and were direct importers with connections throughout the North Island and most of the South Island. Their premises on Jervois Quay were significant – three storeys high with about 8000 feet of storage.
The house itself was probably built in 1887. We know Young’s house was built by 1891 because it appears on Thomas Ward’s Survey Map in virtually the same form it is today. The map tells us it was a 12 room residence.
In 1902 part of Town Acres 312 and 313 was taken by Wellington City Council to form the lower part of Elizabeth Street. Three years later another slice was taken off Young’s land on Town Acre 312 to widen Brougham and Elizabeth Streets for the Kilbirnie tramway extension. (ref: City Engineer’s file, 00009:585:36/322, Wellington City Archives). Trams required much gentler, wider curves in their tracks than the old roads allowed.
After his death, TW Young’s estate was subdivided into 18 residential sections and auctioned off. At the time, it was described as “the last of the original Town Acres”. At one stage it had been proposed as the site of the Clyde Quay School and Young gave an option over the land to be exercised on his death. This fell through, however, and only part of his land on Town Acre 313, on the northern side of Elizabeth St, was acquired by the Education Board. (ref: Press clipping 21.4.1928)
Young’s residence straddled lots 9 and the subdivision required that these lots be sold as one, unless the house was removed first, which did not happen. Lots 9, 10 and 12 were passed in at auction in April 1928 but, in January 1929, they were bought by the New Zealand Women’s Christian Temperance Union Incorporated.
The NZ Women’s Christian Temperance Union was founded in 1885 with the visit from the United States of Mrs Mary Leavitt, who brought with her a petition to be signed by women in all parts of the world urging their governments to introduce the prohibition of alcohol. Its motto is “For God, Home and Humanity” and its original platform was “Peace, Purity and Prohibition”. The union’s first campaign was to stop the employment of barmaids, whose presence in pubs was seen as demoralising to women and as enticing men to drink. It has been associated with a number of other reforms, including women’s franchise, teaching of religion in schools and welfare work among seamen, in prisons and with juveniles. The organisation reached its peak in the late 1920’s – about the time the Brougham Street property was purchased – with 7700 members.
In 1952 the land was sold to William Aitken & Co Ltd. This company was established about 1937 in Wellington as an importer of olive oil. From the start, its biggest customer base was the Island Bay Italian community. Based in Taupo since 1997, but still a family firm, it is now New Zealand’s leading importer of olive oils and Italian foodstuffs.
The property was next sold to the Presbyterian Church in 1978, and became a community centre known as Crossways. After three decades, the church proposed to sell it. Despite an outcry from the community, and efforts to buy it, it was sold in 2008 to a private buyer.