News, Events and Culture

153-154 The Square - UFSD Building


Building Details

Building Name: UFSD Building
Address:  153-154 The Square
Construction date:   1928
Architect:   AR Allen
Builder:  F Jackson & Sons 
District Plan Category:
Street Character 27
Building number: 95 
NZHPT Classification:  Nil      

Physical and Social History 

This building was designed to house Palmerston North's United Friendly Societies' Dispensary. It also contained a second ground floor shop, along with office space upstairs for more tenants. In addition, it has also had what seems almost obligatory for this block, a fire and a billiard parlour. However, it can claim something more unique - its rather spectacular encounter with the 1936 Gale.

Many tenants seem to have had some relationship to the 'health' industry. The property on which it stands runs through to Cuba Street, and the UFS Chambers at the Cuba Street end, and which for two decades housed the city's Urgent Medical Dispensary (later called the Urgent Pharmacy) is also part of this study.

Prior History
CT WN 133/184 was issued on 9 June 1904 to James Carroll, hotelkeeper - being the owner of the Clarendon Hotel. This hotel had burnt down on 28 January 1904, along with some of its neighbours. However, a photo taken the next day (PN Library photo Sq 250) shows the building on this site, which had been saved by its brick wall. The CT reveals that in 1900, Carroll had leased space in this building to Arthur Hopwood for a period of ten years. Hopwood, in turn, had transferred his lease to Alexander Youngson in April 1905. The CT also records that James Carroll died on 21 May 1905.

The book on the history of Hopwood's firm reveals that although his business survived due to the brick wall, he did lose stock due to smoke damage, and to the pilfering that followed the fire. A newspaper reported at the time that Hopwood's shop was among the heavy losers to this pilfering. Hopwood had then moved down the road to the newly converted former Theatre Royal building - now the site of the Mowlem Buildings covered in this study. The latter was built in 1925 after the former Theatre Royal building burnt down in 1924. Again Hopwood's firm survived a major fire - this time by having relocated again about four years earlier[1]

The building on this site before 1928, was distinctive due to a partially enclosed balcony above the verandah.  This balcony appears to have served as a prime vantage point for photos of parades on the street below. A long time occupant of this building was Mrs Jinnie Rawlins, who operated 'The White House' dining and luncheon rooms there from 1908, when she had taken over the aforementioned Alexander Youngson's lease. Her regular advert in the newspaper stated that she catered weddings and smoke concerts, and that catering dances was a specialty. She also served afternoon tea on the balcony.[2]

Two other prominent tenants appear on CT WN 304/270. Henry Llewellyn Young, of the well-known stationery firm of the recent past, HL Young Ltd, appears to have leased the building then on the site now occupied by the UFS Chambers, from 1906. The other was Henry Meredith Garner (and later with his wife Elizabeth) who leased part of the property from 1905 - their Cuba Street Garner Bros. shop opening in February 1906.[3]

By 1923, the property had been subdivided into four parts, and that year the Garners firm purchased Lots 1 and 3. The firm then relocated to The Square end of their property - before moving on again in 1937 to become one of the best-known Broadway businesses of its era.

Meanwhile, Lots 2 and 4, of DP 6285 (CT WN 304/270) were also sold in 1923, these going to the Trustees of the Palmerston North United Friendly Societies' Dispensary The new CT records that Jinnie Ann Rawlins renewed her lease for five years starting 22 March 1923, and then transferred the lease to J Rawlins Ltd, in 1924. That lease was then transferred to Gertrude Elizabeth Freeman, wife of Leonard Robert Freeman, hotel broker, in 1925. Her firm was called Freemans' Caterers. The lease was due to expire in March 1928.[4]

The Building Permit Register, Vol 3, records two entries in its Additions & Alterations section, for work for the UFS in The Square, to be done somewhere on this property. The first permit was issued on 6 June 1924, for work done with wood and valued at £26. The second job was much more substantial. This was permitted on 27 July 1924, and the work, in brick and concrete, was valued at £700.[5] Unfortunately the work involved is not apparent.

