Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Algoa Hotel

This hotel has been through a number of iterations over the years and is no more as it has been converted into offices. 

Main picture:  The Algoa House prior to its conversion into the Algoa House Hotel

Jonathan Board constructed what he named Algoa House in 1843. He rented the property to Mrs. Harriet Eedes for use as a school for young ladies. This school is listed in 1843 edition of the Cape Almanac as Mrs. Harriet Joanna Eedes’ School for Young Ladies. In 1845, Eedes advertised that she was re-opening her boarding school in Grahamstown, where she rented the house The Retreat.

For the following 17 years, this house presumably reverted to its original use viz that of being used as some form of accommodation. It is after this period that it was converted into a hotel called the Algoa House Hotel. An advert placed by a Mr J.A. Dreyer in the local newspaper stated that as from the 1st July 1862 that he had opened a hotel in Western Road on the hill in what was formerly Algoa House. A separate club room with a fine billiard table was built behind the house facing Pearson Street. It was here that the P.E. Club commenced operations in 1866.

Algoa House built in 1843 when used as a school for young ladies

Dreyer parted with the hotel in 1868 to Louisa Janion who in turn sold it to H. Hinwood in 1879. The Algoa House Hotel made history in 1865 when the Alfred Club Room became the first building on the Hill to be lit with gas. Even though officially it was called the Algoa House Hotel, during this period it was often colloquially known by the name of the licensee as was the norm. The only remaining part is the bar which was built in 1903.

The initial venue of the P.E. Club might have been the Algoa House Hotel, but it would neither be the first nor the last society or club which would use this hotel as its venue. In May 1888, at a meeting held in this hotel, it was decided to create a P.E. and Uitenhage Rugby Union for which a Challenge Cup would be competed. At that time, there were only three rugby teams in existence in the Port Elizabeth area: the Union Club in Uitenhage and the Olympic and Crusader Clubs in Port Elizabeth.

Opposite the Algoa Hotel is Trinder Square. The P.E. Club is in the background

In March 1890, this Hotel was again the venue for an inaugural meeting; in this case it was the South African Philatelic Society at which G.A. Meyer was elected as its first President. This was rapidly followed in little over a year later when in June 1891, the P.E. Football Association was formed with A. Dickson as President and J. McIlwraith and J. Brister as Vice-Presidents. Chocolate and maroon were selected as the Club Colours and they agreed to share the same ground in Park Drive which the Council had let to the Caledonian Cricket Club.

During January of the following year, being 1892, the inaugural meeting of the “new Club” was held at this venue at which the rules were adopted. The election of the leadership was performed with M.M. Loubser being appointed President with John McIlwraith, I.R. Dunell and A. Cowie as Vice-Presidents. On 11th January 1899, the Junior Club was officially renamed St. George’s Club.

The Algoa House remained largely the same until in the 1930s when it was demolished to make way for the modern Algoa Hotel. During the later seventies, probably 1978 or 1979, it was converted into offices. This was probably as a result of the plethora of bars and hotel in the area with the Edward and the Grand being the most prominent. The final owner was Hynch, who arranged a party for all the regulars on the last night of business. At closing time,  Snowball Hynch announced that the customers could all take mementoes home. That included the furniture.

After its conversion into offices

Sources

Hills Covered with Cottages: Port Elizabeth’s Lost Streetscapes by Margaret Harradine (2010, Express Copy & Print, Port Elizabeth)

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

Personal experience

On completion of my National Service, as the Army training was called in those days, we were transported by train from Oudshoorn to Port Elizabeth station. It was then agreed that we would go home to change its civvies and then to meet again, for the last time, at the Algoa Hotel for a drink, or more accurately drinks. What saved me was the paucity of money and having to keep enough money spare for bus fare home to Newton Park. The only person at this event that I can recall 45 years later, is a school friend, Graham Harding.

Dean McCleland – Military ID Card


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