News, Events and Culture

164-165 The Square - Kerslake Building

Building Details 

Building Name:  Kerslake Building (now part Monsoon Asian Kitchen)
164-165 The Square (renumbered from #199-200)
Construction Date: 1895
Architect: Unknown
Builder:  Unknown 
District Plan Category: Street Character 29
Building number: 97
Heritage NZ Category: Nil

Physical and Social History 

This relatively simple building is the oldest covered in this study. It is by far the older of only two single storey buildings left in the Square, and also has the remarkable situation in that it retains a section of a telegraph pole dating from the 1890s or earlier, that once served as its central verandah post. This pole had lost its top portion by the 1920s, and more recently the bottom portion has been replaced by a plain pipe verandah post.  However, the central metre or so of the telegraph post remains in its original place within the verandah roof. This building also shares its property and some if its more dramatic history with one of the oldest Cuba Street buildings under study here - the C 2 C Surf Shop, also referred to here as the Kerslake Building - 1906.

The Previous Building
This seemingly insignificant building replaced a two-storied wooden building that in November 1880 had opened as the Temple of Fashion. This business was owned by Thomas Tozer Kerslake, a tailor, who was born in Devon, England, but trained in America.  He arrived in New Zealand in 1877, on a small sailing ship full of circus animals, and soon began tailoring in Wellington. In due course he moved to Bulls, but then visited Palmerston North one day and decided it had more promise than Bulls.  So he immediately relocated and established his business here.

Soon after he opened his new shop, the Theatre Royal was established on the Rangitikei Street side of it (in the pre-existing former Foresters' Hall), while the City Butchery opened on the other (probably in another pre-existing building). It appears that Kerslake's original building contained two shops as at present. In 1893, Kerslake sold his goodwill in his business to the United Farmers' Co-operative Association and he then took over management of that firm's tailoring department.

However, the Temple of Fashion site remained in the name of Kerslake's wife, Harriet Elizabeth Kerslake (nee Best), as it had been since 1883. The property had been granted to George Snelson in 1881 and had been transferred to Harriet's father, George Best of Ohariu in 1882, following the couple's marriage in 1881 (the couple met in Wellington in 1878). The CT recorded in 1883, in the transfer to Harriet, wife of TT Kerslake, that it had been transferred to her "for her own separate use". This suggests that George Best was aiming to ensure that she was the clear owner of the property, and that it was not to become caught up the property of her new husband - such as in the event of his business or even the marriage perhaps failing. And so it was to remain in her name until her death in 1949.

It is not clear whether the tailoring business was still operating from the shop in March 1895. However, that date marks the origins of the present building. No Palmerston North newspapers survive from the 1890s, but Foxton's Manawatu Herald records the events of 14 March 1895: A serious fire occurred at Palmerston North on Thursday morning at 2 o'clock, the Theatre Royal, owned by Mr Linton, and two shops owned by Mr Kerslake, being burned to the ground. The front of the Theatre was occupied by Donnelly, hairdresser; Wood and Wishart, watchmakers; Perrin, painter; Percival, music teacher; and Mowlem and Linton, land and financial agents. One of Kerslake's shops was occupied by the Singer Sewing Machine Company.

The theatre was insured for £(illegible) - $500 each being in the Alliance and London and Lancashire; Kerslake's building was £400 - £250 in the Standard and £150 in the London Liverpool and Globe. Donnelly's stock was insured in the Imperial for £40.

None of the others were insured. Most of the stock was saved.

Carmody's Central Hotel, adjoining, was slightly damaged. The insurance on the building, in the New Zealand office, is $800; on stock £150 and the furniture £400 (or £40??) in the North German.  Mr Waldegrave lost his stable and Mr Linton had a room damaged at the back of the theatre, on which there is no insurance.

The Pollard Company, which is playing a season there, lost part of its wardrobe, scenery, etc, on which there is no insurance.

