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175-193 Cuba Street - Former Carlton Hotel

Building Details

Building Name: Former Carlton Hotel (now Travelodge)
Address: 175-193 Cuba Street
Construction date: 1927
Architect: LG West & Son
Builder: unknown
District Plan Category: 2
Building number: 31
NZHPT Classification: Nil 

Physical and Social History

Built in 1927, the former Carlton Hotel is one of Palmerston North's oldest hotels still operating as such.  Other clearly older hotel buildings have been converted to taverns, offices, shops, etc. The recently expanded and updated Carlton Hotel building itself is now a key part of the Travelodge Palmerston North complex, and accordingly it is part of the Travelodge hotel chain.

Prior History
The Carlton Hotel was built on the site of a block of four small single-storey shops that appear in a pre-1910 photo of Cuba Street.[2] According to the 1925 Wises' Directory, this block was by that time occupied by a lingerie specialist, a boot maker, a confectioner (dairy), and Francis S Birch, a baker. Coincidentally, Francis S Birch bought land on the corner of Cuba and Waldegrave Streets in early 1927, and tenders were advertised to build his new shop there a week before tenders were advertised to build the Carlton.

CT WN107/175 (issued 1900) records the various owners of the block of shops, none of which seem to have also been occupants. In 1911, it was sold to three members of the Mason family, who in turn sold it in 1923 to a partnership of Ada Needham, wife of Frederick Needham, contractor of PN; Margaretta Anne Florence Oram, wife of (later Sir) Matthew Henry Oram, solicitor of PN; and Harry Burrows, land agent of PN, as tenants in common.

In 1925, Harry Burrows' share was transferred to George Ennis McGregor, a PN solicitor. Then in 1926, Ada Needham's share was transferred to William Keeble Welch, a surgeon dentist of PN. The new partnership of Oram, McGregor and Welch then sold the property to John Lowbridge Bennett, a hotelkeeper of PN, in early 1927.

Prior to purchasing the Clarendon Hotel's licence, John Lowbridge Bennett had an auctioneering, land agents and produce merchants business called The Mart, on the corner of Rangitikei and King Streets in Palmerston North. For a while he also had a butcher's shop next door to The Mart, and he still operated The Mart after building the hotel. He previously had the Wolsley Hotel at Winchester, Canterbury, and later had the Warners Hotel in Christchurch.[3]

Ownership History

Local architectural firm, LG West & Son, designed the Carlton Hotel.  Tenders were called to construct the three-storey brick and concrete building in January 1927.[4] Built at a cost of £13,725, at the time it was one of the largest hostelries in Palmerston North.[5]

In late 1929, the hotel was sold to Robert Porter, an Auckland hotelkeeper; however, John Lowbridge Bennett's direct and indirect involvement in the hotel was to remain for at least another three decades.  The CT WN107/175 reveals that Bennett briefly held a mortgage (No 202090) over the property in late 1929, and this was then transferred to the BNZ. In 1931, Bennett (by then a hotelkeeper of Christchurch) again took over this mortgage from the BNZ. The same mortgage then shuttled back to the BNZ in 1932, to Bennett in 1936, and then back to the BNZ the same day. The property itself was then transferred from Porter to Bennett (described again as a PN hotelkeeper) in 1937. The 1937 From Swamp to City article below, and the 1939 Wise's Directory indicate that George V Simpson was managing the hotel at that time, while the 1944 edition lists Noel K Beveridge as the manager.

The hotel remained in Bennett's name until 1955, when it was transferred to Carlton Hotel (PN) Ltd. Then, starting 15 December 1955, the hotel was leased for a three-year term to Norman Charles Currie, described as a PN hotelkeeper, and his wife Muriel Amelia Currie. The Wises' Directories indicate that Currie was running the hotel by 1950 and that publication further suggests that he did so for the next decade.

Bennett retained a mortgage over the property until 1960, when he transferred it to his son John Alexander Lowbridge (Jack) Bennett. In 1963, ownership of the property was transferred to Eric Newton Franklyn, a Wellington company director. This transaction included a mortgage from NZ Breweries Ltd and TG Macarthy (Wanganui) Ltd, and the start of a relationship of this nature with this brewery - later renamed Lion Breweries Ltd, and then Lion Nathan Ltd. In 1965 the hotel again changed hands, this time to RM & AJ Higgins Ltd, of PN - these being Alyn James and Rubina Margaret Higgins.

