Some of the buildings on campus have unique histories. One of them is Davis Law Library.

Located in Eden Crescent, it’s the cave where law students study and academics find books for research and study. It’s also just a minute away from the High Court. Charitable students sometimes leave coursebooks they no longer use in the law cafe. The Law School is notorious for being located at the bottom of a very steep hill, which keeps staff and students fit and spritely.

But the Davis Law Library hasn’t always been used for this purpose.  In 1845, Alexander Wilkie set up a bottle factory, making opaque ginger beer bottles, among other things (very appropriate for the famous case of Donoghue v Stevenson that all students learn). There is a natural spring that still trickles through the parking lot, hidden five feet up the back brick wall, called Wai Ariki (which means water of the lord or chiefly water). It was a source of fresh water for Māori and early European settlers.

It was Felton Mathew’s idea, the Surveyor General’s, to structure what is now Eden Crescent and Waterloo Quadrant in a spider-web plan of circuses, quadrants, and crescents. Interestingly, people disapproved of this layout. (Platts, 1971, p 27-28).

In the late 1980s, the High Court moved to the very building the Davis Law Library is in (for four years, while the original building underwent renovations). And finally, in 1992, the University of Auckland took hold of the building and named it after Professor A.G. Davis, who retired as Dean of the Law School in 1965. The original building remains. Since then, its doors have made way for judges, lawyers, politicians, artists, historians, and researchers. Now it greets first years – and churns them out four years later as wise and sober students. There’s something comforting about knowing we’re just one other chapter in a long and very diverse history.

(Enormous thanks to Keri Tilsley and Tracey Thomas for their research into the library’s history)


KG Rusden, Aereated Water Manufacturers of Eden Crescent 1845-1964 (Elliott Stationery Co, Auckland 1979).

Platts, Una. The Lively Capital, 1971, p 27-28

Photo credit: University of Auckland, Alumni Relations. Retrieved at