News & Events

23-25 Coleman Place - Former Union Building

Former Union Building

Building Details

Building Name: Former Union building (now Studio 31)
Address: 23-25 Coleman Place
Construction date:  1922
Architect: E Larcomb
Builder:  Unknown
District Plan Category: Street Character 5
Building number: 99
NZHPT Classification:  Nil

Physical and Social History 

This building is one of a number around the central city (past and present) built by the Waldegrave family and the Waldegrave estate.  Its main occupancies have included teaching, producing and retailing as part of the clothing industry, garden supplies and books and stationery.  In recent years, its primary focus has been in the personal appearance industry.

Prior History
This property was originally granted to Robert Johnson, a tailor of Palmerston North, in 1876.  He leased it in 1877 to Thomas Moffatt, a butcher of Palmerston North, and thereafter the original two-storied wooden building on this site appears to have been occupied by butchers for its first several decades.  Johnson sold it to John James Waldegrave in 1880, and thereafter the property remained in the Waldegrave family until 1955.

After Thomas Moffatt, the property was leased to Joseph Dinsdale (occupation unknown, 4-year lease from 23 October 1883) and then Robert Bryant (butcher, 5-years, from 1 September 1892).  Notes referring to this building on PN City Library photo SQ112 describe this building as the 'City Butchery', which business was owned by Mr Miller when the photo was taken. The firm was then sold to William Reed by early 1886[1], and in due course he went into business with Frederick Bryant (almost certainly the brother of Robert Bryant), who subsequently became a property developer in post-1900s Palmerston North.[2]

The Wises' Directories of 1914-1922, advise that during the last few years, this building's two shops were occupied by cycle shops in the shop on the right, and by initially confectioners and then a Chinese fruiterer in the shop on the left.

This Building

The tender notice for this building was published in the Manawatu Evening Standard of 17 June 1922. Architect E Larcomb sought tenders for a brick building to be erected in Coleman Place, and these were to be addressed to the owner, HR Waldegrave, care of Dempsy & Litchfield.  This was the second attempt at seeking tenders for the building. The original notice a few days earlier did not include the location or the owner.[3]

No indication has been located to explain why this building was given the name Union Buildings, however, the name appears in the Wises' Directories from 1925 to 1960 (at least). Most likely it relates to the presence of the Union Bank of Australia which was (and its former premises still is) on the opposite side of Coleman Place.

The Owners

When John James Waldegrave (who bought the property in 1880) died in 1891, the property was transmitted to his children, Julia Mary Waldegrave (later wife of Flinders Scott McRae, of the still-extant McRae Homestead, Napier Road), Henry Richard Waldegrave II, Charles Edward Waldegrave and Frank Geoffrey Burton Waldegrave.  However, Julia died in 1894, four days after giving birth to her only child. In 1919 her share was transferred from trustees to her by now adult daughter, Julia Mary Waldegrave Rhind, nee McRae.[4]  Then Charles died on 24 August 1920, aged 65, and two of his six children received his share.

Henry Richard Waldegrave, whose name is listed as owner in the building's 1922 tender notice, died aged 70 on 18 December 1923.  Two of his sons and a son-in-law, GC Keeble, (of his six children) inherited his share.  As at 1923, Frank Waldegrave was living in retirement in England.  Although his date of death in not apparent, his name was substituted with that of the Public Trustee in 1927.

The Waldegrave family were farmers.  John James Waldegrave arrived in New Zealand in 1855 (from England, via Sydney), and eventually arrived in Palmerston North in 1872, and took up land at Fitzherbert East (opposite Te Matai).  His sons HR and CE Waldegrave also farmed very successfully in the area, with H.. Waldegrave developing a very good farm at Awapuni.  He retired in the early 1900s.[5]

By 1952, Julia (by then of Auckland) owned a quarter of the property, with the rest held by the Public Trustee and the NZ Insurance Company. Then in 1955, her share was also transferred to the Public Trustee (⅔ share) and the NZ Insurance Co. (⅓ share), and these two organisations ran the property until it was sold to the Bares family in 1973.

The new partnership comprised of John Bares (restaurateur ½ share), Peter Bares (retired restaurateur ¼ share) and Maria Bares, married woman ¼ share). The Bares partnership also adapted to departures/deaths of members and their replacements by other members of the family. By 2001 it was solely owned by John Bares. It was transferred to the current owner, Melville House Ltd, in 2003.