The Present Building

AR Allen's plans for this building, dated 12 May 1928, indicate that it consists of a basement beneath the back of the building (measuring 12 ft by 25 ft and containing the building's heating system and coke chute[6]), two ground floor shops, the first floor consisting of two rooms, and a second floor meeting room (which served at the UFSD's boardroom), which protrudes from the roof.  This meeting room, along with the stairwell, contained "old material" presumably recycled from the previous building. The shop on the Rangitikei Street side was described as Shop 1, and the basement is beneath this shop. The staircase to it, however, is from Shop 2, which was the UFS's chemist shop (or dispensary) in this building and which was also in the same location in its predecessor. There was also an opening in the party wall on the western side of the building that led to an existing staircase in the neighbouring building that in turn led from the first floor directly to the street.

A feature of the building was a large louvred skylight mounted on the roof, which was described as being of Pinkerton wired glass and supported by Pennycook's 'F' bars. This was about two-thirds of the width of the building, and was atop a glazed light and air well that reaches down through the first floor's Room 2, to the ceiling of the ground floor overlooking the actual dispensary. A second smaller skylight in the roof of the second floor room, overlooked the two staircases that, in turn, began in Shop 2 and passed across Shop 1.  Although Shop 2 was narrower than Shop 1, it clearly predominated in terms of use of space.[7]

The permit was duly issued on 18 June 1928, and the brick building was to cost £5,141. Its builder was F Jackson & Sons.[8]

The angled skylight on the roof of UFDS building is clearly visible above, alongside the second floor meeting room where the UFS committee held its board meetings. The separate access to the first floor is through the side of the dark-roofed building sometimes referred to as the McDuff building (or its replacement), and at other times as the Woolworth's building. Photo: Whites Aviation Ltd, Palmerston North & District, New Zealand (Auckland, 1950), p2

The Occupants
Mortgages listed on CT WN 304/270 between May and November 1928 are doubtless applicable to the construction of the new building. The first lease involving the new building, was the letting of Shop 1 to JR MacKenzie Ltd for a seven-year term starting on 14 November 1928.  By the 1933 Stones Directory, this firm had moved to a neighbouring shop, a location that firm occupied for decades (albeit that its building was replaced during that time). Thereafter no shop leases are referred to on the CT.

Various upstairs rooms within the building were leased for five-year terms, starting on 1 April 1930, with Charles George Wilson. He leased Rooms 1, 2 and 3 (effectively the entire first floor), with rights over Rooms 5, 6 and 7 (the latter being the toilets etc.). Wilson is listed in the 1933 Wises Directory as operating it as a billiard parlour.

The CT indicates that the side stairwell through the adjoining building served the billiard parlour. This also causes problems in terms of outlining with certainty the occupancy of the first floor of this building, as the Directories tended to assume that known occupants of this building, were in fact upstairs in the neighbouring building. Possibly some were.

Wilson must have departed about 1933, as he was gone before the 1933 Stones Directory was published in November 1933, which indicates that he had been replaced by a dentist, a music teacher and Miss Maud Pritchard, a dressmaker who was still there in 1960. A new lease in 1935 for the same rooms that Wilson had, plus the passageway, was to Jack Goldie Anderson. This in turn was transferred to William John Anderson in 1938 - with the lease ending 1940. Their use of the building is unclear, however, a sign on top of the building's façade in the 1930s reads "Anderson & Bell".[9]

The 1936 Gale
Photo Stm8 in the PN City Library's photographic collection shows Shop No 2's front entrance smashed and scattered on the footpath. At the time, Schneideman Bros occupied the shop, however, the display items from their advertised annual suit sale are nowhere to be seen. The photo was taken just after the 1936 Gale passed through the region on Sunday, 2 February, killing a man in Elmira Avenue and causing serious and widespread damage. Described as the worst in living memory to that time, it had struck in the early hours of the morning and had lasted unabated for most of the day. The Manawatu Evening Standard recorded, amongst its extensive report of the event, that:  When the gale had subsided the Square presented an amazing spectacle with its broken hoardings and broken plate glass windows. Heavy damage was done to those in the shopping area; particularly on the north-western side of the Square, where the footpaths were littered at frequent intervals with broken glass.  Inside the pharmaceutical premises there was a scene of chaos where the wind had ravaged the dispensing room after a skylight had been stove in.[10]

The Wises Directories appear to list the address of the first floor according to its street access in the adjoining building. Therefore in 1936, this floor had the address 134 The Square and had three occupants. The 1939 Directory lists one of the occupants at this address as William J Anderson, a dentist. By the 1944 Directory, the street number is 121 The Square, and the occupants include known tenants of the first floor, namely Glaxo Laboratories and the Standard Optical Company.

