News, Events and Culture

95-103 Taonui Street - Cosmopolitan Club

Cosmopolitan -ClubBuilding Details

Building name: Cosmopolitan Club
Address: 95-103 Taonui Street
Construction date: 1928
Architect: LG West & Son (EV West) 
Builder: PB Thorstonson
District Plan Category: 2
Building number:
Heritage NZ Category: Nil

Physical and Social History 

Much of this building's history is recorded in the chronological publication Palmerston North Cosmopolitan Club - Centennial: A recorded history of the club 1889-1989.

The club sold the building in 1990 and since then it has had a range of uses, including part being a massage parlour.

Prior History - The Club
The Cosmopolitan Club was formed in 1888 as 'The Palmerston North Working Men's Club and Mutual School of Arts.' Its first clubrooms were a rented building on the corner of Rangitikei and King Streets, and faced down Cuba Street. Despite its name implying that its membership might be Palmerston North City Council North West Square Heritage Area p102 dominated by the 'working class' (labourers and wage earners), when writing the Foreword for the above book in 1987, late City Archivist Ian Matheson noted that the key figures in the club's history were business and professional men, and included to that time six Members of Parliament, three Mayors of Palmerston North and sixteen Palmerston North Borough or City Councillors. However, its early membership also included bushmen, labourers, fellmongers, storemen, railway workers and a wide cross-section of other occupations.

The club received its Permanent Charter as 'The Palmerston North Workingmen's Club' in 1889, having satisfied the Colonial Secretary that "the said Club is a voluntary association of persons combined for promoting the common object of private social intercourse, convenience and comfort, and providing its own liquors, and not for the purpose of gain…"

A fire that destroyed the club's building in about 1894 resulted in the club moving to a new building in Cuba Street on the other side of the road to the present building, and which was rented from the Borough Council. Then in 1903, two of the club's trustees purchased land across the road on the club's behalf, and thus the club soon had its first purpose-built clubrooms. The new building was officially opened on 30 November 1904 and then on 19 August 1905 the building they had just vacated burnt down.  This unusual tradition reoccurred on 31 October 1925 when the 1904 building's large billiard room was badly charred by fire, although the bar remained operational.

Prior History - The Land
CT WN39/268, which consisted of Lots 5 and 6 of DP 36, was issued in1885 to William Jones, a local coach proprietor. It was transferred in 1891to his wife, Maria Josephine Jones. William Jones, described in PNCC cemetery records as a coach driver, died on 22 March 1895 aged 40. In 1912 the property was transferred to the Palmerston North Workingmens' Club & Literary Institute. CT WN131/120, which covered Part Lot 7 of DP36, was issued to Maria Josephine Jones in about 1904 (the last numberis semi-legible). The Club also purchased this land in 1912. Maria Jonesdied aged 70 on 28 May 1928.

The Club's
Jubilee Souvenir booklet, published in 1939, recorded that the club  had entered into negotiations to buy the future site of this building in 1906. However, the parties involved could not agree on a price. The eventual price was £5,500, with a deposit of £2,000. From 1904, the club was located next door to the future site of this building, at what is now the site of the Oroua Building. In 1914, the clubrooms' address was 34 Cuba Street and the 1914 Wise's Directory shows Joseph York Oliver, a ch painter and Walter Frederick Bell, a paper ruler, at street number's 36 and 38 respectively, situated between the club and Taonui Street.  JY Oliver was the club president in 1906, and as at 1989, he had still been the only man to have held all executive positions (between 1902 and 1928) within the club.  The 1916 and 1925 Directories show Robert Tulloch, a saddler, at the corner stie, while in 1916 the intervening site was occupied by Henry Lyall, a teacher, and in 1925 by James Dawber, a salesman.

The Present Building

In his speech at the opening of the £13,698 Cosmopolitan Club building in 1928, the Hon JA Nash MP (who was also a life member of the club) said that the ongoing growth of the club's membership had long taxed the available space in the 1904 building. In October 1912 the club had purchased the land for the proposed building. However, at the point wherefinancial arrangements were almost ready for building to commence, World War One intervened and the matter was deferred until the latter- 1920s.

