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284-286 Cuba Street - UFS Chambers

UFS Chambers

Building Details

Building Name: UFS Chambers (formerly Urgent Medicine Dispensary)
Address: 284-286 Cuba Street
Construction date: 1961
Architect: William Thorrold-Jaggard
Builder: Wood & Robson 
District Plan Category: Street Character 18
Building number: 93
Heritage NZ Category: Nil         

Physical and Social History 

The UFS (United Friendly Societies) Chambers is the youngest of the buildings covered in this study. The reason for its inclusion is in part its relationship to the UFSD building at the other end of the same property facing The Square. Much of the general history of the property and the United Friendly Societies Dispensary is covered with the study of that building.

However, the building does have historical significance in its own right. This was possibly Palmerston North's first purpose-built urgent pharmacy. Large numbers of older Palmerstonians would be able testify as to its value to them or their loved ones for over two decades, during some time of medical emergency. The Urgent Pharmacy, as it became known, was the only means by which they could procure medicine at times when all other means of doing so were closed for the night or even for the entire weekend.

Prior History
Information in PNCC Building Permit file C100/294-296 covering this building, states that broken brick and concrete from the previous building was used to fill in a cellar that still existed from that earlier building. A photo in the 1950 booklet Palmerston North & District, New Zealand, shows that building to have been a relatively small and fairly plain white-painted two-storied building.[1]

Possibly an early tenant in that building was the printer firm of Thomas Lindsay Buick and Henry Llewellyn Young, who leased premises on this property for a five year term in 1901. This firm subsequently became HL Young Ltd, and that once well-known Broadway business seems to have remained a tenant in this location in Cuba Street until about the time UFSD bought the property.

The Directories available for this study end in 1960, and the tenants identified with the former building over a long period of time were the Lamerton family. For example, the 1933 Stones Directory lists two shops in this location, one being Mrs Ruth Lamerton's ladies outfitter, and the other (EW & JW) Lamerton & Son's grocery shop. Lamerton's grocery shop disappeared between 1939 and 1944, while Ruth Lamerton's shop - on the Rangitikei Street side of the building and for many years described as a drapery shop - was still listed in the 1959-60 Wises Directory. The other shop was occupied by Quinn's Stores Ltd by 1944, and later by the firm British Typewriter (Manawatu) Ltd.

The Owners

CT WN133/184 reveals that the trustees of the United Friendly Societies' Dispensary bought this property in 1923. An earlier owner was James Carroll, proprietor of the Clarendon Hotel. He died in 1905 and the property passed to the Public Trustee, which duly transferred the property in 1907 to Mary Jane Sutherland, wife of Arthur Sutherland. She subdivided the property into four Lots, and in 1923 she sold Lots 1 and 3 to the owners of the drapery firm Garner Bros., who had leased a shop at the Cuba Street end of that property since 1906.[2] She then sold Lots 2 and 4 to the UFSD. This building is on Lot 4, while the UFSD building fronting The Square, is on Lot 2. The UFSD owned the property until 2002, when it was sold to the present owners, Simon Francis and Catherine Russ.

This Building

William Thorrold-Jaggard's plans for this building are dated 20 March 1961.[3] The building permit, No 1421, was then issued to erect this building on 31 July 1961 - the builders being Wood & Robson, and the cost £17,600. The building contained two shops downstairs and two flats upstairs. The flat on the left is the larger of the two, due to the stairs reducing available space for the right-side flat. A ground floor passage also runs the length of the building on the right side of the shops.

The PN City Library's Photographic Collection contains Photo BC375 of this building, and dating to soon after its construction. It is from the architect's own collection and no signage is evident, other than the title UFS Chambers' on the upper façade.[4]

The Urgent Medicine Dispensary
The purpose of the Urgent Medicine Dispensary (later known as the Urgent Pharmacy) was to provide an after-hours emergency service as a filler of medical prescriptions and other medical needs. This was especially necessary in the days before shops were generally open at weekends, and its evening opening hours reflected the city's late night shopping practices of their time. For example, it was always closed on Friday nights as the central city shops routinely stayed open until 9pm then, meaning other chemist shops were available at such times. When Thursday late night shopping became routine (such as at Terrace End), the Urgent Medical Dispensary stopped opening that night of the week as well - leaving the task of supplying urgent medicines to the Terrace End chemist shops.

Nowadays, such after-hours pharmacies tend to be associated with after-hours' medical centres, such as the one alongside City Doctors in Victoria Avenue. Possibly the Urgent Medicine Dispensary's key staff were also drawn from the other pharmacies around the city on a roster system.

While the full history of this business has not been researched, the 1941 phonebook lists the Urgent Medicine Dispensary as being located in the Regent Arcade. Its manager at the time was Edward Simpson. The 1936 Wises Directory indicates that the dispensary was at the western side of the Regent Arcade, close to King Street. Its whereabouts was not traced before or after those dates, until about 1950.

The 1951-1961 phonebooks list the Urgent Medicine Dispensary as occupying a shop at 271 Cuba Street. This Dispensary was located in an old block of shops alongside the Oroua Building and on land until recently occupied by The Warehouse - and thus more or less opposite this building. The dispensary was first listed at 294 Cuba Street (ie, this building) in the 1962 phonebook. However, while Edward Simpson had been listed as manager through until the 1961 phonebook, he was gone by 1962. Described as a chemist of 120 Cuba Street in the PNCC cemetery records, he died on 29 July 1976, aged 77. Simpson had also been manager of the United Friendly Societies' Dispensary at The Square end of this property in the 1950s.[5]

The 1973 phonebook gives the hours the dispensary was then open. These were Monday to Thursday: 6:30pm to 9:30pm; Saturdays and public holidays: 10am to Noon, 2pm to 4pm, and 6:30pm to 9:30pm; and Sundays: 10am to Noon, and 6:30pm to 9pm. At that time it was only closed on Friday nights.

