News, Events and Culture

256 Cuba Street - The Arcade building

The Arcade Building (Cuba)

Building Details

Building name: The Arcade (now Mr Models shop)
256-258 Cuba Street 
Construction date: 1906
Architect: E Larcomb
Original Owner: Thomas Martyn Holland
Builder: Messrs Sollitt Bros
District Plan Category: 2
Building number: 59
Heritage NZ Category: Nil

Physical and Social History 

In light of its location opposite the Cosmopolitan Club building (1928) and that club's previous site (from 1904, then called the Working Men's Club), now occupied by the Oroua building, this building's story also involves the story of the land it stands on. Its close proximity to the fire station at the time of so many fires in this block, also has value in terms of the overall study. This building has strong ties to one of Palmerston North's earliest businesses through the repeated appearances of the old Ready Money Store and its successor the United Farmers' Co-operative Association in the backgrounds of its owners and their businesses. In the latter case, these businesses were The Wellington and Manawatu Hardware Co, Messrs JA Nash & Co Ltd, and Watson Bros. The latter business was a well-known grocery chain that to date has been by far the longest occupier of this building - at almost five decades. For many years it was also identified with well-known photographer Joe Sing.

Prior History
The land in the vicinity of this building was leased from the Palmerston North Borough/City Council for many years, having been granted as a public reserve to the Mayor, Councillors and Burgesses of the Borough of Palmerston North in 1879.[1] Although the wider land aspect has not been researched for this study, it is noteworthy that it stretched between Coleman Place and Cuba Street, and that two buildings covered in this study (this building and its Cooee Drycleaners neighbour) were built on long-term leasehold sections within this block. This building's site was finally sold in 1971, while the Cooee Drycleaners shop's site was sold in 1983.

The original Palmerston North Fire Station also operated from a Coleman Place section that was part of this land. It was based there from the late 1880s and until 1910, when a new fire station was built in elsewhere in Cuba Street. The old fire station was then reversed onto the section directly behind its original site - the original back wall of the building now facing Cuba Street, as indicated by its silhouette on a 1912 plan showing its external staircase still protruding on its eastern side. This made it the immediate neighbour of the old RSA building, although that building was not built until 1917. The former fire station was itself damaged by fire in 1927 and it was then demolished.[2]

The Working Men's Club c1894-1904
In 1894, the Working Men's Club leased the previous building on this site, after the club's original building on the corner of King and Rangitikei Streets was destroyed by fire. The club then attempted to buy the building, however, the Borough Council, who presumably owned that building, did not think the offer high enough, and so it lapsed. As a result, the Working Men's Club (later renamed the Cosmopolitan Club) built new clubrooms across the road on the site now occupied by the Oroua Building. These were officially opened on 30 November 1904.[3]

CT WN17/96 records the transfer of the lease on the property to John Hood and William Parkes, starting 9 May 1894 and for a period of ten years. In 1897, William Samuel Gardener's name joined the other two. Then in 1900, William Bayley Hawkins and William Parkes renewed the lease for a 21-year term, starting 1 May 1900. The lease was then transferred from them to Ernest Stevenson in May 1905 - presumably marking the departure of the Working Men's Club. The significance of these men (Hood, Parkes, Gardener and Hawkins) to the club was not researched, but in the case of the club's next building, the land (ie. as recorded on its CT) was for a time in the name of individuals as trustees.

The CT indicates that Ernest Stevenson's lease was then transferred, on the same date it was issued to him (12 May 1905), to Thomas Martyn Holland, who the 1905-6 local Electoral Roll describes as a settler of Fritz Street (now Russell Street). The 1906 Wises Directory gives his occupation as a farmer of Fritz Street.[4] In the period after the Working Men's Club relocated, their old building seems to have been used for a mix of accommodation, storage, billiard saloon, performing arts and retail. Holland's use of the building might, therefore, simply have been as a rental.

It was the fire of 16 August 1905 that ultimately led to the present building's existence. On that date, the Manawatu Evening Standard recorded that: At 1:30am this morning the two-storied building in Cuba Street, until recently occupied by the Working Men's Club, was practically destroyed by fire. When discovered the flames had got a good hold on the building, which was very ancient, and the fire made rapid progress. In a few minutes the flames broke out in high volumes from the front portion of the building, and it was very apparent that despite the good work the brigade was doing at this stage, the building was doomed. However, as a result of the strenuous efforts the fire was practically confined to the top storey, which was destroyed. The bedrooms on that floor was the centre of the outbreak and their contents were entirely burnt.