Occupancy of this building has included a number of retailers and others involved in the clothing industry. As well as an outfitter, a milliner and a costumer, the building accommodated furriers between at least 1925 and 1960, dressmakers in the 1930s, and a school of dressmaking throughout the 1930s.

The two furriers traded from this building for around forty years. The PNCC cemetery records list Henry Herbert Blandford, a furrier, who died on 27 August 1948, aged 57, and Muriel Irene Scoble, who died on 23 March 1973, aged 81. Miss Scoble lived in a flat in the Nash Building in George Street in the 1930s and 1940s, but lived in Rangiora Ave. at the time of her death. The cemetery records list her occupation as spinster, despite her having still apparently been working as a furrier until at least 1960, by which time she would have been aged about 68.

The two shops also had long histories with single lines of business. The shop on the right has been a bookseller and/or stationer from the 1930s to the present, albeit with the occupancy in the mid-1990s not having been traced. The 1967 phonebook lists both Fox's Stationers and Wills Bookshop as being at the same address and with the same phone number. However, EJ & AE Wills Ltd had occupied this shop since at least 1963 when they had the front of the shop altered.

By the early 1930s, the shop on the left side was occupied by RE Harrison & Co. This firm - which later had a well-known garden centre in Albert Street - used this shop as a retail outlet until about 1965. The next occupant was Garden Supplies, which already had a garden centre at Avon House in Broadway (about where Downtown now is), and the Coleman Place Garden Supplies shop last appeared in the phone book in 1973.

Occupancy of this shop was not again traced until 1986, when Studio 31 was first listed in the phonebook, with separate phone numbers for the firm Golden Tan Solarium Ltd, Reflexions Hair Design and Super Nail. The Studio 31 website[6] does not provide any background to the business, but does list other present-day Studio 31 shops in Feilding, Taihape, Foxton and Wanganui.

Additions & Alterations

PNCC Building Permit file C70/33 for Wills' Bookshop includes the March 1963 plans by Durrant & Cantlon for changing the front entrance of the shop from the old style deeply stepped-in central entrance, to a sliding door on the right side of the frontage, and sited near the edge of the footpath. This work included re-using existing glass and installing glazed tiles beneath the window.

The PNCC Building Permit file C70/29-31 includes a permit application to convert a shop into the Athenia Milk Bar for P Nicoletatos, dated 1 February 1968. However, this appears to be for the neighbouring building, which Nicoletatos then owned - although his restaurant, then called the Athenian Lounge, moved into this building in about 1980. This business appears for the last time, still in this building, in the 1983 phone book. Nicoletatos had died in 1982.[7]

In 1981, the Scotch Wool Shop applied for a permit for a new shop front for their shop at 31 Coleman Place. The phonebook lists their address as 31A Coleman Place, and so it is not clear where in the building this shop was located. Previously this shop was at 18-20 Coleman Place, and later (from the 1992 phonebook) it was as at 198 The Square.

The main information recorded in the file relates to alterations to the building done for the CA Thompson Family Trust in 1985, by Ormond Stock & Associates, Consulting Engineers. A permit application in February 1985 sought to alter the shop at 29 Coleman Place. This involved striping out all electrical work back to the main board under the stairs, while leaving intact all wiring to the upstairs tenancy, which was a billiard saloon. The upper floor was to be propped up to ensure that the floor did not sag. The central partition and a partition  across the back of the building were to be demolished. A new steel support beam was to then be installed to support tie upper floor. The kitchen area of the previous coffee lounge was also to be thoroughly cleaned.

In June 1985, Golden Tan Solarium Ltd. applied to undertake internal alterations to the upper floor of the building. This work appears to have involved installing a shower, three hand basins, a sink and a hot water cylinder.

