More modern does not necessarily equate with better. In this regard, the Mutual Arcade in Main Street, Port Elizabeth comes to mind. From 1900 to 1958, it graced Main Street to be replaced with an insipid rectangular building.
Main picture: The Mutual Arcade circa 1904 showing shops at ground level in Main Street
The South African Life Assurance Company purchased the block of buildings comprising this site from Titterton’s estate in 1896. Construction commenced in 1898 under the supervision of Orlando Middleton.
The new building was designed in Edwardian style by William Henry Stucke to fit the shape of the ground. It was opened on 24th December 1900.
With its marble steps leading up to Chapel Street, galleried landings leading to shops and offices, and a large roof area at one time used for gatherings, the Mutual Arcade was a landmark until its demolition in 1958, one of the biggest injustices to the beauty of Main Street..
One of the features of the Mutual Arcade was the Arcade Café located in the basement of the Mutual Arcade. Opened on 26th January 1901, the Arcade Café was constructed partly under the glazed pavement.
Finally in 1958, this impressive icon, redolent of a majestic past, was demolished to make way for the current Old Mutual Building.
Port Elizabeth: A Social Chronicle to the end of 1945 by Margaret Harradine