Some apprehension existed last night as to the fate of the three young ladies - Misses Culling (2) and Johnstone - who occupied bedrooms upstairs, but, subsequently, it was ascertained that they were out of town. Mr J Graham (sic) also occupied a room upstairs. He was awakened by the smoke and got out just in time. The billiard table on the ground floor was not burnt, but the cloth has been entirely ruined by water. Miss Culling lost a piano and the major portion of her wearing apparel. Her jewellery was found in her room this morning and placed in safe custody. A couple of pet dogs she had shut in her room were burnt.

The Salvage Corps was quickly on the scene and did good work removing property, all Mr Robertson's plant's survived but about £2 worth Mr Leigh's books were scorched badly and a lot of documents were destroyed.

The building was tenanted by Mr J Graham, electrician; Beattie, Lang & Co, who had Gilruth stock foods and sundries stored there; Nott, billiard saloon keeper; Leigh & Co, land agents; Robertson, watchmaker; and Miss Culling, teacher of dancing and Sandow exercises. Mr Graham's stock was valued at £300 and was insured for £200 in the Widows' Fund office; Beattie, Lang & Co, £100 in the National office, fully covered; and Nott, billiard table, £100, Commercial Union.

The building was insured for £400 in the Standard office and £100 in an insurance office the name of which is not yet ascertainable. It is owned by Mr H Holland (sic), who is a heavy loser. The building, if too much destroyed to be rebuilt in wood, will have to be constructed in brick, being within the brick area.

Miss Culling suffered a severe loss in the destruction of all her property, valued at between $70 and $80. There is no insurance on her property.[5]

The Manawatu Daily Times, published on the morning of the fire, added that the fire had begun at the back of the building and worked forward, bursting through the roof as the fire brigade arrived. A man in his pyjamas (Graham) suddenly emerged through a window and scurried down the fire escape. At first it was thought the three girls (Misses Johnstone and Culling, and Birdie Culling) were still inside, and one of their bedrooms, which overlooked Cuba Street, was already engulfed. A ladder was found and Mr Graham seriously risked his life to go back inside to check. However, the girls were in Pohangina at the time.[6]

By the following day, the building's damage was perceived by the Evening Standard's reporter as being so bad that it would probably be a waste of money to patch it up. The centre of the building was practically destroyed, and the fire had burnt through one side and part of the roof. The building would probably, therefore, be rebuilt of brick.[7]

Meanwhile in the same edition, Mr BF Graham (late of Graham & Gorrie), an electrical engineer, had advertised that he was working out of the old Working Men's Club buildings, and had just received "a large consignment of Pherophones. A marvel of simplicity. No office or factory complete without one." Electric lighting was his speciality, and he had a large stock of electrical appliances always on hand - well he did until the fire anyway. Graham's advert is noteworthy, as this was still nineteen years before the Palmerston North Electric Power Station generated the town's first public electricity supply. Graham's clientele would, therefore, have been the owners of private electricity generator sets around the district.[8]

One of the affected parties, J Robertson, wrote a letter to the Manawatu Daily Times, thanking the newly formed Fire Police for their services in securing the scene, crowd management, and their work salvaging goods that survived the fire. This had been the first occasion when the Fire Police had been called upon to act. He felt that his losses would have been far greater without the help of this "body of men whose integrity is undoubtedly one of the greatest value in conducting salving operations." Although the Fire Police/Salvage Corps have not been researched, it is likely the group were formed after the severe pilfering that occurred after the major Clarendon Hotel fire the previous year, especially in relation to Arthur Hopwood's otherwise largely undamaged shop.[9]

This Building

The insurance companies' 'replace with wood' idea was soon amended to 'replace with brick', probably because the site was "within the brick area" as was recorded above. Thus on 3 November 1905, architect Ernest Larcomb's tender notice was published, seeking tenders to erect a brick premises in Cuba Street. Three weeks later the Manawatu Times recorded that Larcomb had accepted the tender of Messrs Sollitt Bros to erect Mr Holland's new building. Eight tenders had been received, and the accepted price was about £700.[10] Thomas Martyn Holland then seems to disappear from local records within a year or two of the fire.

In January 1906, the lease on the land was transferred to John Samuel Watchorn and Leonard Sutton, as tenants in common in equal shares. So Holland - who should have received a £500 insurance payout as a result of the fire - presumably recovered his financial shortfall by selling the building while it was under construction. The 1906 PNBC Rate Book shows the property transferring directly from the name of Ernest Stevenson to John S Watchorn and Leonard Sutton, with Holland not even mentioned. The 1906 Rate Book records that the property had an unimproved value of £330, and - prior to the fire - a capital value of £832. However, sometime prior to 31 March 1906 an extra £400 was added to the capital value (noted in red ink and indicating that the new building was now present), and it was also noted with the entry that this was for fire replacement.