Ronald Gordon Spence leased Rooms 1 and 2 (with right of way over Rooms 5-7) for five years starting 10 June 1940. The Standard Optical Company of Australasia Ltd. then leased Room 3 (plus access to Rooms 5-7) from 1 August 1940. In 1950, they added Room 2 to their lease for another five years. Stanley Kenneth Phillips (a dentist) then leased Room 1 ("together with use of WC's on the first floor and the passages…") from 1 April 1954, until the lease was taken over by Henry Charles Brian Wycherley in 1962. Thereafter no leases are recorded on the CT.

The history of the Glaxo firm, Glaxo: From Bonnie Babies to Better Medicine, records that in 1942, the company's main office moved from their Bunnythorpe factory, to the area above the chemist shop within this building. This was due to the need to make room for the expanded manufacturing programme at the factory. The company also rented space in the neighbouring MacDuff building (since demolished - probably once Garners' shop), although this might have been a misinterpreted reference to the lease of the staircase in the McDuff building. The Glaxo office remained there until 1950, when that company's new premises in Botanical Road were completed.[11]

The Fire
This building has not escaped the tendency to serious fires that afflicted this block in the past. The Manawatu Evening Standard of 15 October 1948 recorded:  Early morning fire: Building in city, Brigade's good save.

An outbreak of fire gutted part of the first floor of the United Friendly Societies' building in the Square in the early hours of this morning. Considerable damage was done to manufacturing equipment in the Standard Optical Company's premises, where the fire is believed to have started, and in the office of Glaxo Laboratories NZ Ltd.

Pieces of framing from the skylight fell through the floor of Schneideman and Sons' shop and set the linoleum alight, but this portion of the fire was extinguished before the flames could spread.

The alarm was given at 5:30am by a passing motorist who noticed smoke emitting from the ventilators in the roof of the building. The Palmerston North Fire Brigade dispatched two engines, under Superintendent NG Buick, to the scene of the fire. At first there was some doubt as to where it was situated, as no flames were visible. Hook ladders were erected up the face of the UFS building, and entry was eventually gained by forcing a glass door at the back of the building.

The seat of the fire appeared to be beside the skylight near a temporary partition between the Standard Optical Company's premises and Glaxo's offices. The partition was quickly burnt through though, and the fire spread through both offices. Fortunately, the building is a concrete one, and the absence of draught prevented a further spread of the flames.

Little material damage was done, though heat, smoke, and water took their usual toll. A large stock of optical lenses was untouched by the fire. It is not yet certain what the cost of the damage is, but a large amount of papering and plastering work will have to be done. The premises and equipment were fully insured.

When flames were discovered at the back of Schneideman's shop, the front door was forced open and the blazing linoleum was extinguished before the fire could spread to the valuable stock in the shop. Firemen also gained access to the first floor through the damaged skylight.

The cause of the outbreak is not yet definitively known, but investigations are being carried out.[12]

This building's original June 1928 entry in the Building Permit Register (Vol 3, p394) includes the note "loaned LG West 21/10/1948", indicating that this architectural firm probably did the repairs.