DE & VC Fraser Ltd of Lower Hutt, took over in 1978, and Lion Breweries then leased the hotel for a 20-year term starting 29 April 1978.  In 1979, hotel was subleased for a 15-year term to Halcombe George I--- (illegible). However, this was almost immediately surrendered and the sublease taken over by Carlton Hotel Palmerston North Ltd.[6]

Ownership of the property was transferred in 1989 to Kent King Lambert and Dianne Leslie Lambert, company directors of PN. Then in 1992, it again changed hands, this time to John Russell Forsythe, a PN chartered accountant. The former Lion Breweries, by now Lion Nathan Ltd, then surrendered its lease in 1992, and immediately took out another 20-year lease, starting 1 January 1992. Corresponding with this, Luke David Walding also subleased the hotel for the same 20-year period. The property's ownership was transferred to Walding Properties Ltd in 1996, to Cuba Street Holdings in 2003, and then to the present owner, Trust Company Ltd, in 2008.[7] The CT does not indicate any adjustment to the status of the 20-year Lion Nathan Ltd lease taken out in 1992.

General History

The 1937 book From Swamp to City: Commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of the City[8]contains a brief history of the hotel to that time. It states that:

"The Carlton Hotel has the distinction of being associated with the earliest days of Palmerston North as it is holding the licence of the Clarendon Hotel which was situated for many years on the corner of the Square and Rangitikei Street. The present location in Cuba Street on the edge of the business area, handy to the Square, is far enough away to escape all street noises. Rebuilt in 1927, a reinforced concrete structure, it is equipped with every possible modern convenience such as automatic elevator, central heating, bath and shower rooms, and hot and cold water in every bedroom. One of the main features is the spacious lounge. The Carlton is an AA, CT and Civil Servant house and is largely patronised by the tourist trade.

Mr GV Simpson, the proprietor, can claim to be one of a family of the old pioneers. His father arrived in New Zealand in 1854, and his mother, who is still living, was born in the Nelson district 81 years ago. He is well known to all residents in the Southern part of the North Island, as a commercial representative of one of the largest wholesale houses for the last 20 years. He will be well known to old Palmerstonians as in 1916-1917 he was the organiser for the Crippled Soldiers' Hostel Art Union, the funds from which did a lot to help make comfortable our crippled boys.

With a hotel and popular proprietor such as this visitors to Palmerston North can rest assured of every detail of their personal comfort being attended to.

The original wooden Clarendon Hotel, referred to above, was established in 1873. That building burnt down on the night of 28 January 1904, and was soon replaced by a three-storey brick building. The Clarendon's licence was transferred to the new Carlton Hotel in 1927, and the Clarendon was converted to shops. Renamed the Clarendon Buildings, its third storey was removed after the 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake, and the building was eventually demolished to make way for the present buildings on the site.[9]

The Carlton also contained a shop on the Campbell Street side of the building. The typical barber's shop stripes of Bert Haybittle's hairdresser's shop are visible in the c1950 photo of the hotel. The shop was done away with and the space absorbed into the hotel bar area in 1955. Fortunately there had also for decades been a second barber's shop next door to the Carlton, on the opposite side of the building at 191 Cuba St, and its barber's shop stripes are also visible in the aforementioned photo.

The Carlton was yet another building in the area to experience fire, albeit two minor ones in the incident known of. On 10 October 1986, an 18-year-old city youth lit a fire in a toilet and minutes later another in a storeroom. However, these were soon found and extinguished without any serious damage. The youth was arrested.[10]

Additions and Alterations
Photographic evidence shows that the upper façade of the building has undergone at least three significant changes. The photo published with the above article in From Swamp to City in 1937, shows the words "Hotel Carlton" painted onto the roofing tiles, while a pair of pilasters protrude through the roof at each end of the building. Another photo taken around 1950 shows that the same words were still painted on the roofing tiles, however the pilasters were gone and only a plain front wall appears below the roofline. The most recent alterations have included a pair of semi-circular decorations protruding from the locations that once carried the pairs of pilasters. The two sets of plain pipe balcony railings and the emergency ladders have also disappeared from the front of the building since the 1990s.[11]

PNCC's Building Permit files contain a significant amount of information on the building, especially in relation to the recent redevelopment of the hotel complex. However, earlier work includes altering a shop (formerly Haybittles' barber's shop) to a bar in 1955, at a cost of £600. In 1963, the building's new owner, Mr Franklyn, erected a new bar at a cost of £1,100. Permits for further additions and alterations were also applied for in 1973 and 1987.