The Wellington and Manawatu Hardware Company
The Manawatu Daily Times of 26 October 1905 published JS Watchorn & Co's notice advising that they had purchased the business of Wilson, Thompson & Co, and that they would begin selling that company's"full range of general ironmongery from that same day. The new Watchorn business was described as wholesale and general ironmongers, of George Street.[11]

The Evening Standard of 17 March 1906 then announced that Watchorn's business, the Wellington and Manawatu Hardware Company, had landed 150 bedsteads and cots, and "being short of room in our present premises we shall be showing and offering these tomorrow & following days at the new brick premises opposite (the) Working Men's Club, Cuba Street."[12]

Watchorn and Sutton leased the property in their own names for about six months. Then their business became - by amalgamation - part of the firm Messrs JA Nash & Co Ltd, which then leased the property its own name until 1909.

The 1902 Wise's Directory lists Leonard Sutton as a storekeeper at Collingwood and Golden Ridge. He had previously lived in Palmerston North, before being "in business in Nelson, Woodville, and other places, and until (May 1906) represented the well-known firm of JH Cock and Co, of Wanganui." Sutton was to manage the new shop. Possibly he was also the person of the same name who was a Rongotea storekeeper by 1914.[13]

John Samuel Watchorn was a very well known early resident of Palmerston North. He had been apprenticed in the drapery trade in England and arrived in New Zealand in 1880, aged 22. He settled in Palmerston North in 1883, and began working for Messrs Joseph Nathan & Co's Ready Money Store. This firm became the Manawatu Farmers' Co-operative Association in 1893, at which time he became manager of the firm's drapery, clothing, and boot departments. His 1933 obituary recorded that many of the town's prominent businessmen of that time had received their early training under him.

In 1899, he and his family returned to England to settle, but two years later had returned. He then set up the Victoria House Co in The Square, on the future site of the (former) PDC department store. He duly disposed of this business and later started another millinery and drapery in a different building that came to be associated with this family for some years, before giving that up also in 1917. His obituary did not mention his connection to the firms The Wellington and Manawatu Hardware Co and JA Nash & Co Ltd, or to the building under study here.[14]

JA Nash & Co Ltd
On 1 December 1902, the new firm JA Nash & Co made a special announcement that it had taken over the "old-established firm of F Ireland and Co, wholesale and retail merchants of Palmerston North." The firm was to be run by James Alfred Nash, who had already been manager of the Ireland business for many years - on behalf of the estate of Mr F Ireland, who had died in 1893.

Nash had arrived in Palmerston North (from Foxton), and like Watchorn, his background included the Ready Money Store. In their reports on the 1902 takeover, both local newspapers recorded that (at age 13) Nash had "first joined the trade in 1882, when he entered the service of Messrs J Nathan & Co at the Ready Money Store in Palmerston North, which has since developed into that important institution, the UFCA After nine years' service with that firm, Mr Nash accepted a position as manager for the late Mr F Ireland, and since the death of that gentleman in 1893, has carried on the business for the executors of the estate. The business under Mr Nash's watchful care has grown from small things to great, until the firm has become a household word throughout the district."[15] 

Nash's obituary added, in relation to JA Nash & Co Ltd that "A store in Bunnythorpe was conducted in conjunction with it (ie. the main shop in The Square) and branches were also opened in Coleman Place and in Foxton." [16]

Nash's partner in the new business was Irelands' long-time accountant, Henry Stratford Porteous, who had arrived from England in about 1878 aged 16 and settled in Collingwood, where he farmed and was later a schoolteacher. He arrived in Palmerston North in 1890, and before long began working for F Ireland & Co Porteous' obituary described JA Nash & Co Ltd as having been a wine and spirits merchant.[17]

The Arcade
On 6 June 1906, the Mayor, Maurice Cohen (who was the manager of the UFCA when Nash and Watchorn worked there), officially opened the new shop. It stretched from Coleman Place to Cuba Street - and half of The Arcade, as it was named, was the building being studied here. As both ends of The Arcade are included in the present study, and as the building in Coleman Place was the front of the shop, the story is covered in more detail in that history. The links between the two buildings were more than geographic. The Coleman Place shop belonged to Mary Emma Mowlem, wife of Fred Mowlem. Meanwhile John Watchorn was married to their niece, Kate Mahony, whose mother was the former Martha Mowlem, Fred's sister.[18] The other two partners Sutton and Porteous, had also lived in Collingwood and perhaps knew each other.

