News & Events

213-215 Cuba Street - Ward Brothers Buildings

Ward -Borther

Building Details

Building Name: Ward Brothers Building
Address: 213-215 Cuba Street
Construction date: 1935
Architect: LG West, Son & Hornibrook
Architectural Style: Inter-War Art Deco
Builder: A Holmes
District Plan Category: 2
Building number: 67
Heritage NZ Category: 2  
Building number:  7360     

Physical and Social History 

This building is considered one of the finest Art Deco buildings in Palmerston North, and has Category II listings with both PNCC and the Historic Places Trust.

Prior History
The site of this building, Lot 8 DP 352, belonged to Arthur Edward Clausen in 1900 according to CT WN104/256. In 1905, he sold it to James Miller, a storekeeper of Glen Oroua, and in turn Miller leased part of the property to William James Horn (a grocer, according to PNCC cemetery records) for a five-year period in 1909. It was then leased to property developer Frederick Bryant in 1914 for another five years with a purchasing clause. Miller evidently died later in 1914 and the property passed first to the Public Trustee in 1914, and then to Miller's widow, Catherine Miller, in 1917. In 1921, the property was transferred to William and Edward Ward as tenants in common. However, the pair had leased the building from 1919, presumably after Bryant's lease ended, and certainly they are listed there in the 1920 Wises' Directory.[2]

The Ward family

William Ercott Ward and his younger brother Edward Ercott Ward were respectively the fourth and sixth sons of George and Eliza Ward, who had emigrated from England aboard the Lady Jocelyn in 1875. At first George ran a carrying business at Akaroa, before the family moved to the Manawatu in 1887, where he took up a block of standing bush near Linton. The family turned this property into a prosperous farm. George was a member of the first Linton School Committee in 1888, and three of the ten Ward children (Albert, Alex and Isabella) are thought to have been first day pupils at the school the following year.

The couple raised nine sons and a daughter at Linton. Their eldest son George Jocelyn Ward, who was born on the immigrant ship after whom he was named, was very active in the development of the Linton community in the early 1900s. He also established the Linton Public Store in 1904. This was sold in 1911 and by 1937 he lived in Auckland.[3]

George and Eliza moved to Frits Street (now Russell Street), Palmerston North, in 1905, and it was there that they were living when George died on 17 October 1911 aged 59, after a brief illness. Eliza moved to Auckland in 1914, following the death of her 18-year-old eighth son, Stanley Arthur, who died in July 1914 after an operation, having become ill at a military training camp.[4]

While no information was traced for William that indicated his training for his future occupation, Edward's obituary records that he was apprenticed to Messrs. Osgood & Hancock, painters, of Rangitikei Street. That firm had been established in 1896 and undertook the same type of work (painting, wallpapering, glass, picture-framing etc) that the Ward brothers later did.[5]

On 10 May 1911, William and Edward went into business together as painters and paperhangers, starting their business in the washhouse of William's Bourke Street home. Noticeably this was the same year their older brother sold up at Linton and also that their father died, but what significance if any this timeframe had is not known.

It was not until 1919 that William and Edward moved their business to the Cuba Street property where the present building now stands. However, one imagines that this belated decision to leave her backyard was applauded by William's wife, the former Lillian Gordon Beattie, whom he had married in 1908. Edward married Ada Lewer in 1912 and doubtless she sympathised with her sister-in-law.[6]

The New Building

Plans to build a workshop on this property were drawn up by architect OA Jorgenson in 1923. Then in January 1935, the architectural firm LG West, Son & Hornibrook (then comprising of architects Ernst West and Francis Hornibrook) called for tenders to build the present retail showroom building in reinforced concrete.[7]

The building permit (No 701) was issued on 4 March 1935, with the building costing £2,214 to erect. The builder's name has in the past been read on permit documentation variously as AG Holmes or AC Holmes. However, no-one with those initials appears in the local Electoral Rolls around that time, and the only 'Holmes' traced who was connected to the building industry at that time was Arthur Edward Holmes, variously described as a carpenter and a builder.  He died on 23 April 1961, aged 73, however, no obituary was published.[8]

The CT shows two party wall arrangements with neighbours that correspond with the construction of the new building - one with Andrew Ruthven Buchanan and Lionel Martyn Abraham, and the other with Walter Henry Franks, a fruiterer.

PNCC Building Permit records for this building (C100/213-217) contains LG West, Son & Hornibrooke's original specifications for this building. Although they are difficult to read, they indicate that the property was to be cleared of the previous building by the firm's employees prior to construction of this building.

The ground floor of the new building was designed as two shops. The original plans show Shop 1 on the Lombard Street side of the building was the larger of the two and that the stairs ran upstairs from it. This was the Ward Bros shop, and the upstairs area served as the firm's wallpaper showroom. The showroom was dominated by leadlight windows and by a large and elaborate domed leadlight skylight. 