The records cover the 1991 renovation of the lounge bar to resemble the atmosphere of a London tube station bar. It was renamed the Carlton Underground. The intention, Luke Walding said, was also "to use as much as possible of the Carlton's original character." In its previous guise, the hotel had apparently become something of a "notorious meeting place," and the intention was to attract back some of its former patrons. In earlier times stockcar and sports crowds had packed the hotel after events, but by 1991 it had become known as a students' bar, with an array of negative effects.[12]

In 1995, permission was applied for to remove the verandah with reasons including that there was no evidence to show it was original (although the 1993 photo of the verandah looks very similar to the 1937 and c1950 photos - the latter pair appearing identical). Permission was also sought to remove brewery signs on both sides of the building, aimed at improving its appearance.

Part of the planned work had apparently included the Carlton Hotel's then owner, Walding Properties Ltd, leasing the neighbouring shop at 195 Cuba Street for use as a bottle store. However, a letter to PNCC dated 30 November 1995 from the shop's owners, claimed that the hotel owner had reneged on the deal, apparently after gaining their permission to undertake his hotel alterations.[13]

Work undertaken in the 1995 upgrade included upgrading the façade, the public bar and the back bar as part of the renovations that had been going on since the Walding family took over in 1990 (evidently prior to their formally taking over the lease in 1992). Until that time, the public bar, which was renamed The Local, had not undergone a major renovation since the hotel opened in 1927.

The hotel has undergone significant expansion and several name changes in recent years. In April 2002, management of the Carlton was taken over by Accor Hotels and the hotel renamed the Mecure. However, in October 2002, it again became the Carlton and Accor Hotels was gone. This was the result of a split with the hotel's owners, the Walding family, who were not prepared to build the extra 60 rooms Accor wanted to add to the Carlton's existing 20 rooms, in the immediate future. Explaining the decision, Accor's regional general manager said that they did not manage hotels that small. The hotel was to continue operating as an independent four-star facility however. And the expansion process was intended to continue.[14] In June 2003, the hotel was in receivership and its ownership company, Walding Properties Ltd., in liquidation and owing millions of dollars. The following month the hotel, which was still trading, was advertised for sale.[15]

The hotel was bought by Hanover's property development and investment arm, Axis Property Group and the hotel was duly transferred into the name of Cuba Street Holdings Ltd. in November 2003. Hanover's hotel subsidiary Accor then returned to take over the management of the hotel. Preparations then proceeded toward building the new multi-storey block alongside the hotel to add 65 rooms to the 20 the Carlton already had. The hotel was then to be rebranded as Novatel Palmerston North.

Other impacts on the immediate area were the purchase of the single storey block of shops (Harris Meatmarket & others) on the corner of Cuba and Lombard Street adjoining the hotel, in early 2004, and land behind the present Crankit shops on the opposite side of the Cuba-Lombard intersection, which was previously owned by auto-electrician Mike Murphy. This latter land was to become part of the hotel's carpark.[16]

Construction of the new tower block was formally launched on 29 April 2004. It was due for completion in February 2005 and to be officially opened on 4 March 2005.[17] The hotel has subsequently been renamed Travelodge Palmerston North, and has been owned by Trust Company Ltd since early 2008.

Noted Heritage Features

While undoubtedly the hotel has a number of features that can still be traced to its 1927 beginnings, two are singled out for specific mention here. The first is the hotel's nameplate on the centre front of the hotel's facade that still reads "1927 Hotel Carlton," despite all the recent name changes. The second is its elderly lift. In 2005, promotional material noted that: "as the original cage lift clanks up the lift shaft on its original weights and pulleys, the discerning guest is left in no doubt that the Novatel Palmerston North is a unique combination of heritage building coupled with a contemporary blend of four-star hotel rooms."

Described as "an automatic elevator" on the list of modern conveniences noted in the 1937 From Swamp to City article above, present day guests give it mixed reviews. Online feedback from a Tauranga guest who stayed in the hotel in October 2008, noted that she found a special excuse (to see one of the 1927 rooms) to have to ride in the old lift, as she "just HAD to have a turn" in it.

