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245-251 Cuba Street - Oroua Buildings

Oroua -Buildings

Building Details

Building Name: Oroua Buildings
Address: 245-251 Cuba Street
Construction date: 1929
Architect: R Thorrold-Jaggard
Builder:  Trevor Bros
District Plan Category: Street Character 11
Building number: 89
Heritage NZ Category: Nil

Physical and Social History 

This building was originally designed as six offices and four shops, but within months, the offices had become five one-bedroom flats and a bed-sit. The building was incorporated into the main Cosmopolitan Club facility next door from 1975, and the Oroua Building's story throughout its existence has been significantly entangled with that of its neighbour.

Prior History
This property was purchased in 1903 from Maria Josephine Jones, the widow of a coach driver. At the time, the property included a cottage. In 1912, she sold the rest of her Cuba Street land between this site and Taonui Street, to the Working Men's Club - that being the future site of the Cosmopolitan Club building.

The Palmerston North Working Men's Club & Literary Institute had been formed as a Chartered Club in 1889. It was to be renamed the Palmerston North Cosmopolitan Club in 1927. The club had rented two nearby buildings (in succession) since 1889, and by 1902 it was seeking somewhere more permanent. It purchased land in Church Street between the (former) police station and the Baptist Church (now the site of the Abbey Musical Theatre). However, a petition from the church, followed by a letter from the Colonial Secretary, resulted in the decision to sell the section to the Masonic Lodge for £400 and to look elsewhere.

The decision was duly made to buy this Cuba Street property - for £900, with a deposit of £50. Accordingly, the names of two of the club's trustees, William Beck and George McCarty, appear on CT WN130/114, which was issued on 3 December 1903. The CT records that the property was then transferred to the Trustees of the Palmerston North Working Men's Club & Literary Institute in September 1904.[1]

The club's new building was wooden and cost £1,500 to build. It was designed by architect E Larcomb and built by the Union Timber Co. Descriptions of it from its official opening on 30 November 1904, and reports on the fire there on 31 October 1925, indicate that its spacious billiard room was lofty, was well lighted, and had huge ventilators in the ceiling (which were needed to expel the large quantities of tobacco smoke that was to be anticipated in that era and that environment). At the time the club had two billiard tables, with a third one arriving in 1906, and from 1919, it had its own electricity generator.[2]

The cottage burnt down on 30 November 1905, and was not replaced. However, the insurance money contributed toward an additional billiard table, a committee room, bathroom, kitchen and a steward's bedroom at a cost of £850.[3] The impressive front entrance to the building is shown on page 28 of the club's centennial publication, alongside the partially constructed Cosmopolitan Club building. The appearance is of a tall double square bay building, with centrally-located front steps leading straight up from the main Cuba Street footpath. 

Although the club had outgrown the building by the mid-1920s, a key step on the road to the Oroua Building came at about 3:30pm on Saturday, 31 October 1925, when a club member evidently threw a match at a spittoon in the billiard room - and missed! The club was full, as members were awaiting the arrival, for a social afternoon and evening, of 26 members of the Wanganui Cosmopolitan Club.

As the flames raced up the wall cavity, drawn by the ventilators in the roof, those in the billiard room played on oblivious to what was happening alongside and above them. Even the man who threw water over the spittoon, had no idea what was happening behind the wall lining. At about the same time, the club manager entered the building and smelt smoke (other than the usual tobacco smoke). By the time he obtained a ladder and opened the manhole, the flames were crossing the ceiling toward the ventilators. Even as the manager ran for the nearby fire brigade in Coleman Place (because the club's phone was engaged), those in the club were unaware of how serious the fire was until the billiard room filled with smoke.