The opening ceremony took place upstairs in the Coleman Place building. The resulting newspaper article gave most of its attention to describing that building. However, it did record that the arcade between Coleman Place and Cuba Street was some 155 feet long, and that the Cuba Street end of the shop would shortly be utilised for the crockery part of the business and for storage of the heavy lines of bulk ironmongery. The shop was to be run by Messrs W. White and EW Simmons, who until a short time previously had control of the Hardware Company's business in George Street.

Despite his plans for the new Coleman Place-Cuba Street shop in June 1906, Nash sold his shops in 1907 and became a valuer, estate and insurance agent for a firm entitled Messrs Nash & Lovelock. His extensive biography in The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Vol 4, mostly follows his subsequent extensive career from Palmerston North Borough Councillor (1907), to Mayor 1908-1923, and then Member of Parliament (1919-1935).[19]

The cause of the business' sudden demise has not been researched, however, in January 1908, the firm LD Paterson announced that it had taken over JA Nash & Co Ltd's Wine and Spirit business. At the same time, JA Nash & Co Ltd still advertised its 'Temple' brand of Ceylon tea on sale at its Arcade Stores.[20]

In June 1908, HS Porteous announced that he had decided to commence business as a grocer in the premises in The Square formerly occupied by JA Nash & Co Ltd, this being the same shop in which he had worked for the previous 17 years. At the same time, JH Gilchrist, of The Arcade, announced they had taken over from JA Nash & Co, selling groceries and tea.[21] CT WN17/96 records that the lease was transferred from JA Nash & Co Ltd to James Henry Gilchrist in May 1909. Gilchrist later became a land agent according to his cemetery record.[22]

Then in June 1909 the lease was transferred back to John Samuel Watchorn (who perhaps had been the owner of the actual building throughout this time). In October 1909, Watchorn transferred it to a partnership of Hugh Duncan Buchanan, Thomas Thompson Hillas and Frederick William Henry Kummer. TT Hillas died on 4 May 1915, aged 65, and was replaced within the partnership by his wife Agnes. The Hillas' were from Mauriceville and are buried at Masterton Cemetery, which also contains many members of the Krummer family. However, their connection to Palmerston North is unclear.[23] This partnership leased the site of the shop until 1922.

The Arcade - Occupancy (prior to Adams Ltd)
Wises 1908 - Cuba St - JA Nash & Co Ltd, merchants
Wises 1911-14 - 21 Cuba St - Gibson & Paterson, wine & spirit merchants. Also JB MacEwan & Co Ltd, dairy machinery
1914-1921 - Nonpareil Cycle & Motor Co, motor garage                   

The Nonpareil Cycle & Motor Co, and The Arcade in general, is mostly covered in the history of its former building at 19-21 (formerly 27-29) Coleman Place. Nonpareil leased the Coleman Place end of the Arcade from 1911, however, its first advertisement involving this end of the Arcade, was on 24 February 1914, when it announced the Arcade's (re)opening. The Manawatu Times reported that: An asset to Palmerston North is the New arcade formed from Coleman Place to Cuba Street, through the premises of the Nonpareil Cycle and Motor Co Mr ES Pees, the Sole Proprietor, has opened this beautiful Showroom to meet the growing demands of his business, and it is also open to the free use of Palmerstonians who wish to save the time of walking round the block. He claims this to be the finest Showroom in Australasia, being 7,500 square feet, and contains the largest and most varied stock in New Zealand of Motor Cycles, Sidecars, Cycles and Prams from which to select. A large staff of Motor Cycle mechanics always at the motorist's service. Mr Pees is to be congratulated on the rapid advancement he has made, and Cyclists and Motorists will gain every advantage by encouraging in every way such local enterprise.[24]

Nonpareil appears to have stayed in these two buildings until April 1921.

An unsourced plan of fairly recent origin showing the layout of The Arcade, between Coleman Place (left) and Cuba Street (right), from the Mather Papers, Cuba Street (PN Historical Society Inc, 2007), p13. The alleyway, then still covered by the Rialto Building, is also apparent.

