DIC Building (Former)

4-9 The Square, Palmerston North

  • DIC Building (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Elise Meyrick. Date: 1/07/2012.
  • DIC Building.
    Copyright: Palmerston North City Council.
  • DIC Department store, The Square, 1988. Image courtesy of the Palmerston North City Library, 2008P_Z5132_BUI_0533.
    Copyright: Palmerston North City Library. Taken By: Matt Ryan.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1256 Date Entered 2nd July 1982


City/District Council

Palmerston North City


Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 81805 (CT WN48B/604), Wellington Land District


What is now the Palmerston North City Library is a refurbishment of the prominent D.I.C building on The Square.

The building’s landmark façade was constructed in 1927-8 and housed leading department stores. The Palmerston North inner town square saw the establishment of businesses through the 1870s. One such businessman was Charles MacIntosh Ross (1852 – 1924), a Scottish immigrant who established a drapery business on Broadway in 1882. The business, trading as ‘Bon Marche’ moved to The Square in 1883. A successful business, it was known as C M Ross and Company from the 1890s onwards. By 1915 the business was housed in three buildings on The Square and stretched through to George Street and Coleman Mall.

In 1927 an adjacent fourth lot was purchased and a new, much grander building was erected on the site at the cost of £27,700. It was designed by Palmerston North architects A R Allen and H R Hickson in the Chicagoesque style, with Art Deco features. The building, competing with the best of the new modern department stores that emerged around New Zealand in the 1920s, showed off the underlying steel frame structure on the facade, and gained very good interior lighting by opening up large horizontal stretches of window between the vertical pilasters. Classical details such as festoons and brackets were incorporated. The building construction was contracted to McMillan Brothers of Wellington. A prominent feature of the new building was the large ‘ROSCO’ lettering attached to the roof. The founding owner, C M Ross has left a significant local legacy through his successful businesses and land donated to the government by his wife. His house in the Terrace End suburb remains, as does the area named ‘Roslyn’ built on the donated land.

The C M Ross Company Limited traded for sixty three years from this building before it was leased to the department store ‘Milne and Choyce’ in 1959. All signage was replaced to reflect the new owners. However, the building was leased again in 1967 and the ‘Dunedin Import Company’ known as the ‘D.I.C.’ began trading. Again, the signage was changed and it is this company name that remains imposed on The Square facade of the building. In July 1989 the ‘D.I.C’ sign and framework was removed from the roof. Throughout the lifetime of the building many interior renovations took place, especially by Milne and Choyce who refitted it for the 1960s. In 1992 the building was purchased by the Palmerston North City Council to be used as a new central library. The 17 month project involved structural strengthening and refurbishment of the existing building, while retaining the distinctive facade, incorporating the interior ornate column capitals and ceilings. The new library was designed by architect Ian Athfield. The building was re- opened in 1996 and in 1998 won the Institute of Architects ‘National Award for Architecture.’

This building is a local landmark and is a rare representative of the Chicagoesque architectural style in Palmerston North. The 1927 building and store was regarded as an institution in the city and was at the time the grandest department store erected in Palmerston North. The building is one of a number in the Cuba Street, George Street, Coleman Mall 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 council initiative to renovate and reuse the heritage building gained widespread support.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

McMillan Bros Limited

Builder J L McMillan originated in Dunedin and later moved to Wellington. In the early 1900s he won the contract to build the Miramar Gas Works and a Wellington tramway building, most likely the 1908 Corporation Tramways head office formerly at the corner of Lambton Quay and Thorndon Quay. In the mid twentieth century McMillan’s sons James and Lloyd established McMillan Brothers. This firm was responsible for the construction of a number of North Island freezing works and buildings particularly in the Manawatu. In World War Two the firm was co-opted by the government to construct the Ohakea Hangars. The firm is now part of McMillan and Lockwood Group.

AR Allen and HL Hickson

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

1996 -
New Palmerston North City Public Library opens after seventeen months of refurbishments and structural strengthening

Original Construction
1927 -
Current facade built onto The Square (£27,700)

1959 -
All shares transferred to Milne and Choyce (new roof sign and facade wording)

1966 -
The Dunedin Import Company (DIC) begins trading in the building (‘D.I.C’ sign replaces all Milne and Choyce)

1987 -
Arthur Barrett begins trade from the building (‘D.I.C’ sign and all framework removed)

Completion Date

31st July 2012

Report Written By

Elise Meyrick

Information Sources

Ian Matheson Archives

Ian Matheson Archives, Palmerston North City Library

Lesley Courtney, Notes, ‘C M Ross and Family,’ A175/237

Courtney, 2008

Lesley Courtney, The House Quality and Value Built: The C M Ross Company Limited Story, Palmerston North, 2008

Other Information

A referenced copy of this report is available from the Central Region of the NZHPT.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.