When the fire was extinguished, only the desolate billiard room appeared very different to normal. The exterior wall on the Taonui Street side had only three or four feet of charring, while the billiard room wall had a strip of burnt out wall about a foot wide, going from floor to ceiling. However, the ceiling structure was badly charred and part collapsed under the weight of a fireman, who was able to grab a stud in time to avoid a significant drop to the floor below. Meanwhile, the Commercial Travellers' Club in George Street took in the displaced local and Wanganui club members (the latter having arrived just as the fire was found) and a euchre tournament was held.[4]

The repairs, costing £1,100, were soon completed. However, the club increasingly recognised that the building was entirely inadequate for its needs. On 29 January 1927, members at a special meeting unanimously approved a proposal to build a new club building on the neighbouring section. The new (brick) Cosmopolitan Club building was officially opened on 15 August 1928, and the old (wooden) building was then disposed of to Arthur Hopwood Hardware Co Ltd for £4,000 in November 1928.[5]

The Oroua Building

The fate of the front portion of the then 25-year-old former Working Men's Clubrooms has not been researched, although clearly it was gone by 1929. However, aerial photos indicate that a substantial portion of the former clubrooms survived for many years.

Well-known architect Reginald Thorrold-Jaggard designed the Oroua Building, and tenders were called to build it in the Manawatu Evening Standard of 12 December 1928. The tender was to build four shops and offices in brick and concrete for A Hopwood Esq on the site of the old Workingmen's Club.[6] The original plans for this building - which show the name 'Oroua Buildings' on the façade - indicate that at first it was intended to have six offices upstairs. The permit to build it was issued on 11 January 1929, and the successful tenderer was well-known local building firm, Trevor Bros Ltd.

Three of the shops were the same width, with the two on the Taonui Street side being identical. The third shop was shortened due to the stairs to the first floor being behind it, while the fourth - on the Rangitikei Street side of the building - was significantly narrower. This reduced width made allowance for the width of the passageway near the centre of the building that allowed access to the first floor. All four shops, along with the six offices, had small sinks or hand basins. However, the only toilets in the building were three cubicles on the first floor. Four of the offices also had skylights.

The six offices presumably proved less practical than Hopwood originally hoped. A permit issued on 8 July 1929, some seven months after the original tenders were advertised, was to alter the offices to five one-bedroom flats, and a bed-sit - with the builder being "self." All the flats had their own baths and sink units (both in the same small cubicle), along with gas stoves and ventilators in the adjoining living rooms, although, they still shared the three toilets. Windows measuring 3 ft x 3 ft were also to be installed in the walls between the kitchen/bath cubicles and the living room of each flat, below the skylights. Toilets were also to be installed in each of the four shops.[7]

Arthur Hopwood Hardware Co Ltd, & their many flats
The story of the firm Arthur Hopwood Hardware Co Ltd and the people associated with it is the subject of Keith Goldsack's book, More Than Hardware: Arthur Hopwood and the business he founded, published in 2000. The firm was founded in 1900, incorporated in 1912, and its present incarnation is the Palmerston North Mitre 10 Mega Store. The firm features in the backgrounds of two other buildings covered in this study - the UFSD and Mowlem buildings, both in The Square.

Wellington-born Arthur Hopwood arrived in Palmerston North in 1898 aged 23. His Lancashire-born father, James, was a builder in Wellington, and contracts he undertook included Wellington's first brick building. He specialised in brick buildings, and, after moving to Palmerston North, also opened a sash & door sawmill in Princess Street. Arthur's first business role in Palmerston North was as a partner in a hardware store, while also working for a builder. From this he graduated to purchasing Beale Bros Ironmongery business in 1900. The business prospered and he was to own Palmerston North's third motorcar (the town's first car having arrived in 1902). Then in 1916, the firm moved to Main Street (the Downtown parking building site) and eventually expanded through to Broadway (now the Downtown theatre site), where the shop remained until 1989.

The latter 1920s were significant to both the firm and Arthur Hopwood himself. In mid-November 1928 - at the same time as Hopwood was buying the former Working Men's Club land - he also bought (after some haggling) the nearby Rangitikei Street hardware business, Manson & Barr Ltd, by a transfer of fully-paid shares to the value of £35,000.

In 1928 also, Hopwood was chairman of a small committee that assisted the City Council with the purchase of the McHardy Estate at Fitzherbert. The committee's role was to persuade the local citizens to support raising a loan to buy the land - and to then give it to the Government as a site for an agricultural college. The eventual result of this was Massey University.

In 1919, Hopwood had become a foundation member of the local YMCA, and he was an active supporter of many of its goals for young people throughout his life. This included organising the building party that built the YMCA Boys Camp at Totara Reserve in the 1920s, now known as Camp Rangi Woods.[8] He remained active with the organisation until retiring as a director in 1954.

