THEN & NOW
How Port Elizabeth has changed over the years.
From the vantage of the Donkin Lighthouse, it’s easy to see how the business centre of Port Elizabeth has changed over the years. The Port Elizabeth City Hall on Market Square (now Vuyisile Mini Square) dates from 1861. The hall burnt down in 1977, but was restored to its former glory. These days it houses the municipal offices and the public library. The Main Library was once in a separate building on the square. A terracotta façade, built in England and shipped to South Africa in pieces, was added to the building in 1902. Until 1942, the Phoenix Hotel was next to the city hall. This hotel opened in 1837 and was named after a steamboat that sailed between PE and Cape Town. An advertisement from 1849 said that the hotel had “a first rate billiard table” and “good stabling for 20 horses”. The building was demolished to make way for the Reserve Bank and the hotel moved to nearby Chapel Street . In the old photo, you can clearly see fire damage to the Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin . The church was built in 1834. Six decades later, an arsonist burnt it down. Newspapers at the time reported that the arsonist was called Frances Livingstone Johnston – a former governess from Ceres with a “strange appearance and manner”. She had recently set alight a storehouse in Paarl and arrived in PE with similar pyromaniac tendencies. Days prior to the fire at the church, a guard at the harbour found Johnston on a shipping crane. It’s likely that she suffered from mental health issues. After the fire, donations streamed in to rebuild the cathedral – including £5 from Paul Kruger and £250 from Cecil John Rhodes. Two years later, however, Johnston struck again. Fortunately the flames were put out before too much damage occurred. After the second incident, Johnston was arrested and sent to Robben Island. The original quay dates from 1837. In 1933, it was replaced by the Charl Malan Quay, which is now used as a shipping container and vehicle terminal. Tankers are moored at the other quay , where oil and manganese ore are stored. Sources: Historical Society of Port Elizabeth; thecasualobserver.co.za; ports.co.za Old Towns and Villages of the Cape by Hans Fransen; We want your photos! Do you have old black-and-white photos of tours, family holidays and adventures? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
WHAT’S IN A NAME? Sir Rufane Donkin was the governor of the Cape when British settlers landed at Algoa Bay in 1820. A harbour town soon developed, which Donkin named after his late wife Elizabeth. This photo was taken in 1895.