Port Elizabeth of Yore: Albany Road

For me and possibly other Port Elizabethians, the road up Cooper’s Kloof, commonly known as Albany Road, does not have the same prominence or cachet of either Russell or White’s Road. Nevertheless, it does serve as a vital arterial road carrying traffic both to Cape Road and through to Walmer via Target Kloof. 

Main picture: Albany Road in 1865

Cooper’s Kloof derived its name from the red-tiled house that stood all alone at the foot of the Kloof which was owned by a shoemaker named Mr Cooper. Moreover the first row of houses erected in this vicinity was called Cooper’s Cottages. Later John Barry opened a butcher’s shop on the site of what was to subsequently become known as Murray’s Corner.

Map of Cooper's Kloof

Map of Cooper’s Kloof

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Albany Road Fire Station with the Erica School for Girls on top of the hill behind it

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The only possible routes up the hill from the shore were the three kloofs which cut deep gulleys from the plateau to the sandy littoral. Prior to the construction of Albany Road Cooper’s Kloof was a stony, rugged Kloof with deep pools of water where children swam and caught fish.

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The first kloof to be converted from a rugged stony stream into a road was White’s Road in 1850 with Russell Road following in 1863. In September 1865, the construction of a road up Cooper’s Kloof was commenced. According to Margaret Harradine, “This work was undertaken to provide employment during the depression then gripping the country. In July 1866, the Municipality was granted a large piece of land at the top of the Kloof to provide the funds for it. Stone removed during the work was used to build the wool market.”

The Albany Road fire station was opened in 1930. The station served the entire Port Elizabeth city until 1966 when another station was built at Sidwell.

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This group of beautiful buildings in the Art Nouveau style comprised the station and blocks of flats around the main building to house the firemen. The old buildings were later sold for commercial purposes and the flats to private owners.

In September 1939 the City’s first automatic traffic signals were erected at the intersection of Russell Road, Queen, Griffin and Main Streets. The traffic signals were highly successful and a second set was installed at the intersection of Albany and Westbourne Roads.

1968 Floods

On 1 September 1968, 429 mm of rain swamped the city. In a single day the highest rainfall figure in living memory was recorded and as such reported in the Eastern Cape Herald newspaper. The devastating flood took the lives of at least five people and 30 or more were rescued. Cars and caravans were swept down the Baakens River, a normally docile stream yet prone to flooding. Eyewitness reports speak of cars bobbing like corks before being dumped further downstream.

Bottom of Albany Road - Aftermath of the 1968 Floods

Bottom of Albany Road – Aftermath of the 1968 Floods

Top end of Albany Road.People were drowned here when they were swept under cars by the force of the water.

Top end of Albany Road. People were drowned here when they were swept under cars by the force of the water.

St. Paul’s Anglican Church

St Pauls (Albany Rd)

With the town rapidly expanding, the need for a 2nd Anglican Church in Port Elizabeth arose. During an age with neither public transport nor private motor vehicles, churches had to be located within walking distance of their congregants. During both of his visits in 1848 & 1850, Bishop Gray had pointed out the need for a church in North End with a capacity of 200 to 250 congregants to serve the needs of the local Anglicans. This church, he suggested, should be built on land offered by Mr Tee and Mr Korsten.

St Paul's Church circa 1890

St Paul’s Church circa 1890

Central to its construction, was the need to raise funds and then secondly to appoint a clergyman. Contrary to expectations, a substantial portion of the funds were raised or pledged over a short period. Without it sounding too blunt and matter-of-matter, Bishop Gray simultaneously requested a clergyman from Britain and explained the situation as follows. “No man would be too good, but there is nothing to tempt any one. A new district Parish out of a colonial sea port, with no stipend except what will arise from the Offertory.”  An offertory is the offering or collection of money made during a religious service.

The original St Paul's Anglican Church in Albany Road

The original St Paul’s Anglican Church in Albany Road

St Paul’s Church was built between 1854 and 1856 at the corner of  Govan Mbeki Street and Albany Road – at that time called Queen Street and Cooper’s Kloof respectively. The foundation stone was laid by the first Bishop of Grahamstown, John Armstrong, on St Luke’s day, 18 October 1854.

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St. Paul’s Anglican Church

Painting by Edwina Smyth entitled “Port Elizabeth at sunset from McKay’s veranda” showing St Paul’s Church. The date on which it was painted is unknown

PE at sunset from McKay’s Church by Edwina Smyth AN H156 showing St Paul’s Church

 

In 1959, St. Paul’s Anglican Church had to be demolished to enable Albany Road to be widened.

'New' St Paul's in Parsons Hill

‘New’ St Paul’s in Parsons Hill

Erica School for Girls

In the background above the old Fire Station, another Richmond Hill landmark, the old Erica School for Girls, can be seen. One of the earliest schools for girls in Port Elizabeth was the Erica School, which started out in a couple of cottages next to the headmistress’ home in Richmond Hill. This lovely building was opened in 1903, on the edge of Richmond Park, with commanding views over the bay. The school eventually outgrew it and moved on, and the building is now used for the art department of one of our colleges offering Tertiary education.

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Old Erica School for Girls & now PE College

Old Erica School for Girls & now PE College

Five Ways

At the top of Albany Road, is the iconic Five Ways, technically now four ways.

Five Ways

Five Ways in the 1950s

 

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Other photos

Cooper’s Kloof in 1856 by RH Rocke AN 136 84

 

A bit of shunting going on in the vicinity of Albany Road, Port Elizabeth, sometime between the mid 1970's

A bit of shunting going on in the vicinity of Albany Road, Port Elizabeth, sometime between the mid 1970’s

 

Port Elizabeth Bowling Club in Albany Road

Port Elizabeth Bowling Club in Albany Road

Sources:

Port Elizabeth in Bygone Days by JJ Redgrave

Port Elizabeth: A Social Chronicle to the End of 1945 by Margaret Harradine

 

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Captain Jacob Glen Cuyler

 

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Target Kloof

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http://thecasualobserver.co.za/the-three-eras-of-the-historic-port-elizabeth-harbour/

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Main Street before the Era of Trams


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