The suburb was named by early local politician and entrepreneur Robert Graham, after his father’s home in Elderslie (sic) in Lancashire, England. Adjacent to his home, ‘Ellerslie House’, was a track along which Mrs Graham was in the habit of riding her horse every morning, now a street called Ladies Mile. Many of the local streets bear names of Graham family members.
In 1873 construction of the railway from Auckland reached the area. Possibly this was what induced Graham to develop part of his property as the ‘Ellerslie Zoological Gardens’, a pleasure garden with flower beds, fountains, bandstand and dance pavilion and a zoo. Although it was popular to a certain degree it failed to prosper. In 1886 much of the Graham farm was subdivided for housing but the landscaped grounds became the setting for the Racing Club (though racing had already started in the area in 1857, and remains located here to this day). The racecourse had its own railway station for racedays, and strongly characterised the local area up until its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s.
Next to Ellerslie Train Station developed a small township servicing not only the local residents but also the raceday crowds. As the 20th century progressed the surrounding rural land disappeared and the small town of Ellerslie became absorbed into the suburbs of Auckland. The building of the Southern Motorway was to both strengthen the strategic location already created by the railway as well as damage the local cohesion of the area.
The original Ellerslie Town District was established in 1908. The Borough of Ellerslie was formally declared on 1 April 1938. In 1989 Ellerslie was amalgamated into Auckland City. The area has seen strong population growth in the recent past, growing 32% in the inner Ellerslie area between 1991 and 2001.
Ellerslie is now seen as a very desirable suburb to live in. Its location provides convenient access to the city centre for commuters (via rail and bus links) and ready access to the nearby Southern Motorway for road users. The town centre is pleasant with good services while maintaining a sense of community. Housing in the area is well planned and close to a number of attractive parks, such as Michael’s Avenue Reserve and Waiatarua Reserve.