Old Signage
Until painted over in recent years, an old sign had survived on the side of this building - possibly due to subsequent businesses having installed signage over the top of it or timberwork associated with the now demolished Rialto building. Due to the alleyway that ran along the western side of the building, this would have been visible to passers by. It read "The Leading Ironmonger", and therefore almost certainly was painted there by The Wellington and Manawatu Hardware Co or Messrs JA Nash & Co Ltd. [25]

Chas J Adams Ltd
The firm Chas J Adams Ltd occupied the neighbouring building - as a motor garage - by 1914, according to the Wise's Directories. Then in 1922, when the lease on this building came up for renewal, Adams Ltd took over the new lease and ran the two in conjunction. The firm probably occupied the building soon after Nonpareil left in April 1921. Charles John Adams' obituary in 1946 recorded that after being in control of one of the leading motor showrooms in Christchurch (then the Adams Star Cycle Company) he had come to Palmerston North in 1904 (via two years in Wanganui) to manage another branch of the firm. This firm became one of the pioneers of the car business in the town.

The 1905 regular advert of the Adams Star Cycle Company indicates that it was then in the newly rebuilt Clarendon (Hotel) Buildings in The Square.[26] However, before long the firm operated from a two-storied brick garage in Rangitikei Street, its entry in the Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Vol 6 in 1908, describing it as a motorcar and cycle engineers and importers, that also had its head office in Christchurch. In 1906, the Palmerston North showroom sold 20 cars and 180 bicycles.[27] The firm was to occupy the Cuba Street buildings until February 1924.

The 1924 Fire
Adams Ltd, which was the New Zealand agent for Studebakers, re-opened for business in new premises in Rangitikei Street (previously occupied by Messrs Wackrill & Stewart) on 18 February 1924. Four days later a huge fire broke out in the block the firm had just left, destroying or damaging seven shops. This shop was unaffected by the fire itself, but being newly empty meant that it was snapped up as the new home of one of the refugee businesses. This business was to remain in the building for the next five decades.

The Universal Supply Co had occupied the small shop in Coleman Place presently occupied by Monsoon Asia Kitchen. The fire broke out at about 11pm on Friday, 22 February 1924 at the back of the Empire Auctioneering Company - the site of the present Costa Building facing Cuba Street. The Manawatu Daily Times (two of whose staff were close by when the fire was first noticed) stated that the Universal Supply Co's shop was the second to catch fire. Its neighbour in the same building, Giorgi's Tobacconist shop, was more fortunate. It suffered only slight damage from water and smoke - despite being closer to the source of the fire than its doomed neighbour.

On Monday, 25 February, the Manawatu Daily Times reported that: "The Universal Supply Co, whose premises were destroyed in Friday night's fire will re-open today in the building recently occupied by Adams' Garage, Cuba Street. During the weekend the company has made arrangements for a complete new stock of groceries and wishes to inform its many customers that no stocks from the fire will be disposed of in their new place of business.

Adams Ltd then applied to the Council to sub-let the property to Watson Bros, owner of the Universal Supply Co, for the duration of their own 5-year lease. This was granted.[28]

Watson Bros & the Universal Supply Co
CT WN214/247, which was issued to Palmerston North Borough Council in 1912, records Adams Ltd taking over the lease for a 5-year term from 1 July 1922. Following the fire, the lease was taken over by Watson Bros Ltd for a term of three years, four months and three days, starting on 25 February 1924.[29]

The appearance of Watson Bros in relation to this building returned it to its earlier links to the old Ready Money Store that JS Watchorn and JA Nash had been connected to. The following article on Watson Bros from the (un-numbered) 1937 book From Swamp to City records some of the background of the company, of which this building was its Cuba Street branch: The business from which Watson Bros Ltd, has grown was originally commenced in the early 'seventies by Thomas Nelson, who traded as the 'Ready Money Store' with the slogan, 'The little wonder that keeps the prices under.'

Some years later it was purchased by Joseph Nathan & Co Ltd, who operated it as a retail branch of their Wellington business, under the management of the late Maurice Cohen.

It was then floated into a Farmer' Co-operative Association with a capital of £50,000 under the title of the Manawatu Farmers Co-operative Association Ltd. It later amalgamated with the Farmers' Alliance Company and for 35 years was known and operated as the United Farmers Co-operative Association with branches in Wanganui, Feilding and Wellington.

About 1910 the United Farmers' Co-operative Association went into liquidation, the drapery portion of the business being purchased by WF Durward & Co and removed to the site now occupied by the P.D.C. The remaining portion of the business, grocery, hardware, produce and crockery departments were purchased by John and Thos Watson of Timaru, who traded as Watson Bros.