The 1937 book From Swamp to City: Commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of the City[9]includes the above photo of the near new building, and also an article entitled: Ward Bros Record of Progress. It states that a few businesses in Palmerston North afford an example of consistent progress so striking as that of Ward Bros. Briefly, a business started in a washhouse twenty-six years ago today has one of the most architecturally modern premises in the whole of the city.

It was in 1911 that Mr WE Ward and his brother, Mr EE Ward, commenced in the washhouse of the former, who was living in Bourke Street, a humble business as painters and decorators.  The reliability of their workmanship soon won them some credit, and about eighteen years ago they were able to move to premises in Cuba Street.  There they set to work to cater for diverse decorative needs, and two years ago had the pleasure of opening up the modern shop and showroom which they conduct today. The building itself is designed on most unusual lines, and is an asset to the architecture of any city.

There is also a workshop attached to the premises, employing a considerable staff of highly competent men. Painters and decorators carry out skilled work of many kinds, for Ward Bros are, among other things, mirror-makers, brilliant cutters, and picture framers.

In the showroom itself, there is today a very large range of English wallpapers. An important and popular agency is that for Berger's paints.

An important department of the business is that devoted to the provision of plate glass, while all classes of glass for motorcars are also stocked, including triplex glass.

Carrying stocks to suit all tastes, with a large following of satisfied customers, Ward Bros. occupy a position in the community which can be attributed only to the absolute integrity of their trading, the courtesy of their business conduct, and the readiness with which at any time they advise all who wish to avail themselves of their accumulated knowledge.

The business grew considerably and by the time the Second Word War broke out, they had a staff of 22. However, not all ran smoothly. Firstly, Eliza Ward died in Auckland on 17 August 1937, aged 84[10], followed by William's wife Lillian, who died on 29 September 1937 aged 56. Then Edward died suddenly on 23 March 1943, aged 51.

In 1944, Edward's share of the partnership was transferred to his wife Ada, who was to act as administrator. The property was then transferred to Ward Bros PN Ltd in 1947, and a new CT was issued the same year - WN 522/280. In addition to the original property, this CT added part of the back yards of the Lombard Street Sections 9, 10 and 11 of DP 352, and also a right of way to Lombard Street through Section 9.

William subsequently married Vera Isabel Mary (previous surname unknown), and they had a son, Raymond, born when his father was aged 57. William then died on 22 March 1950 aged 65, his death notices sharing the same newspaper column as the seventh anniversary memorials to his brother. Edward's widow Ada, by then of Manawatu Heads, Foxton, died on 6 June 1951, aged 59.[11]

Despite the setback of losing its founders at relatively young ages, the business continued. Raymond Ward, known as Ray, began working for the business in 1956.[12]

In 1969 an article in The Tribune outlined the firm's history and its current activities. It undertook all kinds of glazing work; did safety glass work on cars; reinstated shop fronts, contract glazing and picture framing. Staff at this time included: Mr M Howell, who was the manager, Ray Ward, who was a director, and his mother Vera was also still active in the business. Other staff members were Mr I McRae, Mr W Bethell and the apprentice Mr H Hughes.[13]

In 1972 the firm added a new glass store to their buildings. This was located at 87 Lombard Street, and the extension traced to a plan devised by William Ward years earlier. It then gave the firm a total storage and work area of 4,100 square feet.[14] The Building Permit records state that in 1975, a wall was added to the premises at 217 Cuba Street, at a cost of $2,000.

Shop 2
WA Pickup, a manufacturer's agent who was listed at 175 Cuba Street in the 1939 Wise's Directory, possibly occupied Shop 2 (Ward Bros' address was then 173 Cuba Street). By the 1944 Directory, the National Cash Register Company NZ Ltd occupied the shop, and that company remained there until the 1950-51 Directory. Thereafter there is no separate occupant listed for Shop 2.

After NCR's departure, Ward Bros opened up the wall between the two shops and used the whole area. The paint department was in the Shop 2 area, while the mirrors and the picture-framing area were in Shop 1. The façade downstairs was also altered then.[15]

Changes of use
Vera Ward died on 21 April 1980, and this timeframe also marked a change in the story of the firm and this building.

The business was sold in 1981, with the paint and wallpaper section of the firm going to the PWF Home Decorating Centre, which remained in the Ward Bros building. The glass section of the business was sold to Keith Seiverts, and the 1982 phonebook lists it as Ward Glass of 85 Lombard Street. Ray Ward continued working as a picture framer upstairs. The PNCC Building Permit files include a 1981 application to repair the wall between the building's two occupiers.

The property was subdivided in 1985 and the portion containing this building was issued CT WN27D/944, being Lot 2 DP 53140.

PWF moved out of the building in 1987 and then Wilson's Army & Navy Store leased the premises. Unsourced notes in the Historic Places Trust file on this building (probably an interview with Ray Ward) say that around this time (c1987), the partition between the two former shops was reinstated, with Wilson's have one side and Ray Ward the other. However, that might be the aforementioned 1981 repair work.