The story of this building was not without incident, for example, in 18 July 1981, the Manawatu Evening Standard recorded that: Palmerston North detectives are investigating a blaze which badly damaged a flat above the Urgent Pharmacy in Cuba Street early today.

The city fire brigade was called to the fire at 4:26am, and had the blaze under control in a few minutes. Two machines and a turntable ladder turned out.

Police believe it may have started in a wardrobe, and because the flat was unoccupied, are trying to find out what caused it.

Two (sic) other flats above the chemist shop suffered smoke and water damage, but concrete walls slowed down the spread of the fire so there was no danger to the occupants.

Today they had apparently moved out as firemen mopped up and detectives and fire safety officers poked through the sodden residue of the fire.

Because of water damage to stock and floor, the Urgent Pharmacy moved to Glen Caves Pharmacy on Broadway for the day. Water flooded the pharmacy and a hairdressing salon next door through the ceiling.

The Urgent Pharmacy was expected to be cleaned up in time for resumption of normal business tomorrow.[6]

Despite the apparent ease at which life was expected go on after the fire, possibly the task was larger than initially believed - and certainly it took a while to complete. For example, a building permit was applied for to erect a roof only at the UFS pharmacy on 1 September 1981, about six weeks after the fire.[7] The fire reinstatement plans, drawn up by Gillman Partners, are dated 7 October 1981, and these revolve around the refurbishment of the two flats, with various new kitchen, laundry and bathroom fittings being installed. Permit No 5136 was then issued on 9 November 1981 for the reinstatement plan.[8] Perhaps as a delayed part of the job, a permit was also applied for on 24 September 1982 to repair the verandah roof.[9]

The tenant in the other shop at the time of the fire, Salon Cynthia, possibly also briefly moved to a shop across the road, as in the 1982 phonebook its address was 285 Cuba Street, whereas its normal street number was an even number.

The last phonebook in which the Urgent Medicine Dispensary was listed as being at this address, was 1982. The following year, it was listed as being in Terrace End, on the corner of Main and Ruahine Streets, a shop previously occupied by the John Cromie Pharmacy. The Sugar Plum Fairy Shop now occupies that old pharmacy.

Shop closest to George Street - now 284 Cuba St
About 1961-1981 (or '82) - 294 Cuba St - Urgent Medicine Dispensary
Now - 284 Cuba St - Nuddy

Shop closest to Rangitikei Street - now 286 Cuba St
1967 or 1969-1989 - 294 (298 from 1983) Cuba St - Salon Cynthia[10]
1990-1991 - 298 Cuba St - Headline Hairdressers
2008-Now - 298 (s/be 286) Cuba St - Ken's Kitchen

Upstairs - now 284A Cuba St

The UFS Chambers was built as a special purpose pharmacy for a time before weekend shopping, and to accommodate the needs of the city and district to have medical prescriptions filled out outside the normal trading hours of the time. Having a captive customer base, it had no need to target foot traffic, and probably being in a central location just outside the main shopping area, was also an advantage in terms of customer access in its day. How the location of its replacement at Terrace End might have fared in terms of convenience to its customers has not been researched - although clearly that site was much closer to the hospital where the after-hours prescriptions might have been issued.

Architectural Description

The building is designed in the Modern Movement Functionalist style with simple rectangular forms and a single band of windows.  The symmetry of the building and the original style have similarities to Classical architecture with implied cornice and pilasters either side of the band of windows.

A faded copy of drawings from 1971 show the ground floor plan as having two shops on the ground floor with a corridor on one side leading to the rear.  This gave service access to the building at the rear of the UFS building, which faced The Square.  A 1981 plans shows the first floor as two one bed roomed flats with living rooms at the street front of the building and bedrooms at the rear with a bathrooms, kitchen and dining in the centre of the building.

None of the drawings shows the construction of the building

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 moderate historic values in its association with the United Friendly Society Dispensary, a mutual aid society first established in England, for which the building was constructed.

The building has moderatehistoric values in its association with  its architect, W Thorrald-Jaggard worked with his father, whose practice was the most prolific and well-known of the architects practising in Palmerston North on the latter half of the twentieth century.

The building has moderate design values as a representative example of the Inter- War Modern Movement Functionalist style.

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

The exterior of the building has moderate levels of authenticity.

[1] The booklet Palmerston North & District, New Zealand was published in 1950 by Whites Aviation., p2.

[2] IR Matheson, 'The Birth of Palmerston North', Evening Standard Supplement, 13 March 1971, inside front cover.

[3] Note that the founder of the Thorrold-Jaggard architectural firm, Reginald Thorrold-Jaggard, had died on 18 March 1960

[4] Acc No 1572, Thorrold-Jaggard Collection, Ian Matheson City Archives, PN City Library.

[5] UFSD and UMD entries in the 1951-1961 phonebooks.

[6]Manawatu Evening Standard 18 July 1981, p1. Three days later the newspaper reported (22/7/1981, p1) that overnight someone had put glue in the keyholes of about forty shops in Broadway, Rangitikei, Cuba and Main Streets, and The Square - including to Glen Caves Pharmacy.

[7] PNCC Building Permit file C100/294-296

[8]PNCC Building Permit file T25/186-187. Note that this is the file of the main UFSD building in The Square - which backs onto this building.

[9] PNCC Building Permit file C100/294-296

[10] Salon Cynthia applied for sanitary plumbing and drainage on 21 October of either 1967 or 1969 (the year is semi-legible). PNCC Building Permit file C100/294-296. Last in 1989 phonebook