It was subsequently taken over by a local syndicate and floated into a limited company of Watson Bros Ltd, as it remains today.

The 1925 Wises Directory lists the building under the name Universal Supply Company, which was evidently to distinguish it from the main Watson Bros shop in The Square, and the other branches. Thereafter the various Directories consulted, list this shop as Watson Bros Ltd. The 1941 phonebook, however, listed it as the Universal Supply Co (Branch, Watson Bros Ltd), Cash Grocers". The Watson Bros' listings in the 1941 phonebook indicates that the firm then had branches in Rangitikei Street, Ferguson Street, Main Street (Terrace End) and Albert Street, and a warehouse in Main Street, as well as the main shop in The Square and the Cuba Street branch. This phonebook lists further branches in Marton and Feilding.

The dark-roofed Watson Bros', Cuba Street branch - known as the Universal Supply Company - is pictured here in about 1950. There is an alleyway between the ground floor of the building in the foreground - the Rialto Building (now a carpark) and Watson Bros. However, the first floor of the Rialto Building (consisting in 1955 of five "substandard flats") also extended over the top of the alleyway.[30]

The City Council sold the section in 1971 and the complicated situation regarding ownership of the actual building prior to that time has not been researched. The shop is listed in the 1977 phonebook as the Universal Supply Store, which probably marks the shop's last days prior to Joe Sing's alterations.

Joe Sing's Photography Shop & the Joe Joy Fruiterer shop
CT WN 640/62, which had been issued to PNCC in 1955, records the transfer of Lot 8, DP 2639 to Lou Wai Ying, a widow of Palmerston North in May 1971. The property was then issued with the replacement CT WN9A/721. This then shows an undivided half share being transferred to Joe Woo Sing, photographer, in June 1971. Lou Wai Ying's share was then transmitted to her son, Joe Woo Sing, following her death in 1989, and this share was then transferred to Kwok Leung Joe and Stella Oi-Wone Joe, both students of Palmerston North, on the same date.

Joe Sing bought the building in 1971 for use as his photography studio. Born in China, he was raised in New Zealand from the age of about six. His father, Joe Jel Joy, had established a greengrocer's shop in New Plymouth, before returning to China to collect his family soon after the war. They settled in Palmerston North, where many other members of the Joe family from southern China, were already working in market gardens and laundries. The family spent about two years living in a coal shed at the back of the property where the Firecats strip club building in Cuba Street now stands. At this time, housing in general was in very short supply in the city - this being the era of the transit camp near the Centennial Lagoon.

During this time, Joe Sing's mother did ironing for a laundry, while his father went out to work. PN Library photo 'STC 13' shows the buildings on that site in 1955, including the laundry, which the 1957 Wises' Directory names as that of Hong On. Meanwhile that year there were in fact four fruiterers listed in Cuba Street between Taonui and Bourke Streets (at least three of them occupying known shops). These were Henry Childs, Joe Wah, Manu B Patel and Waiawai & Co, the latter next door to Hong On's laundry.

The family owned a small fruit and vege shop, and Joe Sing took this over from his father at about the time supermarkets first reached Palmerston North. The fruit and vege shop did not survive this change to retailing practices, and so he had to establish a new form of employment, and as a result he became a 'candid' photographer at events around the area for the local magazine Photonews. His first studio was so small that he was unable to take full-length portraits of customers. He subsequently established his well-known studio in this building. He retired in about 1995, but about six months later he was asked by UCOL (then Manawatu Polytechnic) to teach their photography courses. In 2005 he retired as head of UCOL's school of photography. He was also awarded with an honorary fellowship by the Institute of Professional Photography for his work. Others in the profession have stated that the photography school Joe Sing established at UCOL "is the finest industry-related photographic imaging school in the southern hemisphere."[31]

The main work on this building covered in the PNCC Building Permit records, occurred in 1978 soon after the departure of Watson Bros. At that time the building was adapted to become two shops - probably for the first time. These included a small fruit and vege shop in the right front corner, which used a newly installed ranch slider that is still used by Mr Models Ltd. The photography studio and photo developing area then took up the rest of the building (about 90% of it), and its entrance was at the centre of the frontage, using what would have been the original entrance to the building. The two shops also shared the same staff areas, toilets etc. The local phonebooks list this shop as the Joe Joy Fruiterer, so named after Joe Sing's father who died in 1960, and which had earlier been in the now demolished Rialto Building on the western side of this building. Both the fruit shop and the photography shop shared the same address (then 266 Cuba Street). Joe Joy Fruiterer appears for the last time in the 1987 phonebook.

