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264 Cuba Street - Kerslake building

Kerslake -Building

Building Details

Building Name: Kerslake Building 
Building Address: 264 Cuba Street
Construction date: 1905
Architect: E Larcomb
Builder: A France
District Plan Category: Street Character 16
Building number: 92
Heritage NZ Category: Nil

Physical and Social History 

Much of the history of this property is covered in detail as part of the history of the other building on this property - that located at 164-165 The Square, part of which is now occupied by Monsoon Asia Kitchen. Part of the building's individual significance is that it was burnt out in the 1924 fire.

Prior History
This property was granted to auctioneer George Matthew Snelson in 1881 and then sold to George Best, a farmer of Ohariu in 1882. In 1883, he passed it on to his daughter, Harriet Elizabeth Kerslake, wife of tailor, Thomas Tozer Kerslake. The property then remained in the Kerslake family until 1951.

The pair of shops at 164-165 The Square, identified for this study as Kerslake Building - 1895, was built to replace the shop Thomas Tozer Kerslake had operated since November 1880. That two-storied building, called the 'Temple of Fashion' tailor's shop, had burnt down on the night of 14 March 1895, when the Theatre Royal next door caught fire. The present building on that site was quickly erected - and the Kerslakes clearly had learned the value of brick. When the next (by then 'former') Theatre Royal burnt down in 1924, both the Kerslake buildings survived - albeit that they were 75% gutted.

The Building

Like its neighbour at 260-262 Cuba Street, this is likely to be the first building on this site, based on a 1903 survey that in turn was based on 1896 data. This shows nothing present between the Working Men's Club (then at the present 256 Cuba Street) on one side, and the back of the Theatre Royal (which reached Cuba Street) on the other side.[1]

In 1893, Kerslake had sold his goodwill in his 'Temple of Fashion' business to the United Farmers' Co-operative Association. He had then taken over management of that firm's tailoring department, remaining with the firm for some years. In 1906 he resumed business on his own account and had this shop built at Cuba Street end of his property.

Ernest Larcomb 's tender notice for this building was published on 1 August 1905. Tenders were set to close on 11 August, and on 14 August the Manawatu Evening Standard reported that: Mr E Larcomb, architect, received five tenders last week for the erection of a two-storied brick building in Cuba Street. Mr A France, contractor, was the successful tenderer at the price of £840. The premises will be built for Mr TT Kerslake, tailor, and will be occupied by him. The workroom will be upstairs, and the ground floor is to be used as a shop.[2]

The 1905-06 PNBC Rate book shows this property as having had an unimproved value of £1,770 and a capital value of £2,230 (including the building in The Square). Being added to this amount during this rating year is the sum of £950 and also a separate 1.00 (perhaps £100), to which was added the note shops. Probably something was also added to the other shop.

The building was clearly complete by April 1906 when Kerslake published the following: Notice of Removal, TT Kerslake, Tailor, desires to inform his customers and the public generally that he has removed to more commodious and convenient premises in Cuba Street, opposite the Working Men's Club. All classes of gentlemen's tailoring done and a full stock of materials always on hand.[3]

Kerslake was aged about 54 when he moved his business into this building in 1906. The 1911 Wises' Directory listed him as still occupying this shop. However he retired after a relatively short time in the building, and thereafter, the business continued as the partnership Kerslake & Usmar until at least 1918.[4] The firm was gone by the time of the 1920 Directory. Charles Horace Usmar, who died on 13 November 1960, was described in PNCC cemetery records as a tailor aged 90.

It is not clear if the building's present frontages as two old-style shop entrances (only one now in use) plus a side door from the street are the same as when this building was erected. However, the Wises Directories for 1908 and 1914 list the grocers JR Graham and Harold A Worrall respectively as present apparently in the right-side little shop. In 1914, Worrall was also occupying one of the shops in the building at the other end of the property fronting The Square.