The Hopwood Hardware publication (p34) states that by the 1950s, Arthur Hopwood, had become:  A relatively heavy investor in rental property, and (that he) took a personal interest in the properties he bought. He was a keen draughtsman, and actually did the drawings himself for alterations to various buildings. His properties were rented to both business and private tenants. There was considerable demand for housing in the city, and Arthur helped fill the need with housing that was basic and affordable, rather than luxurious.

The book goes on to list a number of buildings owned by the family in the 1950s and 1960s, including the Mayfair Flats (formerly the YWCA hostel) in Queen Street, Trenton House (formerly the PNBHS hostel) in North Street, and Cranleigh Apartment House in Fitzherbert Avenue. Other large old houses about the city were also converted to flats. Even the hardware shop in Main Street had about 15 single room flats of varying standards upstairs, which were typical of the accommodation also provided as Cranleigh (a genteel home with 25 rooms and a lady supervisor), Mayfair and Trenton House.

The Oroua Building is not mentioned in the book. However, it too must rank along side these as an early flat conversion almost certainly designed by Arthur Hopwood himself. The permit details stamped on the back of the alteration plans indicates that Arthur Hopwood was also to be the builder.

The Hopwood flats were intended to house the many young people then coming to Palmerston North to work in banks, insurance companies, government departments and retail shops - at a time when flatting was not common. Each room would be partially furnished, including linoleum throughout, bedstead, kapok mattress, settee with squab, duchess, tallboy, wardrobe with rods, clothes rack, table, chairs, urn (copper) and stand, electric or gas stove, electric breakfast cooker, mirror and cupboard. Usually (but not in the Oroua Building) residents in the sets of flats also shared communal bathrooms and kitchens. Those in the Oroua Building only shared their toilet block - which contained two women's toilets and one for men.

There has been no indication as to why Hopwood chose the well-known locality name Oroua for this building in 1929. There has also been no indication of a connection to the Cosmopolitan Club in terms of Hopwood's purchase of the property. He was, however, a keen freemason and at one time a master of the Manawatu Kilwinning Lodge, No 47.

Arthur Hopwood died aged 82 on 20 September 1957 after a long history of contributing to his community. He is particularly remembered through his donation of the Hopwood Clocktower in The Square in 1954. The somewhat quirky history of this building and its tiny flat conversions - probably to Hopwood's own draughtsmanship - can also claim social as well as historic significance in relation to Hopwood.[9]

The Oroua Hall
Over some thirty years, the various Wises' and Stones' Directories consulted for this study, list a hall in conjunction with this building and place its access point at the same street address as the first floor flats in this building - the street number having those of two of the building's shops on either side of it. The hall is most often identified throughout this period as the Oroua Hall, but is also identified in the 1933 Stones' Directory as the Palmerston North Mission. A regular newspaper notice in January 1934 advertises a Sunday School, Bible Classes, and a Sunday evening meeting to held at the Oroua Hall.[10] Throughout the 1950s, it was listed as the Red Cross Hall.

Almost certainly the Oroua Hall was once a substantial part of the former Working Men's Club building, as it seems unlikely that Hopwood would have built a new hall there. Although that building has been only minimally researched for this study, some aspects are relevant and/or worth noting.

The Cosmopolitan Club Centennial history (p27) records that at first the sale of the old clubrooms to Arthur Hopwood seemed like a good idea. However, one aspect was overlooked, and this was access to Hopwood's property from Taonui Street. When Hopwood requested permission to use this access, the Cosmopolitan Club declined. The club then erected a brick wall in unseemly haste to enforce this. However, after legal opinions were taken, the wall was removed and a gate installed, which led to further recriminations when it was left open. The problem remained unresolved until 1963 when the Cosmopolitan Club re-purchased the land (and old building) behind the Oroua Building.