The cause of the fire is unknown. It was first discovered on the s (side?) of the theatre. [1]

At that time, the best Palmerstonians had in the way of fire fighting appliances was a manual engine, with wells about 20 feet deep in each corner of the Square.[2] The fire station of the day was also handily located in this instance - several doors down the road in Coleman Place! Furthermore, T.T. Kerslake was a foundation member of the P.N. Fire Brigade, which was formed in 1888. This did not save his building from the first fire, but the reason his two buildings are still standing now, despite 75% of them having subsequently been burnt out, certainly means he learned from the experience.

TT  Kerslake remained with the United Farmer' Co-operative Association for some years and then in 1906 he built the other building still standing on Cuba street end of this property (in 2010 it is the C2C Surf Shop). However he retired after a relatively short time in the building, and thereafter, the business continued as the partnership Kerslake & Usmar until at least 1918.[3] However, the firm was gone by the 1920 Wises Directory.

The Present Building
The 1896 PN Borough Council Rate Book lists this property (Pt. Sec. 258) under the name of TT Kerslake, and as having a rateable value of £737.10. A pencilled-in note states New valuation add £350. The 1897 Rate Book gives the new total value as £1,087.10. It seems certain, therefore, that the present building was complete before the 31 March 1896 - and 1895 is therefore a viable construction date.

The tenants with the longest connection to this building were the Giorgi family, who occupied the now-empty shop on the Rangitikei Street side of the building. Ulisse Giorgi (known as 'Lou') was probably one of the original tenants, and his brief entry in the Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Vol 1, published in 1897, suggests that he occupied the shop in 1896 (when information was being collected for that book). Certainly the new building appears in two photos in the book.[4] Ulisse died on 26 May 1959 aged 89, suggesting that he would have been aged about 26 when he leased the shop. The 1917 Alien Register describes Ulisse as 46-year-old widower (his wife Alice died in 1913, aged 36), who was a hairdresser and tobacconist, and who had been in New Zealand for 44 years.

The Naturalisation records (to 1948) list three Giorgis, all immigrants from Livorno, Italy. As all three were connected to Palmerston North, they were almost certainly closely related. When naturalised in 1896, Dario Giorgi (53) was a watchmaker in the town. Possibly he was the father of the other two. When he was naturalised in 1925, Ulisse stated that he was aged 49 years, and was a retired tobacconist. He was in fact probably aged about 55. The remaining one, Arturo ('Arthur') Giorgi (born 1873) was a clothier of Hastings when naturalised in 1930. However, at the time of the 1917 Alien Register's compilation (as a wartime measure), Arturo had been a clothier of Palmerston North. He was a partner in the well-known firm Miller & Giorgi, that had been formed in 1902 and which soon had branches in both Palmerston North and Hastings.[5] In 1912, another relative, Chas F Giorgi, a cabinetmaker and upholsterer, took over the Coleman Place building that several years later became the site of Everybody's Theatre. However, in 1912 it had recently been vacated by the Nonpareil company, which had just moved next door to take over the former Arcade building.[6]

Ulisse died in Wanganui on 26 May 1959, aged 89, being survived by a widow, two daughters and his son Lance.[7] Lance Giorgi, whose full name was Dario Lanciotti Giorgi and who was born about 1899, appears to have been in charge of the shop from soon after the First World War. In 1996, Ian Matheson interviewed Peter Gordon in relation to the 'Everybody's Theatre'. Gordon said that Lance Giorgi had been the projectionist at the theatre, which operated between 1915 and 1924. This was before he took over his father's shop. He also was noted as a "bookie".[8]

Pictorial Chronology
Photos in the Palmerston North Library photographic collection provide an invaluable chronological record of this building and its telegraph pole. The earliest relevant photo traced is Sq398. This GW Shailer photo - thought to have been taken in the early 1890s - shows the previous building on the site, but no telegraph poles.  Next is another Shailer photo, Sq112, still showing the previous building, but the telegraph poles are in place, including the one that became the verandah post of the present building.

