The Car Makes its Presence Felt, Cashel Street c. 1920

Cashel Street, looking east. Circa 1920. Image: Christchurch City Libraries, File Reference CCL PhotoCD 17, IMG0011
Cashel Street, looking east. Circa 1920. Image: Christchurch City Libraries, File Reference CCL PhotoCD 17, IMG0011.

Cashel Street has been taken over by the new phenomenon – motor cars.  This photograph documents the quickly changing dynamics of a street which once enjoyed a more sedentary pace of life. Christchurch is dominated by traffic and the viewers can sense that the perils of negotiating the narrow streets are no easy feat for car, cyclist or pedestrian.

Gone is the freedom that cyclists and pedestrians once enjoyed when they meandered through town. Instead we see people, taking a distinctly secondary position on the pavements while a cyclist nervously negotiates his way through a small traffic jam.  As he overtakes a car which stops to find a car park, we can gauge how slowly the cars are able to move through the city.

Although heading into a recesssion, the abundance of smart cars indicates that the benefit of wealth for some Christchurch residents is still being enjoyed in the 1920s.

DIC and Beaths Department Stores are on the right.  As one looks east up Cashel Street one can just make out the tower of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church.

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