In 1999, late City Archivist Ian Matheson, interviewed solicitor Jack Bennett, whose father built the Carlton Hotel and owned it for many years. Ian noted that Jack confirmed that Arthur Hopwood had a lot of sub-standard accommodation around Palmerston North and wondered how he was allowed to achieve this.[11]

In relation to this large old wooden hall, Hopwood appears to have built the Oroua Building across the front of the section and left a narrow passage only five feet wide through the new building - that was also intended to be shared by the tenants of the six offices, that soon became six tiny flats. Meanwhile, the Cosmopolitan Club did not welcome access to Taonui Street from hall users - in the form firstly of a brick wall and then by the installation of a gate. Warehouses and old shops blocked the remaining boundaries to the property. One wonders what potential disaster might have happened had another fire broken out in the old building, given the large number of people a hall of that size was capable of holding.

The problem was resolved in 1963, when the Cosmopolitan Club bought back its former property - excluding the Oroua Building - for £4,750 after some Arabian-type bargaining by both parties. The club then demolished the old building and a new billiard room (built by JL McMillan & Co Ltd) that accommodated five billiard tables, was built in its place. This room was accessed from the main club building. It was officially opened on 9 December 1963 in time for the club's 75th Jubilee.[12]

Finally in 1975, the Cosmopolitan Club added the Oroua Building itself to its property listing at a cost of $86,000. This increased the club's Cuba Street frontage to 42.6 metres. By that time, the Oroua Building's complement had been reduced to three shops and five flats.[13]

A 1987 proposal to demolish the building and to incorporate its site into a redeveloped Cosmopolitan Club came to nothing when the club chose to relocate its clubrooms to Pitt Street.[14]

Additions & Alterations
PNCC Building Permit files for the Cosmopolitan Club building next door  (C100/233-239) include plans for the September 1965 amalgamation of Shops 3 and 4, the two shops at the Rangitikei Street end of the building. The eastern-most shop had been a café since the 1940s, and now this was expanded to include the larger former jeweller's shop. These two shops had been smaller than the other two. This work was done for Mrs and Mrs Bereczki by the architect George N Callander. The plans indicate that Shop 4's front door had been changed from the original prior to that time. However, Shop 3 still had its original set-in front door until then.

In 1978, Walker Love & Associates designed extensive additions and alterations to the whole Cosmopolitan Club and Oroua building complex. This included turning what was previously Shop 2, into a direct street entrance/exit to the 1963 billiard room - which was also extended at the back to the Better Bargins shop's present length. The plans show that the original set-in front door was still in place in Shop 2 until then. This was the last set-in door to go.

Also noticeable on the 1978 plan is a small extension containing two toilets at the back of the narrow passage through the building that possibly once led to the Oroua Hall - in addition to providing access to the first floor. This block separates the back wall of the Oroua Building and the wall of the 1963 billiard room that was closest to Cuba Street. There is no indication when or by whom the toilet block might have been installed.

PNCC Building Permit file C100/245-279 'Oroua Building' contains a 1987 application for internal alterations to a shop for James Hardie Impey, valued at $77,000. This might be Impey's Paint Wallpaper and Drapers, which only appears in the 1988 phonebook, listed as Cuba St, but with no street number to confirm its location in the building.

Building Permit File C100/251 covering Katie Tan's restaurant (a former occupant of Grandma's Roast House), has a 1995 application for a verandah sign for Kah Hong Tan. In 1999 a building consent for a large sign on the exterior of the building for Tan's business, The Coffee Shop of 251 Cuba St, was cancelled on Tan's instruction. The shop last appears in the 2001 phonebook.

Ownership since 1963
CT WNB1/1063 (issued 1963) states that The Arthur Hopwood Hardware Company Ltd, sold the building to Johannes Theodorus Schrama, a builder of PN, in 1968. He sold it to The PN Cosmopolitan Club in 1975. The next owner, in 1990, was Kah Hong Tan, a PN businesswoman, who also bought the Cosmopolitan building next door. She sold both buildings to Mountain Productions Ltd. in 2006.

