Clive Square was included in the original town plan mapped out in 1854. Abutting downtown Napier, it provides a verdant vista for shoppers and cafe-goers looking west down Emerson Street.
The park was conceived as the equivalent of the English village green, and Napier's first cricket and football matches were played here. A track that cut across the middle of the square later became the street that divides the area into two - Clive Square and Memorial Square.
In 1886, the square was enclosed with white picket fencing and gates at the corner entrances. Most of the enclosed area was in lawn, with trees and shrubs planted around the perimeter. The Clive Square side boasted a large centred circle, and seating around the outside of this faced inwards to a central band rotunda.
The 1931 earthquake devastated Napier's commercial heart and in its aftermath temporary buildings were constructed in the two squares to provide premises for shops and banks. Phoenix palms were temporarily removed to make way for the timber and corrugated iron structures, which were affectionately referred to as "Tin Town". For two years, these improvised buildings played an important role in sustaining retail and banking activity while the central business district was rebuilt.