Sam Lee's laundry and the 1924 fire
The 1920 and 1922 Wises' Directories list Samuel Lee as operating a laundry from this building. He is probably the same Sam Lee recorded in the 1917 Register of Aliens as then aged 38, unmarried, and a Chinese national, who had at that time been in New Zealand for 20 years. He was one of twelve Chinese men listed as a laundrymen who then lived in Palmerston North Borough, with no additional street addresses given. In addition to the Chinese in this occupation, there was also one German man described as a laundry assistant, and he lived with his wife at 27 George Street.[5]

The main information on Sam Lee's laundry comes from the time of the major fire through this block on 22 February 1924. The neighbouring Empire Auction Mart had been at the heart of this fire, however, the building under study here was the last to catch fire. The fresh northeasterly breeze in part caused this that night that mostly sent the flames in the other direction. Also the fire had begun at the back of the Auction Mart (a huge building that was formerly the main hall of the Theatre Royal), and the Kerslake building has a comparatively short footprint in relation to its neighbours.

In describing the fire, the Manawatu Evening Standard of 23 February 1924 described its impact on Sam Lee's laundry: "On the southern side stood a two-floor brick building which appeared to be safe from the fire, but the flames found a way in round the rear from the centre of the block, and in a few minutes the upper windows sent forth fierce masses of flame. This new outbreak was subdued only after the laundry premises upstairs had been ruined, and the ground floor also badly affected, though the vacant garage was saved."

The article added: In the doorways of several of the premises in the danger zone were clustered occupants fearing for the safety of their abodes, but so far as is known only one residential quarter was affected. That was where the Chinamen connected with the laundry slept on the second floor of the gutted brick building in Cuba Street. At least one Celestial was observed to leave hurriedly with a few personal belongings.

The Manawatu Daily Times added that: The Cuba Street brick building damaged by fire, was insured with the Standard for £800, and the front shop was insured for a like amount - £400 with the Standard Company and £400 with the Yorkshire.[6]

Where as all the other shops were wooden and were ruined, the Kerslakes' two were soon repaired. Barely two weeks later, the Borough Engineer reported to the PN Borough Council committee meeting that they had issued a permit to reinstate the inside portion of a two-storied brick building in Cuba Street that was damaged by fire.[7]

The PNBC Register of Building Permits, Vol 3, lists the repairs to the Kerslake buildings. The first permit was issued for additions and alterations to this building on 27 February 1924. This was for (reinstatement) work in wood to the value of £600. Then on 26 March 1924 a further £60 was permitted for work involving brick for the building in The Square Another £45 was then permitted for work on the Cuba Street building in July 1925.[8]

Clearly Ernest Larcomb was serious when he state in his regular advert in 1907 that he was now designing handsome buildings of moderate cost, which (would) be proof against earthquakes, fire, weather, vermin, and (would) last for ages.[9]

Subsequent Occupants
Sam Lee drops from the picture following the fire. The 1927 Wises Directory lists the tailors McAffer & McShane as occupants of the building and the 1930 Directory lists the partnership as McAffer & Dinley. These are probably Neil McAffer, retired, who died 15 June 1968 aged 85; James Johnstone McShane, tailor, who died 8 March 1980 aged 90; and Joseph Aloysius Dinley, drycleaner, who died 6 June 1954, aged 62.[10] Their business became Coo-ee Drycleaners, and the Coo-ee Tailoring & Dry Cleaning Co Ltd was listed in the 1933 Stones Directory as being managed by Neil C McAffer. The 1941 Manawatu phonebook listed both Neil McAffer and Coo-ee Drycleaning & Pressing Service as being at 266 Cuba Street.

The firm became Coo-ee Drycleaning Ltd in 1973, with its directors being Thomas David Pearce and Christina Mary Pearce. They moved the business to the building next door (260-262 Cuba Street) in 1977 - where the business remains.