Shop 1 - Taonui St end
Stones 1933 - Electrolux Ltd branch, D Bell representative
Wises 1936 - nil
Wises 1939 - 207 Cuba St - Marshall Jones, butcher
Wises 1944 - 255 Cuba St - Reginald T McGrane, butcher
Wises 1953-60 - 255 Cuba St - J Clark, butcher
Phonebook 1977 - 255 Cuba St - Cosmopolitan Butchery (final entry in phonebook)
1994 - Tattoo shop (ref: 1994 CBD Heritage Inventory photo)
2006 - RSPCA Shop (ref: cover photo, PN Historical Soc Inc, Mather Papers, Cuba Street)
2010 - 245 Cuba St - Carolann Collections, bridal wear

Shop 2 - now entrance to Better Bargins
Stones 1933 - 209 Cuba St- Mrs Lily A Northey, grocer
Wises 1936 - nil
Wises 1939 - 209 Cuba St - Mrs Vera B Gray, wardrobe dealer
Wises 1950-51 - 257 Cuba St - Joseph Boucher, cycle dealer
Wises 1953-7 - 257 Cuba St - J Boucher & Son, cycle dealers
Wises 1959-60 - 257 Cuba St - Boucher Cycles, cycle dealers
Phonebook 1978 - 257 Cuba St - Joe Boucher Cycles - then converted to entrance to billiard room
2010 - 247 Cuba St - entrance to Better Bargains secondhand shop

Ground floor - former 1904 Working Men's Clubrooms
Stones 1933 - 211 Cuba St - Palm Nth Mission: Oroua Hall
Wises 1936-9 - 211 Cuba St - Oroua Hall
Wises 1944 - 259 Cuba St - nil
Wises 1950-60 - 259 Cuba St - Red Cross Hall
1963 - Demolished and replaced by billiard room, now Better Bargins secondhand shop

First Floor access - 6 flats, later reduced to 5
Stones 1933 - 211A Cuba St - Thomas Joseph Jacques, fishmonger; Solomon Abrahams, bowser assistant; James Adamson, insurance agent; Frank Gillham, traveller; Mrs May Tuckwell
Wises 1936-9 - 211A Cuba St - Mrs Adela Thomson
Wises 1944 - 259 Cuba St - John H Reidy, traveller; Mrs A Apes; Mrs Adela Thomson; Walter W Briden-Jones
Wises 1950-51 - 259 Cuba St - H Ballard, salesman; Mrs MA Gordon; Walter W Briden-Jones; Mrs J Ironsides; D Wilton
Wises 1953-4 - 259 Cuba St - CG Retemyer, Mrs G Lyne, Mrs F Cunningham, Mrs H Tinsley, Val Lloyd, Walter W Briden-Jones
Wises 1957 - 259 Cuba St - CG Retemyer, Mrs G Lyne, Mrs PL Pearson, Mrs Ellen Briden-Jones
Wises 1959-60 - 259 Cuba St - NZ Red Cross Soc Inc, Mrs Daisy Lyne, Mrs Ellen Briden-Jones, Mrs Phyllis L Pearson

Shop 3
Stones 1933 - 213 Cuba St - A Mortland & Co, land & commission agents
Wises 1936 - 213 Cuba St - The London Assurance
Wises 1939 - 213 Cuba St - HC Watson, library
Wises 1944 - 261 Cuba St - John Emmett, music dealer
Wises 1950-51 - 261 Cuba St - A Reid, Jeweller
Wises 1953-60 - 261 Cuba St - CG Hyde & Co Ltd, watchmakers & jeweller
Plan 1965 - alterations to shops 263 Cuba St for Mr & Mrs Bereczki - combining Shops 3 & 4

Shop 4 - nearest Rangitikei St
1933-36 - 215 Cuba St - Fred Ansell Wort - tailor (Stones & Wises)
Wises 1939 - 215 Cuba St - Thomas Jenman, tobacconist
Wises 1944 - 263 Cuba St - Thomas J Jacques, café (who lived upstairs in 1933)
Wises 1950-4 - 263 Cuba St - MA Schiabi, cafe
Wises 1957-60 - 263 Cuba St - Club Café
Plan 1965 - alterations to shops 263 Cuba St for Mr & Mrs Bereczki (combine shops 3 & 4)
Phonebook 1977 - 263 Cuba St - Dong Fong Restaurant
Bdg Permit files c1995-c1999 - Katie Tan Restaurant 'The Coffee Shop' (last phonebook entry 2001)
2008-now - 249 Cuba St - Grandma's Roast House

The Oroua Building is connected to a very significant city businessman and community benefactor, and also reflects the accommodation needs of the c1930 workforce. It is also directly tied to the history of the PN Working Men's Club, later renamed the PN Cosmopolitan Club, over almost nine decades.