In 1990, an application was made to fit out the upper floor of the building as a restaurant for BJ Meekings. A permit was also applied for relating to access/egress for the restaurant. The stairs were to be moved from the middle of the showroom, to a set of stairs on either side of the building, where restaurant customers would have direct access from the road. The entrance to the ground floor shop was also to be altered.

The phonebook listings indicate that in about 1991, Ray Ward established his furniture shop called Leonardos on the ground floor, selling furniture made from new and recycled timber. This business relocated from the shop in about 2004, doubtless coinciding with the sale of the property in 2004. Star Secondhand Books & Music then moved into the shop, where it remains. The Spostato Italian restaurant was listed in the phonebook at this address between 1991 and 2008, and it has recently reopened under new management.

The Ward Bros building was awarded Category II status with the NZ Historic Places Trust on 13 December 1996. As a result, the Manawatu Evening Standard interviewed Ray Ward about the building in January 1997. At the time his intentions were to restore the entire building to its original splendour, including the frontage. He stated that he "remembers now with sadness when the ground floor frontage was being redesigned and seeing the original bevelled glass doors and windows being removed and taken to the dump."[16]

However, this goal was not to be in Ray Ward's time. The property was transferred to the present owner, Raymo Properties Ltd in 2004. Raymo Properties Ltd, in turn, is owned by Maurice Lionel Ray and Moreen Janet Ray, and was registered as a company on 16 April 2004.[17]

The old firm Ward Bros still exists, although whether or not it is still trading has not been researched. It is owned by Ray and Nesta Ward, now of Masterton. It was first registered on 17 September 1946 as Ward Bros PN Ltd, however, the name was altered to Ward Bros PN Ltd in 1999.[18]

Architectural Description 

The building is designed in the Inter-War Art Deco style with  a symmetrical, shallow stepped façade, horizontal stepped parapet style, sunburst, linen fold, and zigzag decoration on the exterior.  The first floor has a central stepped bay window while the ground floor has two timber framed shop fronts.

The original drawings show the ground floor divided longitudinally into two shops with a chamfered ingo serving both shops.  Both shops are divided into a front display area and smaller working area and toilets at the rear.  The east shop has central stairs leading to the first floor, which is divided, centrally into two spaces

The drawings shows the building being constructed of reinforced concrete and cement render and timber joinery.  The bay window  has leaded toplights.

Statement of Significance 

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

This building has high historic values in its associations with the Ward family who established their painting, glazing, and paperhanging business in the building and who worked from it from 1935 to 1981 and one member, Ray, operating again from it 1991 to 2004.

The building also has high historic values in its historical association 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 the Carlton Hotel (1927).

The building has high design values as a an exceptional example of the Inter- War Free Art Deco style, which is rare in Palmerston North.

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, particularly above the shopfronts.

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

[2]Manawatu Evening Standard 24 March 1943 2(6)

[3]Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Vol 6 (Christchurch, 1908), p689; WJ Lauridsen, Linton 1889-1989: A School and District Centennial History (Palmerston North, 1989), p126. Note that the index of the latter book mixes up George Ward senior and George J Ward junior.

[4]Manawatu Evening Standard 17 October 1911 5(1), 8 July 1914 5(2), 10 July 1914 5(2), 21 August 1937 2(7)

[5]Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Vol 6 (Christchurch, 1908), p677

[6]Manawatu Evening Standard 15 October 1908 5(1) & 13 July 1912 7(4)

[7]Manawatu Evening Standard 31 January 1935 2(1)

[8] Building Permit Register, Vol 3, p405; 'Art Deco Jewel in Manawatu' in Community Manawatu, April 1998, Vol 2, issue 4 (Ward Bros, A175/381 'Businesses.', Ian Matheson City Archives, PN City Library. PNCC Cemetery online records. Ian Bowman & Michael Kelly, Palmerston North CBD Heritage Inventory (1994), No 14 1931, 1935 & 1938 Palmerston North Electoral Rolls, 1935 & 1938 Manawatu Electoral Rolls.

[9] Robert H Billens & H Leslie Verry, From Swamp to City: Commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of the City (Palmerston North, 1937), unnumbered page: 'Ward Bros' Record of Progress.

[10]Manawatu Evening Standard 21 August 1937 2(7) Note that George, Eliza and Stanley Ward's grave at Terrace End Cemetery is decorated with a tall monument and a black and white rectangular tile mosaic covering half the plot, that resembles a large leadlight window or perhaps more correctly a 'skylight'.

[11]Manawatu Evening Standard 30 September 1937 1(1); 23 March 1943 1(1); 24 March 1943 2(6); 23 March 1950 1(1); PNCC Cemetery records.

[12] Unsourced and undated notes in HPT Manawatu file No 144 on this building, which are probably information obtained from Ray Ward.

[13]The Tribune, 'Central City Review', August 1969, p7

[14]Manawatu Evening Standard 8 June 1972, p10

[15] Unsourced notes in HPT file No 144

[16] 'Inbusiness' supplement, in Manawatu Evening Standard 27 January 1997.

[17] Companies Office website: Company No 1505173

[18] Companies Office website: Company No 4949.