Historical Places of Interest

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The City LibraryThe Main Public Library is situated in the Market Square across from the City Hall in P.E.and was officially opened in 1902.

The building is regarded as an excellent example of Victorian Gothic architecture. Its striking facade was manufactured in England and rebuilt piece by piece on the present site. The majestic Sicilian marble statue of Queen Victoria, at the library entrance, was erected and unveiled in 1903.

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Opera HouseThe Alexander Theatre and Opera House in Port Elizabeth was opened by Mayor Mc Ilwraith on December 1 1892. The architect was G.W. Smith and the opening performance was J.M.Barrie’s “Walker, London,” presented by B. and F. Wheeler who were the first lessees of the premises.

In 1916 the African Consolidated Theaters took the theatre and it was used as a cinema. It however became very shabby. From 1961 it was offered to the Municipality as a civic theatre, but this was rejected.

In 1966 the Cape Provincial Administration bought it and renovated it, creating a perfect example of Victorian theatre, one of the few left. It was re-opened in 1967, and declared a National Monument in 1980 and very successfully extended in 1985.

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Humewood HotelOn 1 December 1915 the original Humewood Hotel on the beachfront of P.E. was destroyed by fire and on 30 January 1917 the remains, with skating rink and temporary bar were sold to the Municipality.

The mayor, J.S.Young, officially opened the new Humewood Hotel on 29 July 1927 at a mayoral dinner and dance. He suggested the name “Hotel Elizabeth”, which was adopted. The hotel was later sold to Amalgamated Hotels LTD. On 29 April 1937 for 29 thousand pounds.

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A historic day was the 28th October 1933 when Harbour Day was celebrated in the city-truly a dream come true. After a carnival procession, the flagship of the Africa station, HMS “Dorsetshire” tied up at No.1 Quay. Guards of honour awaited Vice-Admiral Evans and the new No.1 Quay was officially named “Charl Malan” after the Minister of Railways and Harbours. There was a banquet at the Hotel Elizabeth, a ball in the Feather Market Hall and a fireworks and searchlight display while the cruiser was opened to the public.

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Donkin Str single houseEighteen unusual terraced houses line Donkin Street, which lies in the heart of the city overlooking the harbour and close to the huge pyramid erected in honour of Elizabeth Donkin. These remarkable houses, known as the Donkin Street Houses, are styled in Victorian architecture and form part of the historical heritage of Port Elizabeth. They are privately owned by an Irish property tycoon, Ken Denton, who fell in love with city on a business trip just prior to the dawning of the new millennium.

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Did You Know?

The first mail order business started in Port Elizabeth in 1910.

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Last updated:
3 October 2012 7:51