Architectural Description 

The building is designed in the Inter-War Stripped Classical style, which was a common commercial style in the period between the wars. The façade has the characteristic simplified Classical elements, such as the vertically and horizontally stepped parapet, simple cornice, simple pilasters with capitals at each corner, and multi-paned steel windows.  The below-verandah design seen in the original drawings shows recessed ingos with a central entry to the first floor.  It is apparent that the shopfronts have been modified.

The original plan shows the three equal sized and on small shop extending between the is on the north side of the building.  The central entry leads to w building wide corridor which gives access to stairs at the rear.  The first floor plan has four offices to the street elevation and two offices on the opposite side of the building all accessed from a central corridor.  Toilets are located on the north west corner above the smallest shop.

A later drawing shows the first floor offices converted into five one bedroom flats and one bed sitting room.

Construction is concrete floors and frame with brick exterior walls. 

Statment of Significance 

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

This building has moderatehistoric values in its connection to a very significant city businessman and community benefactor, while also reflecting the accommodation needs of the c1930 workforce. It is also directly tied to the history of the PN Working Men's Club, later renamed the PN Cosmopolitan Club, over almost nine decades.  

The building also has moderate historic values in its association with local architect, R Thorrald-Jaggard was the most prolific and well-known of the architects practising in Palmerston North on the latter half of the twentieth century.

The original and later ownership and tenants reflects a moderate level of continuity as a typical pattern of similar commercial buildings throughout the city.

The building has moderate design values as a goodrepresentative example of the Inter-War Free Classical style.

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]PN Cosmopolitan Club Jubilee Souvenir booklet (published 1939 - This copy in 'PN Cosmopolitan Club' research file A175/436, Ian Matheson City Archives, PN Public Library. Note that the booklet does not have page numbers); Centennial Committee, Palmerston North Cosmopolitan Club - Centennial: A recorded history of the club 1889-1989 (Palmerston North, 1989), p19-21

[2]Manawatu Evening Standard 1 December 1904, 7(4-5) & 2 November 1925 2(5); PN Cosmopolitan Club Jubilee Souvenir (1939); PN Cosmopolitan Club Centennial, p42

[3]PN Cosmopolitan Club Centennial, p22

[4]Manawatu Evening Standard 2 November 1925 2(5) & 8(5)

[5]PN Cosmopolitan Club Jubilee Souvenir; CT WN130/114

[6] PN Architects, Vol 5, p35, Pam Phillips Papers, Ian Matheson City Archives, PN City Library.

[7] Plan 141/255 'Oroua Buildings', PNCC 4/13/6, Drawer 19, also Permit 702 11/1/1929 & Permit 956 8/7/1929, Ian Matheson City Archives, PN City Library

[8] Note that the More Than Hardware book (p70) gives the Camp Rangi Woods establishment date as 1924, while Arthur Hopwood's MES 21/9/1957 obituary gives 1929 - the year the Oroua Building was completed. The matter was not further researched.

[9] Keith Goldsack, More Than Hardware: Arthur Hopwood and the business he founded (Palmerston North, 2000), pp 9, 11, 25, 34-36, 53, 57, 69-70, 75; Manawatu Evening Standard obituary 21 September 1957, p8; 10 October 1962, pp18-19; 18 November 1993, p23

[10]Manawatu Evening Standard 13 January 1934 1(1)

[11] Research file A175/286 Arthur Hopwood & Hopwood Hardware Co. Ltd, Ian Matheson City Archives, PN City Library

[12]PN Cosmopolitan Club Centennial, p32. Also PNCC Building Permit file C100/233-239 1963 plan of this room

[13]PN Cosmopolitan Club Centennial, p34

[14]PN Cosmopolitan Club Centennial, p37

[15] 1928 photo from the PN Cosmopolitan Club Centennial book, p28. c1950 photo from Whites Aviation Ltd, Palmerston North & District, New Zealand (Auckland, 1950), p2