The Second Fire (Giorgi's Hairdresser's & the Universal Supply Store)
This building came close to a premature end on the night of 22-23 February 1924, when half of the building - that part now occupied by Monsoon Asian Kitchens - was gutted by fire. The other Kerslake building in Cuba Street was also completely gutted. Some of their neighbours, however, faired much worse, with the four wooden shops that were formerly the 1904 Theatre Royal (No 2), and which were owned by Messrs J & F Mowlem, being totally destroyed.

The fire had begun behind the Empire Auction Mart (formerly the theatre's main hall) in the centre of the block, and had then spread to the back of the Universal Supply store, fanned by a fresh north-easterly breeze. Little of its stock survived the smoke or water damage, and when the shop reopened nearby a few days later in the Cuba Street end of the former Arcade building (also covered in this study), the firm made a point of advertising that it was offering all new stock for sale.

Giorgi's shop, however, suffered only slightly from fire at the rear of the premises, and from water damage. Furthermore, he had been able to rescue some of his stock as the other buildings burnt. When the wooden shops had been deemed impossible to help, the fire brigade had focussed its attention - and hoses - onto this shop and the frontage of the Universal Supply store, both of which had brick walls. However, a storeroom at the rear of Giorgi's shop, containing a number of cases of kerosene, was considered to be the source of "frequent dull reports" emanating from its vicinity. Considerable effort was also put into preventing the fire, with its clouds of sparks, from igniting the "Soldiers' Club" - the former RSA building on the corner of George and Cuba Streets.

At the time this building was insured with the Standard and Yorkshire Insurance Companies for a total of £1,600. The Universal Supply store held insurance policies to the value of £3,000, while Giorgi's shop had an insurance policy for £1,000.[9] 

The 1936 Gale
Although there is no certainty that the upper façade of this building was lost to the 1936 Gale (it may even have been removed after the 1931 earthquake), it certainly disappears within that timeframe. This infamous 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, with winds estimated at a velocity of 100 miles an hour in its fiercest gusts, it had struck in the early hours of the morning and had lasted unabated for most of the day.  Nearly every hoarding in an exposed position was destroyed, some shop fronts were badly damaged, verandahs collapsed, and there was general chaos throughout the district. 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]

This property is still on its original CT, (WN27/124) which was issued in 1881. Thomas Tozer Kerslake died on 18 June 1932, aged 80 years, and Harriet Kerslake died on 25 May 1949, age 98.[11] The property was transmitted the same year to the couple's son Alfred Edward Kerslake, an accountant of PN, as executor, and then, again in 1949, ownership was transferred to AE Kerslake, Harold James Lancaster, a Levin farmer, and Frank Wakefield Verry, and Kairanga farmer, the latter two being the husbands of two of the three Kerslake daughters.[12]

In 1951, the property was transferred into the ownership of the property's neighbour, McKenzie's (PN) Ltd. Then in 1954 to RE Harrison & Co Ltd, a firm that occupied a garden supplies shop in the neighbouring Union Building in Coleman Place. In 1965, the property was transferred to The Church Street Flats Company Ltd, of PN.[13]

In 1985 it was purchased by members of the Bares family.  The first were Peter and Maria Bares. Then in 1991 it was transferred to Maria Bares and Alan McKenzie Larsen, a chartered accountant. In 1995 it was transmitted to Alan McKenzie Larsen as survivor, and the same year it was transferred to Alan McKenzie Larsen, John Bares, Jim Dimitri Bares and Mercina Viatos. In 2004 it was transferred to the present ownership: John Bares, Jim Dimitri Bares and Mercina Viatos.

Occupants of this building
The Manawatu Evening Standard documented some of the building's historyin 1976, at the time the hairdresser then in the shop ceased operating from this premises. Entitled "Coleman Mall's clippers muted after 80 years", the article does not identify the tenant at that time, however, a tobacconist/barber known to have been there in 1974 was a Mr Kerr.

A symbolic cut with Palmerston North's past was made at 9 pm yesterday when the last hair was snipped at a men's hairdressing shop on the edge of Coleman Mall.