In 1926, preliminary plans for the present building were drawn up by architect Ernst West, of the firm LG West & Son. His late father, Ludolph Georg West, had been an original member of the club. At a Special General Meeting on 29 January 1927, the club resolved to proceed with the new building. The plans held by PNCC are dated 15 May 1927, and tenders to build the new clubrooms for the 'Palmerston North Working Men's, Club and Literary Library' were advertised in the Manawatu Evening Standard on 28 May 1927.  The club's name was then changed to the Palmerston North Cosmopolitan Club in December 1927.  The successful tenderer was Percival Bernhardt Torstonson, a member of a Swedish immigrant family that had a timber yard and sash & door factory (G Torstonson's Ltd) in Ruahine Street.  The official opening was held on the afternoon of Wednesday, 15 August 1928, in the presence of several hundred members, and their wives and published the same day in the Manawatu Times states that the club paid £5,000 for the land. The correct amount has not been researched.

The Palmerston North branch of the Wellington Commercial Travellers' Club was also to have their headquarters upstairs in the building, and this group had their own official opening on Saturday afternoon of September 1 1928.  The Centennial publication quotes a newspaper article from around the time of the building's opening, which stated that: The building is constructed of brick with a very pleasing appearance - cement cornices neatly finished with white joints keeping the building looking quite fresh - there are four shops - the main entrance is nicely tiled and finished with white plaster - there are arches giving relief to the back portion of the building - a manager's office - and wash up room - telephone room and spacious bars well finished - a tiled dado around the walls finished with white plaster - well lighted and containing three tables - a credit to any club - five card rooms -while the outside is nicely concreted with a covered in stand for bicycles - upstairs there is a large social room with a lift and supper room - gents convenience - a ladies waiting room with conveniences - an up to date library with an entrance from Taonui Street - there is a cellar 45 feet by 30 feet - well lighted - damp roof and cool and is centrally heated. The Manawatu Times added that two of the four shops were already leased, and that the ground floor contained the commercial rooms, reading room, a spacious billiard room, four card rooms, gents' retiring room, and a large circular refreshment booth. Upstairs was the library,

Additions & Alterations
The PNCC Building Permit files contain an assortment of material relating on the building, its shops, and the various extensions. An undated letter mentions the wish to demolish a shop front, and to replace it with an office and strongroom. This is the second shop from the corner, now occupied by The R18 Shop. The club applied for permits to undertake alterations in 1953 and 1968, structural alterations in 1961, a new billiard room in 1963 (behind the Oroua Building), and for interior alterations in 1982. In 1978 they applied for a permit to undertake a range of alterations, including adding a predominately single storey addition at 101 Taonui Street (now the Power House Tattoo Studio), and also sought dispensation from off-street 201. The new extension included plans to amalgamate titles for the property as an alternative to upgrading a wall at the rear of the shops. In 1985, Human Movements (now of 97 Taonui Street) occupied the first floor of the building, and a Building Inspection Sheet in the file refers to showers and toilets.

Land Ownership
In 1955, land that had been purchased in 1941 became the club's first car park. The 1904 clubrooms had been sold to Arthur Hopwood for £4,000 on 1 November 1928. However, in 1963, the back part of this property -the land behind the Oroua Building - was repurchased for £4,750. A building on it - almost certainly the 1904 clubrooms, though this has been only moderately researched - was then demolished and a large extension built in its place to accommodate an additional five billiard tables. This extension, which was officially opened on 9 December 1963, is now the Better Bargains secondhand shop at 247 Cuba Street.

In 1975, the club purchased the Oroua Building for £86,000, thereby increasing the club's Cuba Street frontage to 42.6 metres. At the time, this building contained three shops and five small flats. However, the 1978-9 alterations included converting one of the shops into a direct access between the billiard room and the street, and this is now the entrance to Better Bargains.

