Grand Hotel Building (Former)

41-44 The Square And Church Street, Palmerston North

  • Grand Hotel Building (Former). Image courtesy of
    Copyright: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 11/09/2013.
  • Grand Hotel Building (Former). Building detail. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 11/09/2013.
  • Grand Hotel Building (Former). Grand Staircase.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Rebecca O'Brien. Date: 4/04/2003.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 192 Date Entered 28th June 1990 Date of Effect 28th June 1990


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Section 677 TN of Palmerston North (RT WNC1/902) and Pt Section 678 Township of Palmerston North (RT WN468/241), Wellington Land District and the building known as the Grand Hotel Building (Former) and its fittings and fixtures.

City/District Council

Palmerston North City


Horizons (Manawatū-Whanganui) Region

Legal description

Sec 677 Town of Palmerston North (RT WNC1/902) and Pt Sec 678 Township of Palmerston North (RT WN468/241), Wellington Land District

Location description

On the Corner of The Square and Church Street, Palmerston North


Completed in 1906, the Grand Hotel was designed to provide the finest accommodation in Palmerston North. It was built on the corner of Church Street and the Square in central Palmerston North and was the second hotel to occupy the site.

In the late nineteenth-century the site was owned by Joseph Poulter Leary, the instigator of the Manawatu Times. Leary's relative, Richard Leary, built a chemist shop on the site in 1877. As Palmerston North continued to expand, the demand for accommodation for travellers increased and in 1888 the shop was demolished to make way for a new hotel. The 'Provincial Hotel' was completed the following year and leased to boardinghouse keeper Martin Creaven. Creaven purchased the hotel in 1896 but, just ten years later, fire engulfed the wooden structure and it burned to the ground. Determined to construct a grand new building in its place, Creaven hired renowned Christchurch architect Joseph Clarkson Maddison (1850-1923) to design a new hotel for the site.

Maddison began designing buildings in Christchurch in the late 1870s. Although best known as a designer of abbatoirs and freezing works, Maddison's close association with the City of Christchurch Licensing Committee produced numerous commissions to design hotels. By the turn of the century he had acquired a nationwide reputation as a specialist in Italian architecture. In 1906 he designed a number of hotels to accommodate the crowds who flocked to Christchurch for the New Zealand International Exhibition and it was shortly after this that he was commissioned to complete the Grand Hotel.

Maddison's design for the Grand Hotel is an excellent example of the Second Empire style, which developed in France during the reconstruction of Paris by Emperor Napoleon III in the late nineteenth century. The Grand Hotel incorporates circular dormer windows and the mansard roof typical of Second Empire architecture. The close association of the style with Classical architecture is apparent in the Grand Hotel's rusticated masonry and its use of columns, pediments and entablatures. The four-storey building was designed to accommodate 66 bedrooms, two conservatories, a large dining room and a shop on the ground floor.

The foundation stone for the building was laid in 1906 by Martin Creaven, whom Maddison presented with a silver trowel in memory of the occasion. The building was erected by the building company Trevor Bros. Two years later Creaven found himself in financial difficulties and sold the building to James Trevor, a partner in Trevor Bros. In 1927, when the building was acquired by Edmund Lionel Barnes, it was selected to accommodate royal visitors to New Zealand, the Duke and Duchess of York.

When Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visited New Zealand for the first time twenty-six years later in 1953, the Grand Hotel was selected to house the royal visitors. The Queen was accommodated on the first floor of the building. Large, adoring crowds gathered in the Square below to catch a glimpse of her when she set foot on the small balcony next to her room. The following year the Queen travelled to Christchurch where she was accommodated in another of Maddison's buildings, the Clarendon Hotel (1902).

The fortunes of the Grand Hotel declined in the early 1960s. The tower that had dominated the roof of the building was removed in 1963. In 1972 the hotel lost its license and it was closed down later that year. The upper storeys of the building were gradually converted into offices while the ground floor became retail space. The sole reminder on the original interior of the building is the imposing, timber staircase inside what was the main entrance to the hotel.

The Grand Hotel has national historical significance. Used as accommodation for Queen Elizabeth II, the first reigning monarch to visit New Zealand, the building has a strong association with the public memory of the Royal Tour of 1953 -1954. As such, the building is a significant reminder of this important event in the country's history. The building is also architecturally noteworthy as an excellent example of the Second Empire style and a notable example of the work of prominent New Zealand architect Joseph Clarkson Maddison. The Grand Hotel is a landmark in central city Palmerston North and is held in high esteem by the public.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Maddison, Joseph Clarkson

Joseph Maddison (1850-1923) was born in Greenwich and came to Lyttelton in 1872. He settled in Christchurch and commenced practice as an architect.

He designed a large number of public buildings, mainly in Canterbury, including The Church of the Holy Innocents, Amberley, the Anglican Church at Port Levy, Warner's Hotel (1881) and Clarendon Hotel (1902), both in Christchurch, Government Buildings, Christchurch (1913) and numerous private residences.

Maddison was well known as an industrial architect and was responsible for the warehouses of the Kaiapoi Woollen Company. His specialty, however, was in the design of freezing works. Among his designs were the Canterbury Freezing Works, Belfast (1883) and the Mataura Freezing Works, Canterbury and he is considered to have been one of the chief exponents in this field during the late nineteeenth century.

He was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1887.

Additional informationopen/close

Notable Features

The balcony on the first floor

The original staircase, including the timber balustrades, newel posts and wall panelling

The near original character of the street facade

The foundation stone laid on 19 May 1906 on the ground floor of the building on the elevation that faces the Square

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1906 -

1962 -
Pediments removed from the roof of the building; alterations to the interior layout of the first and second floor; renovations to the third floor

1965 -
Alterations to the bar and bottle sales area on the ground floor

1982 - 1983
Ground floor subdivided into shops; new doors and windows added to retail area on ground floor

1984 -
Upper floors converted into open plan office space

1997 -
Verandah added

Completion Date

1st May 2003

Report Written By

Rebecca O'Brien

Information Sources

Buick, 1903 (1975)

TL Buick, 'Old Manawatu', Christchurch, 1903 (1975)

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

J. Wilson, 'Maddison, Joseph Clarkson 1850-1923', updated 4 April 2003, URL:

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

'Memories of the Royal Visit 1953-1954', Royal Visit 1953-1954, URL:

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central Region office

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.