And on Monday morning, for the first time in at least 80 years, there will not be a hairdresser's shop on that site.

Except in recent years, the shop has always been known as Lance Giorgi's, a father-to-son business. Mr Giorgi junior died in February 1972, aged 73.

The shop was opened in the wild and woolly days of Palmerston North, when men were men with beards, and hairdressers were barbers.

It was opened by Mr Dario Lanciotto Giorgi some time in the 1890s.  The Cyclopedia of New Zealand lists L Giorgi as a hairdresser and tobacconist in 1896[14], along with six others in the town. Six of the seven had shops on the Square.

But the shop could have opened earlier. The old rate books show Mr Giorgi as a ratepayer on two Bourke Street properties in 1891.

It is an ironic twist that, while he paid a total rates of only £1 10s 11d on those properties, it is rates which have closed the shop he started.

The present lessee said his lease was expiring. And his rent would be increased too much because of the City Council's differential rating system to be introduced on April 1.

In its heyday Lance Giorgi's boasted four chairs. Jeanne Brown, who worked there for 35 years from 1940, remembers it well.

"It had the best fireplace in town out in the back room," she said. "I think Lance Giorgi must have been one of the finest men in town. I never heard him say a cross word.  He once told a soldier during the war, when he said 'damn', to refrain from such language or leave the saloon."

Miss Brown was a ladies hairdresser, teaching in Wellington at £3 11s a week, when she got the job with Lance Giorgi after the men had gone to war. She then got £7 a week.

Jack Hamilton, who worked for Lance Giorgi for 11 years, described him as equal to the best boss he ever had. He was honest, quiet, and helped many people who weren't even aware of the assistance.[15]

PNCC's Building Permit file T25/200 shows alterations to this shop, dated 6 October 2003 - which by then was Kan King Lun's Monsoon Asian Kitchen restaurant. This involved the relocation of the kitchen from the side to the rear of the premises. The restaurant's address was last listed at a Ferguson Street address in the 1999 phone book, and was at this address in 2000, and so the restaurant probably relocated to this address in 1999.

Shop nearest Rangitikei Street (was #199, now #164 The Square)
This shop has served at least eighty years as a hairdresser's, with varied use thereafter.
1896-1972 - Lou Giorgi, followed by Lance Giorgi, barber/tobaccanist
1973 - Gray's Tobaccanist[16] barber/tobaccanist
1974 - Kerr's Tobaccanist[17] barber/tobaccanist
1993 - Cameron for Jewellery (Photo in 1994 CBD Heritage Inventory (SQ1) Moved to Regent Theatre building (MES 17/08/1993 p12)
1996 - Pets 4 U opens (MES 28/08/1996, p23) Gone by 1999 phone book.
2001-3 -  Rapport Hair Gallery (phone books)
Most recent tenant: moved to 274 Rangitikei St.  Alexander's Barber's Shop
2010 - Empty

Shop nearest George Street (was # 200, now #165 The Square)
This shop has had a wide array of tenants, although for at least 50 years it was a grocery shop. For the past decade it has been a restaurant. Dates are listed according to source dates (primarily Wises' and Stones Directories, and later from photos and phone books), rather than indicating when tenants came or left.
1904-7 - PN Library photo Sq 116 shows "G-D---" (obscured by the pole and a tree)
Wises 1908 - John R Graham, storekeeper
Wises 1911 - Campbell & Worrall, storekeepers
Wises 1914 - HA Worrall, grocer (also listed in other Kerslake building, Cuba St.)
Wises 1916 - James William Rimmer, store (also PN Library photo Sq 388)
Wises 1920-22 - Universal Supply Co., grocers (burnt out 1924)
Wises 1925 - No occupant listed (burnt out in the 1924 fire when this list was compiled)
Wises 1927-31 - AJ Hickin, store
Latter 1920s - PN Library photo T28 (& Sq 401, 1927) show "King" on shop frontage
Stones 1933 - Thomas Edward Barton, grocer, AL Hickin, manager
Wises 1936-44 - Leonard Hughes, grocer (also PN Library photo Sq 284, 1937)
Wises 1950 - PN Library photo Sq 219 shows no name on signage
Wises 1950-7 - Watson Bros Ltd, grocers
Wises 1959-60 - No occupant listed
1993 - Haworths Souvenirs (photo in CBD Heritage Inventory SQ1), moves to Downtown complex  (MES 06/04/1993, p9)
c1999-now - Monsoon Asian Kitchen Ltd.