Another feedback, from August 2006 was less flattering. The guest noted that the first thing seen after checking in was that as "part of the refurbishments the management have elected to leave the original 1900's Elevator in. While the staff eagerly advise you that it is one of only two left in the country, what they don't tell you is that it regularly fails to operate." Evidently this guest was then forced to carry his/her belongings up four flights of stairs.[18]

Finally comes the startling story told to late City Archivist Ian Matheson by a shocked Carlton Hotel cleaner about an incident involving the lift in the early hours of Thursday, 23 July 1998. The resulting (1999) interview with Jack Bennett by Ian Matheson has contributed significantly to this study, but did not resolve the 1998 incident.[19]

People associated with the Hotel

John Lowbridge Bennett was the original owner of the hotel in 1927. He and his family lived in the hotel, however, following the sale of the Carlton in 1929, he bought the Warners Hotel in Christchurch. Presumably that was where he was hotel keeping at the time he took over the Carlton's mortgage again in 1931.  The family was back living at the Carlton in September 1932, when their 8-year-old daughter, Gloria, died suddenly of a brain infection.

He continued to be involved with the hotel in various ways until 1960, when his son John Alexander Lowbridge (Jack) Bennett, a solicitor, took over from him. The hotel was then sold out of the family in 1963. After the sale of the Carlton, John Lowbridge Bennett bought the Empire Hotel (now Cobb & Co), which he later sold to Ollie Galpin.

John Lowbridge Bennett was also interested in Jersey cattle and had a farmlet on the corner of Manawatu and Pahiatua Streets, called Winchester Jersey Stud, after the town in Canterbury where they previously lived. Winchester School is so named after the farm, as a result of the family's suggestion.[20] He died on 27 October 1978, aged 84, and is described as a publican on the Kelvin Grove Cemetery records.

George Henry Vernand Simpson managed the hotel in the latter 1930s (at least). He died, aged 81, on 16 July 1979, and is described in the Kelvin Grove Cemetery records as a publican.

Norman Charles Currie managed the hotel throughout the 1950s and he and his wife Muriel Amelia leased it for at least three years from 1955. He died on 8 January 1974 aged 67, and is described in the Kelvin Grove Cemetery records as a retired publican. Muriel Amelia was not traced.

Herbert William Haybittle occupied the shop in the Carlton Hotel building from the 1930s until about 1955, when the shop was incorporated back into the hotel as part of the bar. Haybittle was a hairdresser and was aged about 63 by the time the shop ceased operating. He died on 5 January 1963 aged 71.

The Walding family's background in the local catering industry includes the well-known firm of its day, Smith & Walding, of which Joe Walding (PN city councillor and MP) was a partner. Joe Walding's son Luke, along with Peter, Charles, Anne and Catherine, leased the hotel from 1990. CT WN27A/783 indicates that Luke Walding formally leased the property for 20 years in 1992. Ownership was then transferred to Walding Properties Ltd in 1996. This firm was placed in liquidation in 2003 and the property sold by the receivers to Cuba Street Holdings Ltd later that year.[21]

Known Occupants

Shop on Campbell Street side of hotel building (1927-1955)
Stones 1933 - 141 Cuba St - Sydney Raymond Greer, taxi proprietor
Wises 1936 - Nil
Wises 1939-54 - 141 (later renumbered to 181) Cuba St - Bert Haybittle, hairdresser

Carlton Hotel (proprietors, where known[22])
Stones 1933 - 143-7 Cuba St - Carlton Hotel, John Lowbridge Bennett, proprietor
Wises 1936 - 145 Cuba St - Carlton Hotel, John L Bennett
Wises 1939 - 145 Cuba St - Carlton Hotel, George V Simpson
Wises 1944 - 185 Cuba St - Carlton Hotel, Noel K Beveridge
Wises 1950-60 - 181 Cuba St - Carlton Hotel, N Currie (3 year lease on CT from 1955)
1963-1965 (CT) - Owner: EN Franklyn
1965-1978 (CT) - Owner: RM & AJ Higgins Ltd
1978-1992 (CT) - Lessee: Lion Breweries, later renamed Lion Nathan Ltd (then renewed 20 years)
1979-1992 (CT) - Sub-lessee: Carlton Hotel Palmerston North Ltd
1978-1989 (CT) - Owner: DE & VC Fraser Ltd
1989-1992 (CT) - Owner: KK & DL Lambert
1992-1996 (CT) - Owner: JR Forsythe
1990-2003 - Sub-lessee, later owner: Luke Walding and the Walding family (CT and newspapers)
2003-2008 (CT) - Owner: Cuba Street Holdings Ltd


This building has impacted significantly over its lifetime on some of the other buildings involved in this study. In 1927, when the hotel was built, it displaced the Birch Automatic Bakery shop, which relocated to the corner of Cuba and Waldegrave Streets. In 1928, at least three of the four shops in the block between the hotel and Lombard Street were built, and as the hotel owners now also own it, its future will probably be decided by the hotel's progress. The back portion of the Crankit buildings across Lombard Street, which is likely to have included early bakery buildings, now serves as part of the hotel's carpark.