Additions & Alterations
PNCC's Building Permit files relating to this building date only to Joe Sing's occupancy, and the most significant are the plans and specifications for the 1978 adaptation of the building to include the Joe Joy Fruiterer shop.[32]

However, visible on the outside is a large arched doorway in its western side, near the back of the building. For example, this would have been large enough for early cars to enter the building - such as when Adams Ltd used it as a garage or showroom for their Studebakers (although manoeuvring them once inside might have been tricky). This door was accessed using the service alleyway that ran alongside the building - and which then turned 90 degrees to the right just outside this door, to service neighbouring buildings. The alleyway is now indistinguishable as part of the neighbouring carpark. This large arched entrance is now bricked up, as is an ordinary doorway alongside it. It seems likely that the large entrance would still have been required when Watson Bros. occupied this building, and so probably post-dates that firm. The building's rear access nowadays is at the very back of the property, and at about the point where in 1906 this building linked with the building behind it to form The Arcade.

It is not yet clear as to who owned the actual building during the time the land was leased from the Council. A summary of the above indicates that the Working Men's Club tried to buy the previous building from the Council, but could not agree on a price. When that building burnt down in 1905, newspaper reports stated that its owner was TM Holland (although he was referred to erroneously as H Holland), and certainly he received the insurance payout and commissioned the present building. The 1924 lease transfer is recorded in the PNBC General Minute Book (Vol 11, p142). This states that Adams Ltd was applying for permission to sublet Borough premises in Cuba St to Messrs Watson Bros Ltd. This was duly granted.[33] Further research would be required to clarify this.

Architectural Description 

The building is designed in the Edwardian Free Classical style with symmetrical façade, Classical details such as a pediment as part of the parapet, pilasters on the parapet and few other stylistic details on the above verandah part of the façade.  The below verandah has been modified from the original. 

A ground floor plan available from the PNCC archives for Joe Sings Photographic studio shows photographic rooms at the rear and one side with the studio stretching from the rear to the street frontage.  A shop is shown to one side, which appears to be connected to the other spaces and it is not clear if it is part of the photographic business.

Statement of Significance

This building has highlocal significance for historical and design values, and representivity of building style. 

This building has high historic values in its association with one of Palmerston North's earliest businesses, The Wellington and Manawatu Hardware Co who became JA Nash and Co Ltd who had other shops in the region.  Other tenants include Chas J Adams Ltd, of the Adams Star Cycle Company, Universal Supply Co a grocery business and a later owner, Joe Sing, a son of Chinese immigrants who was a photographer who used the building for his studio and who became head of UCOL's photography course. 

The building, however, has high historic values as one of the oldest buildings in the central city, now being over 100 years old.  It is also historically and physically connected to 19-21 Coleman Place comprising the Arcade that connected Cuba Street to Coleman Place forming an early mall. Having been tenanted for over 100 years, the building also reflects a high level of continuity.

The building has high historic associations with one of Palmerton North's most prominent architects, Ernest Larcomb who designed a number of substantial and very significant buildings in Palmerston North.  These include the main public hospital, many shops around the Square, several large houses such as the Wattles, the Empire, Albion and Occidental Hotels.

The building has moderatedesign values as a representative example of the Edwardian Free Classical style, a style popular in the period, but high design valuesas an early mall.

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.

[1] This is from CT WN17/96 (1879) and much credit goes to some Victoria University students who, in 1980, tackled the daunting task of unscrambling the highly complex collection of lease and land ownership changes on the land in the Cuba, George, Coleman, Square, Rangitikei city block. Ref: Research file A175/154, Ian Matheson City Archives, PN City Library.

[2] The subdivision plan for DP2639, October 1912 (Source: CT WN9A/721); also, notes by Ian Matheson dated 20 March 1970 on the back of photo F8, (of the Fire Station in 1901), in the PN Photographic Collection, PN City Library.

