Lost Artefacts of Port Elizabeth: Union Castle Corner

The building located on the corner of Main and Jetty Streets, once formed a prominent part not only of the history of Port Elizabeth, but also the elegance of Market Square.  

In 1978, was demolished to make way for a bus station.

Main picture: Market Square in 1882

This “sacrilegious” action is reminiscent of the hit song Big Yellow Taxi by the Counting Crows

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

They took all the trees
And put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half to seem ’em

Corner of Jetty Street before 1872

In all likelihood, this site was originally known as Lot 1 that was granted to Captain Francis Evatt on the 3rd January 1815. On the 2nd June 1830, it was sold to Paul Mare

In those far-off days, a very different town existed. Main Street is unrecognisable from what it looks like today as it has been substantially rebuilt over the years.  During its initial iteration, it comprised mainly single and double storey buildings with a shop or a workshop on the ground floor and the family’s residence on the first floor. Most of these initial buildings made no pretence at being elegant. According to various reports, they were shoddily constructed by their occupants whose competence as builders was suspect, at best.

Note that the building has been extended. When this occured cannot be ascertained

During the period from 1820 to 1872, this site was occupied by various tenants. Amongst them on the northwestern corner of the square, was a small greengrocer’s shop owned by a Malay named Lagerdien. On the corner facing Main Street was Hendricks & Lucas, the butchers, whilst the upstairs portion of the building was used as the office of the Deputy-Sheriff Thomas Melvil du Toit, law agent.

It was only during the 2nd iteration, that properly designed and built buildings were constructed. This occurred during 1872. A new building

Looking down Jetty Street towards the harbour pre Campanile

was constructed for The London and South Africa Bank. This Bank had been established in 1860. After being absorbed into Standard Bank during 1877, this building was taken over by the Post Office.

Until 1901, the Post Office occupied this building at which point it was taken over by the Union-Castle Company.

In 1978, it was demolished to make way for a bus station.


Port Elizabeth: A Social Chronicle to the end of 1945 by Margaret Harradine (2004, Historical Society of Port Elizabeth, Port Elizabeth)


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