Architectual Description

The building is consistent with LG West's free ranging use of architectural styles.  In this case the building loosely uses the Spanish Mission style with overhanging eaves, supported on brackets, Marseille tile roofing, gables, but with a sense of Neo-Georgian in symmetry and fenestration.  The interior ground floor has bars, management and service areas, with the upper floor bedrooms located off an 'L' shaped corridor.  The stair is centrally located on the south wall and winds around a wire-caged lift.  Interior  joinery is oak, with dado panelling to the stair and ground floor.

1991 floor plans for the hotel show a central entry from Cuba Street with bars either side, leading to a central reception area with lift and stairs.  The dining room and kitchen are opposite the entry.  The first floor plan shows an 'L' shaped central corridor access from the stairs and lift with rooms off and a lounge opposite the stairs.  2001 plans show a significant rearrangement of rooms and corridors on the first and second floors.

No construction drawings are available.

Statement of Significance

This building has high regional significance for historical and design values, representivity of building style and type andlevel of external authenticity.

This building has high historic values as one of the oldest extant hotels in the city and its association with publicans and customers.  It is also associated with the architect, LG West, who, in conjunction with his son Ernst Vilhem, he 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), and the Church of Christ Scientist (1931) and Ward Brothers Building (1935).

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 is largely authentic on the exterior and interior, and is significant in its style, and contribution to the streetscape.

 [1] PNCC Schedule of Buildings and Objects of Cultural Heritage Value

[2] Photo STC 14, pre-1910, PN City Library photographic collection

[3] Wises Directories, 1925 & 1929; Ian Matheson's interview with JAL 'Jack' Bennett, 16 August 1999, in Carlton Hotel Research File A175/164/9, Ian Matheson City Archives, PN City Library.

[4]Manawatu Evening Standard, 26 January 1927, in 'PN Architects 1900-1950', Vol 5, p35, Pam Phillips Papers, Ian Matheson City Archives

[5] Building No 13, Carlton Hotel, Ian Bowman & Michael Kelly, Palmerston North CBD Heritage Inventory for PNCC, 1994. Note that the PN Borough Council Register of Building Permits, Vol 3 (p560) gives the cost as £13,300 and the discrepancy has not been researched. PNCC 4/13/1, Vol 3, Ian Matheson City Archives, PN City Library

[6] The Companies Office website records that No 35271 Carlton Hotel Palmerston North Ltd was incorporated on 8 March 1979 and struck off on 20 June 1990.

[7] CTs WN107/175 (1900), WN430/122 (1931) & WN27A/783 (1985)

[8] Robert H Billens & H Leslie Verry, From Swamp to City: Commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of the City (Palmerston North, 1937), unnumbered page: 'The Carlton Hotel'.

[9] Photo Ho33, Palmerston North City Library photographic collection

[10]Manawatu Evening Standard 11 October 1986, p3

[11] Photos Ho38 (1937); Ho59 (c1950); 1993 photo in Palmerston North CBD Heritage Inventory for PNCC, 1994, building No 13; Plan in PNCC Building Permit file C100/175-193.

[12]Manawatu Evening Standard, 19 June 1991, p22

[13] PNCC Building Permit file C100/175-193

[14]Manawatu Evening Standard 5 March 2002, p3; 17 October 2002, p1; 18 October 2002, p2.

[15]Dominion-Post 26 June 2003, pC2; Manawatu Evening Standard 2 July 2003, p 1

[16]Manawatu Evening Standard 27 April 2004, p3; Harris Meatmarket et al CT WN43A/857

[17]Manawatu Evening Standard 27 April 2004, p3; 30 April 2004, p3; 19 October 2004, p15; 13 January 2005, p4; 24 February 2005, p12.

[18] -Travelodge Palmerston North: Traveller Reviews; Novatel Palmerston North insert, in Manawatu Evening Standard, April 2005.

[19] Carlton Hotel research file A175/164/9, Ian Matheson City Archives, PN Library

[20] Ian Matheson's interview with JAL Jack' Bennett, 16 August 1999, in Carlton Hotel Research File A175/164/9, Ian Matheson City Archives, PN City Library.

[21]Manawatu Evening Standard 19 June 1991, p23; 7 December 1995, p20. Dominion-Post 26 June 2003, pC2;

[22] This tangled list is incomplete as it is unclear in later times what owners were also the hotel managers, the latter being the main target of this list.