[3] Centennial Committee, Palmerston North Cosmopolitan Club - Centennial: A recorded history of the club 1889-1989 (Palmerston North, 1989), p1

[4] The 1905-6 PN Electoral Roll records his name as Thomas "Martyn" Holland, whereas the CT spells his second name as "Marlyn. The 1906 Wise's Directory uses the spelling "Martin", therefore I have chosen to use "Martyn" - VB

[5]Manawatu Evening Standard, 16 August 1905 5(2). "Nott" referred to was BL Nott, who subsequently took over the Family Hotel in Rangitikei Street (Manawatu Daily Times 29 September 1905 1(3)

[6]Manawatu Daily Times 16 August 1905 3(1)

[7]Manawatu Evening Standard, 17 August 1905, 5(1)

[8]Manawatu Evening Standard, 17 August 1905, 3(5)

[9] Keith Goldsack, More Than Hardware: Arthur Hopwood and the business he founded (Palmerston North, 2000), p18

[10]Manawatu Daily Times, 3 November 1(8), 22 November 1005 2(6)

[11]Manawatu Daily Times 26 October 1905 1(7)

[12]Manawatu Evening Standard 17 March 1906 4(1)

[13]Wise's Directories of 1902 and 1914; Manawatu Evening Standard 7 June 1906 7(3-4)

[14]Manawatu Evening Standard 9 May 1933, 6(7); Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Vol 1 (Wellington, 1897), p1190. See also the PDC department store history published in the (unnumbered) book From Swamp to City (Palmerston North, 1937).

[15]Manawatu Daily Times 1 December 1902 2(4 & 6), Manawatu Evening Standard 1 December 1902 4(2), however, the latter is barely legible. Presumably this was a press release by the company.

[16]Manawatu Daily Times, 25 July 1952, p8. Nash is also the subject of a biography in Vol 4 of The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (Wellington, 1998) pp370-371, however, this devotes only about four lines to Nash's extensive business career.

[17]Manawatu Evening Standard 28 August 1948 5(4)

[18] Mowlem Family of Swanage Note that Martha Mowlem's first husband, JH Mahony, was Kate's father, however, by the time Martha lived in Palmerston North, she was married to Duncan Sinclair.

[19] 'Nash, James Alfred,' in The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Vol 4, 1921-1940, (Wellington, 1998), pp370-371; Manawatu Evening Standard 7 June 1906 7(3-4), 9 May 1933, 6(7); Manawatu Times 25 July 1952 p3.

[20]Manawatu Evening Standard 15 January 1908, 2(1-2)

[21]Manawatu Evening Standard 1 June 1908 2(1-2) & 4(7)

[22] Gilchrist died on 20 September 1938, however, no obituary was traced. PNCC Terrace End Cemetery online record. He was possibly part of the hardware firm Permain & Gilchrist in 1902 (re Manawatu Daily Times 1 December 1902, 1(5)

[23]Manawatu Evening Standard 12 January 1934 1(1); Headstone at Masterton Cemetery per Cemetery microfiche, PN Public Library.

[24]Manawatu Daily Times 24 February 1914 1(3) & 5(6)

[25] Mather Papers, Cuba Street (PN Historical Society Inc., 2007), pp3, 13

[26]Manawatu Daily Times 1 May 1905 2(2-3)

[27]Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Vol 6 (Christchurch, 1908), p684; Manawatu Evening Standard, 4 February 1946 4(6)

[28]Manawatu Daily Times 18 February 1924 4(2), 23 February 1924 7(4-6), 25 February 1924 4(6), 4 March 1924 9(6-7)

[29] The land upon which the building stands, was originally Lot 4, Section 257. However, between 1916 and 1922 (the dates when the old 1900 lease changed hands and when a new lease was issued - while still on CT WN214/247) it gained the present legal description of Lot 8 DB2639. That matter has not been further researched.

[30] Circa 1950 photo from Whites Aviation Ltd, Palmerston North & District, New Zealand (Auckland, 1950), p2. Further information on the Rialto Building (newer that the Watson Bros./Mr Models building, but demolished some years ago due it its poor structure) can be found in the Mather Papers: Cuba Street (PN Historical Society Inc, 2007) pp14, 29. This states that in a 1955 report, the Rialto Building, which had been "erected for an unnamed party", contained three shops, including the Joe Joy Fruit shop (later an occupant of Joe Sing's shop) and "5 substandard flats." In a 1962 report, the Rialto Building was leased to the Arthur Hopwood Property Company, and thus also has historical links to the Oroua Building across the road. Although not further researched, this is most likely the Cuba Street building designed for Arthur Hopwood by LG West & Son, for which tenders were called in the Manawatu Evening Standard of 20 March 1928.

[31]Manawatu Evening Standard, 9 December 2005, p2 'Friday Profile' by Alistair Browne.

[32] PNCC Building Permit files C100/256 now 266, and C100/266. The main file is C100/256, but some information is in C100/266 in error.

[33] PNCC 1/1/1, Vol 11, General Minute Book May 1923-April 1925, Ian Matheson City Archives, PN City Library