Port Elizabeth of Yore: The OK Bazaars in Main Street

Amongst the many iconic buildings in Main Street during the mid-1980s was this building. Originally built in 1937, it underwent a major upgrade in the 1950s and a minor one in the 1960s.

Main picture: OK Bazaars building in 1938

Original building

The original building, designed by Jones and McWilliams in the Art Deco style, was constructed in 1936/7. The iconic Lombard Chambers, designed by my great great grandfather on the distaff side of the family, George Dix-Peek, was built in 1879. This building was demolished to make way for the OK Bazaars.

The Lombard Chambers

The OK Bazaars building was one of very few to have used glazed ceramic tiles as a decorative finish, an element that was used for decoration a great deal in Art Deco buildings especially in Britain.

OK Bazaars in the late 1940s before the last tram ran in 1948

Major Extension

The 2 storey Aegis Assurance and Trust building was originally sandwiched between the Lombard Chambers and the Mutual Arcade (original building date unknown). It had a 3rd storey added in 1923.  This building was demolished in 1956 when OK was extended north up Main Street. The contract for this extension was awarded to one of the top building contractors of that era, JJ, Ruddy & Sons, who appointed my father, Harry Clifford McCleland, as site foreman

Further modifications

During the 1960s, some modifiations were made to this building. The first-floor restaurant over the canopy was removed and the fins, which were taller and had flagpoles attached to the top, were shortened and the capping slab added.




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