THEN & NOW

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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 ed­i­tor@go­mag.co.za

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.

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