WN27/124 records the lease for three years of part of the Kerslake property to the Distributing Agency Ltd, starting 1 May 1925. The 1927 Wises Directory lists the Distributing Co Ltd as located somewhere in this building. It states that this firm was involved with Star tyres.  The 1928 Directory substitutes the tyre firm for Grant & Mitchell (James B Grant), who were commission agents, and who represented the firm Osmond & Son (NZ) Ltd, a manufacturer of animal medicine. The 1941 Manawatu phonebook, which explained the aforementioned relationship between what by then, was JB Grant & Co, and Osmond & Son NZ Ltd. The Grant/Osmond businesses left the building in the 1950s.

The Skylight coffee bar there between 1979-1984 and gave the building its fire escape out the front window.

The present business in the building is the C2C Surf Shop, which has been in the building since about 1998,[11] the company, C2C Ltd, having been registered with the Companies Office on 12 November 1997. The shop has a Bebo website, but does not list its history on the website. It does, however, include photos of the building being repainted blue from the previous white during their time.[12]

This property is still on its original CT, (WN27/124) which was issued in 1881. Thomas Tozer Kerslake died on 18 June 1932, aged 80 years, and Harriet Kerslake died on 25 May 1949, age 98.[13] The property was transmitted the same year to the couple's son Alfred Edward Kerslake, an accountant of PN, as executor, and then, again in 1949, ownership was transferred to AE Kerslake, Harold James Lancaster, a Levin farmer, and Frank Wakefield Verry, and Kairanga farmer, the latter two being the husbands of two of the three Kerslake daughters.[14]

In 1951, the property was transferred into the ownership of the property's neighbour, McKenzie's (PN) Ltd. Then in 1954 to RE Harrison & Co Ltd, a firm that occupied a garden supplies shop in the neighbouring Union Building in Coleman Place. In 1965, the property was transferred to The Church Street Flats Company Ltd, of PN.[15]

Additions & Alterations
Entries in PNCC Building Permit file C100/266 relate to the Skylight coffee bar from the period 1979-1984. Various development work (plumbing, drainage etc) appears to have occurred on the Skylight between late 1978 and early 1979. Rats were a problem at the rear of the restaurant in April 1983 (due to a rusty foulwater drain and a broken gully trap), and in 1984 a permit was sought to remove an internal partition for the Skylight Restaurant.

Plans in the file from 1979 indicate that the coffee bar was downstairs. However, a fire escape was also required for the upstairs area. The sketch of the front wall of the building shows its four windows, with the left hand window being designated in associated specifications to have its sashes removed and a doorframe inserted in the opening leading to an escape route over the front verandah. The various other fire escape balcony, railings, etc, were also outlined. This work appears in the PN City Library Photographic Collection photo ST114, which was taken for publication in the Manawatu Evening Standard of 17 November 1982. A  photo taken about 1993 during the CBD Heritage Inventory (SQ11) also shows the fire escape railings in place. However, the railings appear to now be lying on the neighbouring verandah.

Former Shop on the George Street side and/or upstairs
Wises 1908 - Cuba St - JR Graham, grocer
Wises 1911 - 17 Cuba St - nil
Wises 1914 - 17 Cuba St - Harold A Worrall, grocer (also listed in other Kerslake building in The Square for this year.)
Wises 1916-22 - 17 Cuba St - nil
Wises 1927 - 102 Cuba St - Distribution Co Ltd, Star Tyres (3-year lease from 1 May 1925)  
Stones 1928-33 - 266 Cuba St - Grant & Mitchell (Jas B Grant) commission agents, for Osmond & Son (NZ) Ltd, animal medicine manufacturers
Wises 1936-39 - 266 Cuba St - JB Grant & Co, commission agents, for Osmond & Son (NZ) Ltd, animal medicine manufacturers
Wises 1944-51 - 264 Cuba St - JB Grant & Co, commission agents, for Osmond & Son (NZ) Ltd, animal medicine manufacturers
Wises 1953-54 - Osmond & Son (NZ) Ltd, animal medicine manufacturers
Wises 1957-60 - nil

