Although Petone's artesian water fountain is world-famous in the greater region, our own example in the entranceway to Moore Wilson Fresh remains a mystery to most locals.
The site was once home to the popular Thomson Lewis & Co soft-drink label - established in 1887 - though at least two other beverage firms had occupied the premises beforehand. However, the well itself was the brainchild of co-owner Alfred Maurice Lewis who wanted the pure, unfiltered water from deep under Wellington Harbour with which to make his company’s cordials, ginger beer and aerated water products.
In 1926, he hired Manawatu water diviner Bill Brogden to test the site after geological experts discounted any possibility of artesian water in the capital. Mr Brogden divined water but could not estimate the depth, resulting in Mr Lewis stubbornly drilling to an unheard-of 497 feet.
Once tested, the water was found to be crystal clear, colourless, and odourless, with a pH of 7.9 and a bacterial count of 0. Despite apparently originating in Wairarapa, its flow has never diminished nor been affected by floods. The only change ever noticed was after the 1929 Murchison earthquake when the water turned slightly cloudy for a short time.
In fact, Thomson Lewis and Co's soda water was considered the best and purest in the colonies – a claim even touted by the medical profession – securing the company several prestigious contracts, including supplying Wellington Hospital and the Union Steam Ship Company.
This water was used by the beverage maker for 53 years until it was bought out by Coca-Cola. When Moore Wilson took over the site, the well had long been capped, but owner Grahame Moore decided to reinstate it for public use. He later commissioned artist Paul Dibble to create an award-winning bronze sculpture – named From Under the Harbour - in its honour.
The store, which asks customers to take no more than two litres of water per visit, has a donation box nearby. As of November 2011, $4760.50 had been raised for Wellington Free Ambulance.
You can read more about Thomson Lewis & Co's Wellington factory here or here.
NB: Placed with Moore Wilson's permission, though you actually do not need to enter its premises. The cache is accessible day or night from the footpath on College Street. Please be discreet when visiting during business hours. Co-ordinates may be +/-5 metres out due to the inner-city location. You may need a log removal tool and/or a selection of pens to successfully sign the waterproof sheet provided.