The PNCC Building Permit file for this building states that it is earthquake-prone - however, it is also a proven survivor of some note.

Architectural Description 

Available plans of the building show the existing Monsoon Asian Kitchen as large open space with kitchen at the rear.  There is no drawing available of the other space nor any construction or elevational drawings.

The existing buildings have angled ingos with timber shop fronts and metal cladding above the verandah.  Verandah posts are chamfered timber.

Photographic evidence suggests that the building was originally designed in the Late Victorian Free Classical style.

Statement of Significance 

This building has moderate local significance for historical and design values. 

This building has moderate historic values in its association with Italian Giorgi immigrant family.  Ulisse Giorgi was noted as having a number of interests in Palmerston North, among them being a projectionist and bookie. As the building is now over 100 years old it has high age values.

The telegraph post in the verandah is over 100 years old.

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 has low levels of authenticity.

[1]Manawatu Herald, 16 March 1895 2(7) 'Fire in Palmerston North'. Note that this page was microfilmed without cutting the binding, meaning the right side of the item is hard to read due to the fold of the volume.

[2]Manawatu Evening Standard, 23 February 1924 5(4) 'History of Building.  Old Memories Recalled'

[3]Wise's Directory, 1918

[4]Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Vol 1 (Wellington, 1897) pp1141 & 1141.  Architect LG West's article (p1176) also refers to his having "designed and supervised the rebuilding of the Theatre Royal."

[5]Register of Aliens, 1917 (NZ Dept. of Internal Affairs, Wellington, c1918); Register of Persons Naturalised in NZ before 1948: Non-Commonwealth; RH Billens & HL Verry, From Swamp To City  (Palmerston North, 1937) 'Millar & Giorgi' (page unnumbered)

[6]Manawatu Evening Standard 16 October 1912 1(3).  Also 1914 Wise's Directory

[7]Manawatu Evening Standard, 29 May 1959

[8] Ian Matheson's interview with Peter Gordon.  25 July 1996, in research file A175/148, Films & Cinemas, Ian Matheson City Archives.

[9]Manawatu Evening Standard, 23 February 1924 5(2-4) 'Huge Conflagration from Cuba Street to Square'; Manawatu Daily Times 23 February 1924 7(4-6) 'Disastrous Blaze'

[10]Manawatu Evening Standard, 3 February 1936 7(4).  Part of a much larger report.  The pharmaceutical premises referred to is the UFDS Building, also covered in this study.

[11]Manawatu Evening Standard, 20 June 1932 6(7), Obituary: Mr Thomas Tozer Kerslake; and 25 May 1949 11 (6), Obituary: Mrs TT Kerslake. The obituary says she was aged 98, while the cemetery records say she was 97.

[12] Their eldest son, HG Kerslake, who had been chief sub-editor of the Manawatu Standard for many years, had predeceased his mother. (Manawatu Evening Standard, 25 May 1949 11 (6), Obituary: Mrs TT Kerslake

[13] Document 'D1' in Research file 'George Street-Cuba Street-Coleman Place Properties,' land ownership data prepared by Victoria University students in 1980, in A 175/154, Ian Matheson City Archives.

[14]Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Vol 1 (Wellington 1897), p183

[15] Manawatu Evening Standard 27 March 1976, p1

[16]PN Library photo St 69; 1973 Manawatu phonebook

[17] 1974 Manawatu phonebook