Shop on Rangitikei Street side - including tailors & laundry/drycleaners
Wises 1908-11 - Cuba St - Kerslake, tailor
Wises 1914-16 - 15 Cuba St - Kerslake & Usmar, tailors
Wises 1920-22 - 104 Cuba St - Samuel Lee, laundry (evidently left 1924)
Wises 1925 - nil (had been burnt out in 1924 when list probably compiled)
Wises 1927 - 104 Cuba St- McAffer & McShane, tailors
Wises 1930-31 - 104 Cuba St- McAffer & Dinley, tailors
Stones 1933 - 268 Cuba St - Cooee Tailoring & Dry Cleaning Co Ltd (Neil C McAffer, manager)
Wises 1936-39 - 268 Cuba St - Cooee Tailoring & Dry Cleaning Co Ltd
Wises 1944-60 - 266 Cuba St - Cooee Tailoring & Dry Cleaning Co Ltd
About 1977 - Cooee moved to neighbouring building
About 1978-1984 - 266 Cuba St - Skylight Coffee Bar
About 1998-now - 264 Cuba St - C 2 C Surf Shop

This building combines architectural heritage with examples of the city's ethnic heritage, and the survival story of what could have been a written off building. The combined heritage of the two buildings on this property also is of significance. The building served as a drycleaning shop for almost six decades.

Architectural Description 

The building is designed in the Edwardian Italianate Palazzo style with symmetrical façade, Classical details such as a parapet, and pilasters to the full height of the building, a cornice with modillions, pediments over the windows and a central panel between the two pairs of windows on the above verandah part of the façade.  The below verandah appears to be original with recessed ingos, large timber shopfronts and original verandah with chamfered timber posts.  The entry to the first floor is from the street and the entry is slightly recessed.

No floor plans are available from the PNCC archives.

The exterior is cement rendered and newspaper descriptions state that it was constructed of brick.

Statement 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 high historic values in its associations with the architect, Ernest Larcomb, who 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. It is one of few buildings constructed in the central city over 100 years old.

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

The building has moderate design values as a representative example of the Edwardian Italianate style, a popular for commercial buildings in the late Victorian and Edwardian 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 building's entire street façade design has a high level of authenticity.

[1] Mather Papers, Cuba Street (PN Historical Society Inc., 2007), p28.

[2]Manawatu Evening Standard 1 August 1905 8(6); 14 August 1905 4(6).

[3]Manawatu Evening Standard 2 April 1906 2(2)

[4]Wise's Directory, 1918

[5] Palmerston North Borough, Register of Aliens under the Registration of Aliens Act, 1917 (NZ Dept. of Internal Affairs)

[6]Manawatu Evening Standard 23 February 1924 5(2-4); Manawatu Daily Times 23 February 1924 7(4-6)

[7] PNCC Reports from 22 July 1922 - 23 September 1924, p326. 1/4/3, Vol 3, Ian Matheson City Archives, PN City Library

[8] PNCC Register of Buildings, Vol 3, 4/13/1, Ian Matheson City Archives, PN City Library

[9] For example, Manawatu Evening Standard 21 August 1907 5(7)

[10] PNCC online cemetery records

[11] Manawatu Phonebooks

[13]Manawatu Evening Standard, 20 June 1932 6(7), Obituary: Mr Thomas Tozer Kerslake; and 25 May 1949 11 (6), Obituary: Mrs T.T. Kerslake. The obituary says she was aged 98, while the cemetery records say she was 97.

[14] Their eldest son, HG Kerslake, who had been chief sub-editor of the Manawatu Standard for many years, had predeceased his mother. Manawatu Evening Standard, 25 May 1949 11 (6), Obituary: Mrs TT Kerslake

[15] Document 'D1' in Research file 'George Street-Cuba Street-Coleman Place Properties,' land ownership data prepared by Victoria University students in 1980, in A 175/154, Ian Matheson City Archives.