The CT records that in 2002, the property was sold to present owners, Simon Francis and Catherine Russ. In May 2003, Catherine Russ opened the Thermostat Art Gallery on the first floor of the building overlooking The Square, in space previously occupied by dentists and a beautician. There were also three flats on the property - two of these being in the UFS Chambers.  In 2005, this gallery was described as one of the two main private galleries in town (along with Taylor Jensen Fine Arts in another building being studied here). The article stated that the gallery was "a space created to cultivate artists. Run under the most optimal conditions to see art with huge windows pooling natural light into the room and bare white walls…"[13]

The United Friendly Societies' Dispensary
The friendly society movement originated in England where local communities formed voluntary associations for mutual aid. This was a forerunner to medical benefit funds and the aim was to serve the ordinary person by providing sick pay if they were unable to work, funeral allowances if the family breadwinner died, and to permit them access to reasonably priced quality medicines. Over time these local groups joined with other similar groups, and these became the basis of the friendly societies. The local groups were known as lodges. Some of these lodges combined to establish medical benefit societies that contracted doctors to serve their members. At first these doctors supplied the medicine they prescribed, however later the united friendly society dispensaries were formed to supply medicine to the lodge members.[14]

A meeting held on 13 March 1906 with a view to starting a United Friendly Societies' dispensary in Palmerston, failed to gain enough support at that time to proceed with the attempt. Only 206 shares, out of the 2,000 needed to start the project, were applied for. Of the ten lodges involved, the Druids, at 115 shares offered, were the most enthusiastic about signing up. Four lodges did not apply for any shares.[15]

In November 1912 another meeting was called by the United Friendlies' Council, met with much more success.  The council was now very hopeful of establishing the dispensary at a very early date.[16] The "Palmerston North United Friendly Societies' Dispensary" was duly registered on 16 October 1914.[17]

What appears to have been the UFSD's first dispensary was located in Cuba Street, in the oldest of the block of three near identical two-storied buildings on the corner of Cuba and Lombard Streets. This block is part of this study, and the building concerned is now 207 Cuba Street and occupied by the Crankit cycle shop. The dispensary is listed in this location in the Wises Directories between at least 1916 and 1922, and it probably remained there until 1923, the year the UFSD bought the site being studied here.

The NZ Truth published an article on the Palmerston North United Friendly Societies' Dispensary's first annual report in January 1916. This recorded that 1949 shares at ten shillings each, had been taken up, resulting in a paid up capital of £933. "With that small sum a very promising chemist's business has been built up. To prove that statement we have the fact that a gross profit of £942 was made in the first year of operation." The society had made a nett profit of £159/9/10 in that year.[18]

The UFS Dispensary's shop closed down in about 1998, after about 75 years on this site - in two different buildings on the same site. The UFS Chambers facing Cuba Street, which was built in 1961, had earlier ceased operating as the Urgent Pharmacy by 1982. The organisation's name was then changed to the Palmerston North United Friendly Societies Board in 2000, along with a number of other rule changes that were previously required when running the dispensary. By that time the organisation consisted of only five lodges. The funds from the sale were then invested and the resulting interest is in part used for active members of the Friendly Societies in Palmerston North, and for subsidising prescriptions.[19]

At present there are eleven UFS Dispensaries in New Zealand, the closest being in Hawkes Bay and Wellington.[20]

Schneideman & Sons Ltd
Schneidemans had a long connection with this building. The millinery and tailoring firm, which had arrived in Palmerston North about 1922, was burnt out in the major fire of 22-23 February 1924 that destroyed the former Theatre Royal building. It is not clear when the firm took over the lease of their shop in this building, but they had replaced a branch of the tailoring firm Burton Montague by the mid 1930s.

Their entry in the 1937 Palmerston North Diamond Jubilee book, From Swamp to City, included the above photo that shows the leadlight upper windows that survived the 1936 Gale the previous year. The article also gave an indication of the firm's perception of its place in the local market:

It was about fifteen years ago that Messrs Schneideman and Co, a tailoring and suiting house with a fine reputation already established elsewhere for high quality workmanship, realised something of the great future that awaited Palmerston North and decided to extend their activities to this centre. Since then they have built up, by unfailing care and service, a large business in keeping with the tradition of a firm which has extended throughout New Zealand and has an exceptionally large staff at its command.

