St Mary’s Bay, one of the oldest and most historic parts of Auckland was founded in 1836 when Bishop Pompallier bought 47 acres of land on behalf of the Catholic church. He named the area Mount St Mary.


Among the first buildings for the Catholic Church was St Anne’s convent and school for Maori girls run by the Sisters of Mercy. Built in 1852, it was later moved from New St to its present site at 57 St Mary’s Rd. The tiny Gothic-style St Mary’s chapel, now part of St Mary’s College in New St, was built in 1865 and the two-storey brick and stone “Bishop’s Palace”, designed by Peter Paul Pugin and still in near original conrdition, was built in 1894.

Pioneer architects Edward Mahoney and his sons Thomas and Robert made a significant contribution to the ecclesiastical architecture in St Mary’s Bay. Edward Mahoney, who lived in Harbour Street, was a founding member of the Auckland Institute of Architects in 1880.

The elegant Leys Institute built in 1905 features distinctive turn of the century Edwardian baroque and renaissance revival architecture.

Similarly, the former Post Office, built in 1912 is also in the Edwardian baroque style.

Other examples are the original fire station in St Mary’s Road, built before the 1900’s and now a restaurant

The main businesses of the St Mary’s Bay early settlers were boat building and other marine-related activities. Charles Bailey, Robert Logan and Voss’ Yard are still operating on their original sites nearly 100 years on.

The Bay can lay claim to New Zealand’s oldest sporting club, the West End Rowing Club which once stood proudly on the foreshores of St Mary’s Bay.

  • If you have any information or early photographs of St Mary’s Bay we invite you to share them with us so we can build this website into a useful resource on the history of the area.
  • Note: The Leys Institute branch of the Auckland Library has a number of books on the subject, including Glenys Hopkinson’s The Beauty of the Bay: St Mary’s Bay and Westhaven. The library also holds early clippings which may be read but are not available for borrowing.