Durie Hill is named after Major David Stark Durie who arrived in New Zealand in March 1840. In the 1850s he was appointed Resident Magistrate in Whanganui. He built his home, Glen Durie, on the hill across the river from town.
In the early days of the settlement Durie Hill’s height was both its best and worst asset. Its wonderful views were a short but energetic journey from town. Even though the first town bridge was opened in 1871 it was not until the early twentieth century that the development of the suburb began to take hold.
In July 1919 Samuel Hurst Seager, an acknowledged expert in town planning and garden cities, was in Whanganui. He had been engaged to lay out the site of a garden suburb on Durie Hill. At the time there was a huge amount of enthusiasm for the idea of garden suburbs throughout New Zealand.
Seager said the sixty two acre site on Durie Hill was ideal for the purpose. The estate was to be developed on true garden suburb lines “not only must the site be subdivided for the houses, but there must be a good proportion laid out for the amenities of life.” There were to be recreation grounds with children’s play areas, croquet lawns, tennis courts, and bowling greens, and also quiet places, well planted with shrubs and flowers.
Paramount to the design was the idea that the houses would be sited in such a way that the greatest possible number would be able to enjoy the view. He also remarked that Durie Hill would be an ideal site for a residential college or other similar educational facility.
Access to the top of the hill had been a problem for many decades and even improved roads only made the journey tolerable. The opening of the new elevator on 2 August 1919 by Mrs W. Polson greatly assisted the growth and development of the new garden suburb.
The views from Durie Hill, now officially a suburb of Whanganui, was just a pleasant ten minute walk and a short elevator ride from the Central Post Office.