Selecting, with the aid of competent buyers, all the latest in suit fabrics, both for quality, serviceability, pattern, and all the factors which go to the making of smart clothes, they are in a position to fit every customer and to satisfy every desire as to style. With years of tailoring experience to stand them in good stead, they have perfected the art of giving a man the clothes that make him at ease on all occasions. Whether for the office, sports or social occasions, a Schneideman suit lends the assurance indispensable to success.

This hallmark of quality, coupled as it is with a record of prices that make tailoring by Schneidemans an economy, have brought to the Palmerston North branch a large and appreciative clientele, including many country residents…[21]

The naturalisation records of six male members of the Schneideman family - one dated 1911, while the rest were either 1920 or 1921 - indicated that they were from Riga, Latvia, and that the three oldest of them had previously been naturalised in the United Kingdom.  All six were tailors living in Wellington at the time of their various naturalisations.[22] It is not clear which if any members of this family came to Palmerston North.

The shops' front doors have since been relocated nearer to the footpath edge from the 1928 originals. However, the position of the original front walls is still evidenced by tar sealed patches on the footpath.

The 1941 Manawatu phone book lists a second business as part of this firm. That is Schneideman & Co, which advertised itself as a Ladies' tailor, and as coat and costume specialists, with Mae E Dalefield as its manageress. Schneidemans was still there in the late 1950s.

Shop nearest Rangitikei Street - 153 The Square
1928 - JR MacKenzie Ltd (leased Shop 1, ref: CT WN 304/270)
Wises 1933 - Burton Montague, tailors (branch)
Wises 1936-60 - Schneideman & Sons Ltd, tailors
c1993-now - The Shearing Shed

Shop nearest George Street - 154 The Square
1928-1998 - United Friendly Society Dispensary (same site in previous building)
Now - Recycle Boutique,

Upstairs - Some tenants were listed in the Directories as if they were in the neighbouring building. However, this was because the direct street access was and still is in the neighbouring building.

Wises 1933 - Charles George Wilson, billiard parlour

Sones late 1933 - 134 The Square - Miss Evelyn M Rawlins, teacher of music; Rapid Dental Repair Service, EE Boock proprietor; Miss Maude Pritchard, dressmaker; Caleb Lincoln Carr, manufacturer's representative

Wises 1939 - 134 The Square - Ms Maude Pritchard, dressmaker; McLeavey & Loveday, dressmakers; William J Anderson, dentist; Ernest E Boock, dental repairs

Wises 1944 - 121 The Square - Ms Maude Pritchard, dressmaker; Standard Optical Co of Australasia Ltd; Ernest E Boock, dental repairs; Glaxo Laboratories (NZ) Ltd; AE Higgins First Aid Supplied Co.

Wises 1950-51 - 121 The Square - Ms Maude Pritchard, dressmaker; Rapid Dental Repair Service; Standard Optical Co of Australasia Ltd; Ernest E Boock, dental repairs; Glaxo Laboratories (NZ) Ltd.

Wises 1953-54 - 121 The Square - Ms Maude Pritchard, dressmaker; Rapid Dental Repair Service; Standard Optical Co of Australasia Ltd; Stan K Phillips, dentist

Wises 1959-60 - 121 The Square - Ms Maude Pritchard, dressmaker; Stan K Phillips, dentist; HC Wycherley, dentist; Kon-Tiki Beauty Salon; Classic Studios, photographers

2003-now - Thermostat Art Gallery

The relationship with the neighbouring building/s in terms of the staircase is of note - as is the original decision not to give the first floor its own separate direct street access in the first place.  Ian Matheson's notes on the plans for that building (McDuff's Ltd, 530/168-169, PNCC 4/13/6) indicate that the original building that supplied that staircase, has been demolished and replaced - possibly around 1947, with earthquake repairs being referred to.

Architectural Description 

The original plans show a three-storied building with basement.  On the ground floor are two shops, which are divided longitudinally into two unequal sized shops with angled ingos.  The smaller of the two shops has the dispensary and ladies toilet half way between the street and rear, with the rear space a store and with the stairs to the basement.  The rear (north) of the shop gives access to four toilets serving both shops.  The larger shop is shown as a large undivided space.

