Building name: Former Post Office
Address: 105-112 The Square
Construction date: 1906
Architect: Joshua Charlesworth
Architectural style: Edwardian Italianate
District Plan Category: Street Character 8
Building number: 44
Heritage NZ Category: 2
Building number: 1255
Palmerston North's first Post Office was located in a modest single storey structure in The Square from 1875-1880. From 1880 facilities moved to the railway station, as was common for the time. In 1889 an architectural more elaborate building was purpose-built for the post office on what is now the Esplanade. In 1905 work began on the erection of a new much larger building and constructed of permanent materials - in this case brick. Designed by Joshua Charlesworth, not the Public Works Department, the building's large, elegant tower added much to the appearance of the Square. The building was opened in 1906 by Sir Joseph Ward. Within a few decades the building was too small and in the early 1920s and again in 1937 more accommodation was provided by extending the Square elevation towards Broadway and up Main Street. The architectural features were largely matched in the addition. After the sharp Wellington earthquake in 1942 the building's principal feature, the tower, was removed, along with other substantial embellishments to the facade. The building assumed a much flatter appearance. The tower clock and chimes were housed in a new clock tower erected in The Square in 1957 and funded from a bequest of Arthur Hopwood, a well known local businessman and philanthropist. In recent years the former post office has become an agency of Postbank, now owned by the ANZ Bank. Other businesses also operate from the building.
The style used by the well known Wellington architect, Joshua Charlesworth, was Edwardian Italianate. The Italianate style was established by Charles Barry with his Reform Club building in 1841 and was used consistently for commercial and entertainment building types. The Post Office building is typical of the style with asymmetrical tower, under which is a loggia, Classical string course, parapets, cornices, and windows with pedimented head. The original interior planning has been obscured on the ground floor, however the long central corridor off which offices are located is still visible.
Charlesworth was born in Yorkshire and the first record of his practice in Wellington was in the New Zealand Pi?? Office directory of 1885-87. He won a competition for the design of the Home for the Aged and Needy in June, 18?? and in the same year won another for the design of the Nelson Town Hall. Charlesworth set up practice in Wellington in his early twenties, designing many institutional buildings and showing command of the revival style of architecture. His work includes the Wellington Town Hall (1901), Brancepeth Station Homestead Additions, Wairarapa (1905), Te Aro Post Office (1908), St Hilda's Church, Upper Hutt (1909), and seventeen branch banks for the Bank of New Zealand, situated throughout New Zealand. Charlesworth was elected a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1905, and became a life member of the Institute. He was its vice-president 1909-10, and was the first chairman of a society of architects which was formed in 1912. Charlesworth also belonged to the Yorkshire Society in Wellington and was its president for many years.
Summary of Heritage Values
The building provides continuity in streetscape and, partly in function. It has historical associations with the New Zealand Post Office and Joshua Charlesworth.
The building uses a common style for commercial buildings, and is a good example of the work of a significance Wellington architect.
The building has some authenticity of exterior, with lesser authenticity of interior. The building is a significant landmark building in the Square, and contributes greatly to the urban design of the Square.
The new uses reflect the economic, functional, education and social values.
Statement of Significance
Palmerston North benefited from the Edwardian enthusiasm for grand public buildings with the provision of the third and biggest post office in 1906. The building's proportions and tower added much elegance to The Square. The tower quickly became a city landmark and a favoured position for photographers to take panoramas of the flat city. Although now bereft of some of its architectural features the building retains its links with the old Post Office by accommodating what was previously the banking arm of the Post Office, Postbank. The building contributes to the urban design of the Square in its style, location and scale.
NZHPT 1990, "Glossary of Architects, Engineers and Designers", NZHPT, Wellington
Photograph Collection, ATL, photo number 89117 1/2
Saunders BGR 1987, Manawatu's Old Buildings. Department of Geography, Massey University, Palmerston North.