Shop nearest Rangitikei Street
Wises 1925 - Mrs M Bevan, outfitter
Stones 1933 - Martin Leonard, stationer
Wises 1936-54 - 33 Coleman Pl - Martin Leonard, stationer
Wises, 1957-60 - 33 Coleman P - Fox's Stationers Ltd
Bdg Permit file 1963 - EJ & AE Wills Ltd change shop front (file C70/33)                      
Phonebook 1967 - Fox's last entry & Wills' first entry - same phone number
Photo ST67 ES 26/2/1973 - Wills Bookshop
1991 phonebook - Wills Bookshop last entry (1992 only at 1 The Square)
About 1998-now - now 25 Coleman Pl - The Bookshelf

First Floor  (was 31 Coleman Pl)
Wises 1925 - Macpherson & Randle, milliner; Jno King, watch specialist; Miss Evelyn Trask, costumer
Stones, 1933 - Miss Muriel Irene Scoble, furrier; Mrs Annie Maclean, school of dressmaking; Purser & Martin (Misses Annie Amelia Purser & Barbara B Martin), dressmakers
Wises, 1936 - Ms Murial Scoble, fur representative; Mrs Annie Maclean, teacher of dressmaking
Wises, 1939 - Ms Murial Scoble, fur representative; Ms E. Pavelka (sic), teacher of dressmaking
Wises, 1950-60 - Miss Muriel I Scoble, furrier;
1981-91 - 31A Coleman Pl - Scotch Wool Shop (Bdg Permit file & phonebooks)
c1985 - An unidentified billiard saloon (perhaps Deluxe Billiard Saloon displaced from the neighbouring building)
1986 - now - Studio 31 and/or Golden Tan Solarium Ltd

Shop nearest George Street
Wises 1925 - Henry H Blandford, furrier
Stones 1933 - RE Harrison & Co, seedsmen
Phonebook 1965 - RE Harrison & Co, nurserymen (last entry - also of Albert St)
Phonebook 1966 - Garden Supplies (first entry - also Avon House, Broadway))
1973 phonebook - 29 Coleman Pl - Garden Supplies, DH Trim, proprietor
Phonebooks 1980-83 - 29 Coleman Pl - Athenian Lounge, coffee bar
1986-now - Studio 31

Most notable and most confusing amongst the occupants of this building are the number who have come and gone between other buildings in and close to Coleman Place. The Scotch Wool Shop was in three different buildings over the years, while Wills Bookshop and the Athenian Lounge were each in two different buildings. The Deluxe Billiard Saloon may have relocated to this building from its neighbour, along with the Athenian Lounge. Deluxe Billiard Saloon is the only one advertised in the phonebook around 1985 as being in Coleman Place.

Architectural Description

The building is designed in the Inter-War Free Classical style where Classical elements and details are used in the façade design in a non-academic manner.  The façade design has a parapet with pilasters, a highly ornate and exaggerated cornice with central pilaster in the first floor and large windows either side.  The windows and pilaster are framed with Classical mouldings.  The below verandah design has been modified so that its original design cannot be determined.

Drawings available from the PNCC archives do not show overall planning or construction so that no comments can be made.  The exterior is cement rendered.

The architect, Ernest Larcomb, designed a number of significant buildings in Palmerston North.  These include the main public hospital, many shops around the Square, and several large houses such as the Wattles, the Empire, Albion and Occidental Hotels.

Statement of Signifcance 

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

This building has moderatehistoric associations with the Waldegrave family, who owned and built a number of buildings in the city. The original and later ownership and tenants reflects moderate levels of continuity in beinga typical pattern of similar commercial buildings throughout the city.

The building has moderate historic values in being associated with locally significant architect, Ernest Larcomb.

The building has moderate design values as a good representative example of the Free Classical style of the inter-war period. 

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 exterior of the building has moderate levels of authenticity

[1]Manawatu Evening Standard regular advert including 10 March 1886 1(3)

[2]Manawatu Evening Standard, 19 June 1939 8(2); See also the Bryant buildings at 201-207 Cuba Street. An item published in the Manawatu Daily Times of 17 May 1922 4(2) describes F Bryant's beef prices in that newspaper in 1897. The Times' for the period 1885-1899 were destroyed about ninety years ago.

[3] 'Palmerston North Architects', Pam Phillips Papers, Vol 5, p32, Ian Matheson City Archives, PN City Library. Manawatu Evening Standard 12 June 1922 6(6), 17 June 1922 6(4).

[4] Julia senior died of pleurisy on 22 August 1894, four days after giving birth to Julia junior (Ref: 'Notes on the McRae Homestead, Napier Road', September 1997, by Val Burr)

[5]Manawatu Evening Standard 24 August 1920 5(1), 19 December 1923 5(2)

[7]Manawatu Evening Standard 27 April 1982, p23