In 1976, a Taonui Street section (Lot 70) and two Lombard Street sections (Lots 11 and 12), with a combined total area of 1,695 square metres, were purchased and converted to parking for 104 cars. The expansion programme during 1978 and 1979 saw the club's original car park absorbed, and the building extended to allow the billiard table numbers to rise from 10 to 14. A "new kitchen-dining area, a new bar, indoor bowlscum- dance floor, upper floor appointments, updated toilets and showers, space for two pool tables, eight dart board cabinets and a store room were added to create an atmosphere of space. This addition was officially opened on 30 May 1979.  In 1986 consideration was given to redeveloping the club's existing site, however, when that proved too costly, the club began seeking a new and more suitable premises

At a special meeting on 20 September 1987 attended by 260 members, all but four members voted to move to a new site. They had voted to take an option on the former Nivens Engineering workshop in Pitt Street, and that building, after extensive modification, duly opened on 31 July 1989, just in time to celebrate the club's 100 birthday.  While not much bigger than the Cuba Street building, its space was better utilised and there was provision for 80 car parks.

Four years later the Pitt Street purchase was regarded as having been a disaster, as an anticipated increase in membership hadn't happened. Accordingly, plans were made to purchase a smaller building in Church Street that was in close proximity to the Palmerston North Bowling and Squash Clubs - in the hope that this proximity to the others would be beneficial to all three.  However, by December 2004, the Pitt Street building had been sold, but was being leased back by the club. Meanwhile, construction of stage one (of three) of the next building, which the club was to share, was due to begin in February 2005.

The resulting building is Club Palmerston, in Linton Street, which was officially opened on 2 November 2006. This facility is run by an amalgamation of the Cosmopolitan Club, the Palmerston North Squash Club (est 1936) and the Palmerston North Bowling Club (est 1889).

Disposal of the Cuba Street Building
In 1987, at the time the club began planning to leave the Cuba Street
building, it owned its clubrooms, the Oroua Building, a wholesale carpet shop, four sections and a warehouse in Taonui Street.

Palmerston North City Council North West Square Heritage Area
On 31 July 1989, the day the bar opened for the first time in the new Pitt Street clubrooms, the anticipated sale of the Cuba Street property to Niven Enterprises Ltd fell through. The club was left with a debt of over $2 million, created by its move to Pitt Street. Preparations were then made to auction the former building and the neighbouring properties in September 1989. However, while three other properties sold, the main club building (including the Oroua Building) failed to attract a single bid.

The club's departure from Cuba Street and the financial distress resulting from the Niven Enterprises default, led to an array of rumours regarding the club's future. This was also believed to have deterred potential new members. The club responded in December 1991 with a two-page advertising feature on what it had to offer - and also explained its recent difficulties under the headline: Closure rumours 'utter nonsense.

CT WNB1/1062 records that the building was sold to Palmerston North businesswoman Kah Hong Tan in 1990. She sold it to the present owner, Mountain Productions Ltd, in 2006.

Shop 1 - cnr Cuba & Taonui St
Stones 1933 - nil
Wises 1936 - 197 Cuba St - Arthur P Taylor, licenced dealer
Wises 1939-57 - 243 Cuba St - Grover & Whitehead, pram manufacturers
Wises 1959-60 - 243 Cuba St - Ms EV Whitehead, pram retailer
By 1978, this was the Cosmopolitan Club's library (Ref: Plan in PNCC Bdg
Permit file C100/233-239)
2010 - 233 Cuba St - empty

Shop 2
1933-60 245 Cuba St - Bert A Polanski, hairdresser & tobacconist (Wises & Stones)
Altered to 2 offices & a strongroom before 1978 (Ref: Plan in PNCC Bdg Permit file C100/233-239)
2010 237 Cuba St - The R18 Shop
Here is the old Cosmopolitan Club double-door main entrance (numbered 247 Cuba St)

Shop 3
Stones 1933 nil
Wises 1936-9 203 Cuba St- Woskett Radio Ltd.
Wises 1950-51 249 Cuba St - H & P Clifford, antique dealer
2010 241 Cuba St - Macs Used Appliances

Shop 4
1933-60 205 / 253 Cuba St- W Jewett & Sons, bootmakers. (Wises & 1933)
2010 243 Cuba St - About Time
At present the Power House Tattoo Studio (the single storey building at 127 Taonui Street that was built as an enlargement of the billiard room. It had been officially opened on 30 May 1979, taking billiard table numbers from ten to fourteen.
Between c1996 and c2007, a massage parlour named The Lounge Bar operated behind the large red exterior doors on the Taonui Street side of the building. By the time of the 2008 phone book, this massage parlour had been renamed The Red Doors. It closed amidst controversy relating to its liquor licence about 2008-9.

