Reliving history on Christchurch’s High Street

high street 1

These days Christchurch’s High Street is full of broken buildings and empty spaces.

But it wasn’t always like that.

high street

From the late 1800s to mid 1900’s it had been the commercial heart of the city, it’s Victorian and Edwardian buildings housing every type of business. A stroll down the street would take you past butchers, bakers, and electricians (‘modern day candlestick makers’) not to mention a brothel or two.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the growth of suburban shopping malls surrounding the city caused a marked decline in foot traffic and trade on High Street.

But in the past couple of decades, High Street regenerated, with many up-and-coming fashion designers setting up their boutiques and European style cafes sprawling out onto the sidewalks.

Then came the earthquakes.

high street 3

The street’s expansive Victorian and Edwardian landscape crumbled.

And so now High Street is full of broken buildings and empty spaces.

But the stories (and the ghosts) remain.

But now, thanks to a digital multimedia project by New Zealand Historic Places Trust and the University of Canterbury, anyone armed with a smartphone or tablet can take a trip back in time and revisit High Street in it’s glory days.

high street app

The High Street Stories Augmented Reality features over 100 stories from late Victorian and early-Edwardian days. The stories are sorted into nine themes, ranging from the area’s architectural heritage to the fascinating tales of the red light district.

Stand anywhere along the street and point the smartphone or tablet High Street Stories App onto an empty space (or partially demolished building) and it will bring up colorful dots that indicate the various different themes. Click on a dot and you’ll suddenly see a model of the building that once was, along with an opportunity to explore it’s story through video, audio, text, and images.

It’s a fascinating way to re-discover history and heritage that otherwise could easily be lost.

You can see the High Street Stories App in action here.

Alternatively, head to the interactive High Street Stories website and travel back in time from the comfort of your armchair.

(Note: At this stage the High Street Stories App is only available for Android. There are plans for it to be available for iPhones and iPads sometime in the future)


About The Author