The first floor is shown as two spaces a corridor on one side. The rear space is approximately one third of the floor area and is separated from the front space with a glazed light well.  In the centre of the front space are the stairs, which lead to a room, noted as "existing room" on the roof with roof access.  The drawings note that this is "former with old materials as directed".

Access to the first floor from the ground floor is not clear, as there are no stairs shown from the ground to the first floors.  An extension to the east suggests that access is from another building.

Construction appears to be reinforced concrete floors and frame, rendered on the exterior.  Above verandah windows are steel and the drawings note that the shopfronts are bronze with lead light toplights and timber double doors.

The style of the building is Inter-War Stripped Classical with a symmetrical street façade comprising a balustraded and pilastered parapet, cornice, and panelled pilasters.  Window glazing bars are divided into Classical patterns.

Statement of Significance 

This building has moderate local significance for historical and design values, representivity of building style and level of external authenticity. 

This building has moderate historic values in its association with the United Friendly Society Dispensary, a mutual aid society first established in England, for which the building was constructed.  It is also has moderate historic associations with the International firm Glaxo as its headquarters for six years after the firm outgrew its Bunnythorpe premises and until the firm's new Botanical Road factory was ready.

The building is also associated with its regionally significant architect, AR Allen, a Palmerston North architect of the mid twentieth century who designed buildings in Napier, Gisborne, and Palmerston North.

The building has moderate design values as a representative example of the Inter- War Free Classical style.

The building has high design values as one of a number of buildings in the Cuba Street, George Street, Coleman Place, and The Square area which, when considered collectively, form a coherent group of buildings of a similar age, general style, form, use, and scale.

The exterior of the building hasmoderatelevels of authenticity

[1] Keith Goldsack, More than Hardware: Arthur Hopwood and the business he founded (Palmerston North, 2000), p18, 23.

[2]Manawatu Evening Standard, 8 November 1912 1(3) regular advert for 'The White House'

[3] Ian Matheson, 'The Birth of Palmerston North', Evening Standard Centenary Supplement, 13 March 1971, advert inside front cover.

[4] PN Library photo Sq 402 (1927) show "Freeman's Caterers" on the upper façade.

[5] Building Permit Register, Vol 3, PNCC Series 4/13/1, Ian Matheson City Archives, PN City Library

[6] The plans for the UFS Chambers in Cuba Street show a long internal passage along the western side of that building. This passage and presumably one like it in the previous building on that site, are the means by which coke, etc. would have been delivered to this location in this building - other than through the middle of the shops.

[7] Plan 530/186-187, PNCC 4/13/6, Ian Matheson City Archives.

[8] Building Permit Register, Vol 3, PNCC 4/13/1, Ian Matheson City Archives, PN City Library

[9] PN Library photo Sq 250 (c1936).

[10]Manawatu Evening Standard, 3 February 1936 7(4). Part of a much larger report.

[11] Julia Millen, Glaxo: From Bonnie Babies to Better Medicine, the people who made Glaxo (Palmerston North, 1991), pp93, 107

[12]Manawatu Evening Standard, 15 October 1948 4(6)

[13]Manawatu Evening Standard 10 May 2003, p4 'Hot art chemistry', & 21 January 2005, p18 'Doubletake.

[14] "What are Friendly Societies?" - Launceston Friendly Society Pharmacy Ltd, Australia.

[15]Manawatu Evening Standard, 15 March 1906, 4(6)

[16]Manawatu Evening Standard, 13 November 1912 4(7)

[17] No 1803008, Companies Office website: www 

[18]NZ Truth, Issue 554, 29 January 1916, p4 ' Palmerston North United Friendly Societies Dispensary' (my copy from

[19] Manawatu phone books; Companies Office website: www ; and Mather Papers, Cuba Street (PN Historical Society Inc, 2007) p31. Note that UFSD rules are also available on the Companies Office website from when the dispensary was operating.

[21] RH Billens & HL Verry, From Swamp To City  (Palmerston North, 1937) 'Schneideman & Sons Ltd' (page unnumbered). This photo is also PN City Library photo Bc219

[22]Register of Persons Naturalised in NZ before 1948: Non-Commonwealth