Women Members

One of the last significant events to occur during the club's occupancy of the Cuba Street building was the vote to allow women to become members. Although the building always had some provision for women, such as the ladies waiting room, for a century this was an all male club. At the 1988 AGM, the membership voted against women becoming members - although women had been employed there as barmaids or stewardesses since 1974. There were also female librarians in the club library from 1926 (in December 1986, the club's library had 6,700 books catalogued).

At the club's next AGM in February 1989, those present voted 56-48 against admitting women as members. This was the second year the matter had been voted on, and it was noted that the figures were moving in the women's favour. At the time almost two-thirds of the country's 240 chartered clubs now permitted women to become members. In July 1989, a special meeting revisited the decision following a petition by 50 members. Around 200 members attended and the vote went 113-83 in favour of permitting women to join. The club president said at the time that, "an adverse reaction had followed the publicity about the ban. Women's libbers stuck hand-bills on our new building, which we move into in August. Accordingly, in mid-August that year the club accepted its first female member.

The history of this property is complicated by the numerous property additions and subtractions, and by the Oroua Building having been more or less integrated into the main club building. LG West & Son's sketch of the building is shown on the front cover of the Cosmopolitan Club's centennial publication (surrounded by men, women and cars whose appearances reflected the late 1920s). This shows design features on the Taonui Street side of the building that are different to the Palmerston North City Council North West Square Heritage Area Page 107 existing building, while the Cuba Street frontage is the same as now.  Possibly it was initially intended that the building's Taonui Street frontage would eventually be double the length that it has ended up.

Architectural Description 

The building is designed in the Edwardian Neo-Georgian style with characteristic symmetrical façade, Classical details such as double pedimented parapets, cornice and entablature supported by pilasters dividing the façade into seven bays and typical small paned double hung sash windows all on the above verandah section of the street façade. The below section of the façade has timber framed shop fronts, a number of which appear to be original. There are several pilasters to this section of the façade which align with those above the verandah. A rather faint ground floor plan available from the PNCC archives shows the ground floor only which has stores, strong rooms and library and offices facing Cuba Street either side of the central entry, with a lounge bar and a number of other spaces whose function cannot be read on Taonui Street. These spaces form an L shape with the remainder of the floor being taken up with a bar.

The contemporary description of the building is included above. The exterior has cement rendered details with the main construction appearing to be brickwork.

Statement of Significance 

This building has high local significance for historical and design values, representivity of building style and type and level of external authenticity This building has high historic and emotional associations with the Cosmopolitan Club and its members who included business and professional men, six Members of Parliament, three Mayors of Palmerston North sixteen Palmerston North Borough or City Councillors as well as bushmen, labourers, fellmongers, storemen, railway workers and a wide cross-section of other occupations.

The building also has high historic values in its association with the architect of the building, Ernest West, who practised with his father and whose firm was responsible for a large number of Palmerston North's buildings. Among those still standing designed by the practice are the Former Club Hotel (1905), the Manawatu-Kilwinning Masonic Lodge (1908), the Old Soldiers Club (1917), the Church of Christ Scientist (1931) and Ward Brothers Building (1935). Ernst was a borough Councillor 1921- 25.

The tenants of the building reflect a moderate level of continuity in being a typical pattern of commercial buildings throughout the city. 

The building has moderate design values with a representative example of the Edwardian neo-Georgian style, a popular style for gentlemen's clubs with the Wellesley Club in Wellington being a typical example.

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 building's street façade design has a high level of external authenticity.