Proposed extension of the City of Wellington, 1877, Cartographer : N S Darnoc, MapColl-832.4799a/A/1877/Acc.35277, Alexander Turnbull Library
One of the pictorial stories featured my book Wellingtonians was this rather remarkable 1877 plan of a possible Wellington waterfront precinct. It was by N S Darnoc, and features tree-lined boulevards, elegant promenades and ornamental gardens. There are public baths at the bottom of Cambridge Terrace, and a cafe on each side of the semi-circular basin, about where Te Papa is now. As I said in Wellingtonians, such a plan was never going to interest the commercial leaders of Victorian Wellington. Their wharves were for making money, not public enjoyment. Mr Darnoc was a hundred years ahead of his time.
But who was Mr Darnoc? I could find no trace of him, and concluded it was a pseudonym. The only lead available was the Evening Post's mention of him as a "practical engineer" and a "foreigner" whose ideas had been taken up by "several important cities in Europe." That left me intrigued, but no wiser.
Well, now the mystery is solved, thanks to researcher Pamela McKirdy. She pointed out that Darnoc was almost certainly Danish architect and town planner, Conrad Seidelin, who was living in Dunedin at the time. His first name is Darnoc spelt backwards, and the first and last letters of his surname are N and S.
Seidelin had achieved some fame in Denmark early in his career, particularly for a prize winning plan for the reconstruction of Copenhagen. You can read a little about him in this Danish wikipedia entry. The entry includes two of his plans, which have close similarities in style to the Wellington waterfront drawing.
There is still a lot to find out, of course. How was it that Seidelin ended up in Dunedin (he died there, unacknowledged, in 1879). What other work did he do in New Zealand? It is all waiting for someone else to discover.