Port Elizabeth of Yore: Cora Terrace-Luxury Living on the Hill

Cora Terrace, off Bird Street, is a row of houses which dates back to the years 1858 to 1866. Fortunately house numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11 were declared National Monuments under the old NMC Legislation in 1975 and 1976 respectively. 

These houses are outstanding examples of Victorian architecture and contribute to the traditional aspect of this particular portion of Port Elizabeth.

Main picture: Cora Terrace circa 1856 with the row of houses visible in the upper middle of the picture

There are traces which suggest that these houses were built on ground formerly occupied by military buildings, such as the Mess Room in which the Pigots lived during their sojourn at the Bay, and this may account for the tradition that they were originally the houses of the officers attached to the Fort.

Cora Terrace-Showing house of Eliza Smith, Henderson's widow

The powder magazine still stands within the shell of the old Fort, but all the buildings outside of it have long since disappeared. It seems probable, however, that the houses erected in the late 1850s and still standing in Cora Terrace, off Bird Street, were built upon the old foundations of those “small houses for the officers”. However that may be, it is known that they were built – starting from the Bird Street side – on land which which was granted to Henry Watson Henderson in 1831 who, with his father-in-law, Thomas Mahoney was murdered at the clay pits near the Kap River in 1834 during the Sixth Frontier War with the Xhosas.

Cora Terrace-No 1
Cora Terrace-No 1

According to Wikipedia the sequence of events was as follows:

24 Dec 1834: John BROWN called at Thomas MAHONEY’s house on his way to his own. He suggested that they try to reach Kaffir Drift Post. MAHONEY showed him Major LOWEN’s letter, but they decided to leave together. Henry HENDERSON accompanied them. The enemy attacked when they had proceeded a little distance from the Coombs homestead. MAHONEY and HENDERSON fell to their assegais. As an act of clemency, Ann MAHONEY and Eliza HENDERSON were allowed to leave for Grahamstown. John BROWN and his son rode into the bush, turned their horses loose, and hid.

Cora Terrace-No 3
Cora Terrace-No 3

26 Dec 1834: Twenty mounted and armed men from Grahamstown reached the Coombs. They found the bodies of Thomas MAHONEY and Henry HENDERSON, covered them and went to MAHONEY’s house. They then went on to bury Robert CRAMMER’s body in a hyena burrow and returned to Grahamstown.

Cora Terrace-No 5
Cora Terrace-No 5

27 Dec 1834: A party left Grahamstown with a wagon to fetch the bodies of Thomas MAHONEY and Henry HENDERSON. John BROWN and his son met this party and returned to Grahamstown with them. Thomas MAHONEY and Henry HENDERSON were buried at Grahamstown by the Rev. John HEAVYSIDE.

Cora Terrace-No 7
Cora Terrace-No 7

Henry Henderson’s widow, Eliza Henderson, later married Joseph Smith. The property off Bird Street, which Mrs Henderson-Smith held in trust after her first husband’s death, was named after her daughter, Cora Henderson, who was, it is said, a great favourite of her step-father.

Cora Terrace-No 9
Cora Terrace-No 9

The house adjacent to Cora Terrace was built for the Smith family. Their daughter, Cora, died at sea aboard the “Alexandrina” on 21st April 1861 at the age of 16.

ora Terrace-View from Bird Street
Cora Terrace-View from Bird Street

Today many of these houses are being used as backpackers lodges.

Cora Terrace-View from Cuyler Street
Cora Terrace-View from Cuyler Street

Eliza Henderson nee Mahony:


Last Name:   Henderson (nee Mahony)
First Name:   Eliza
Date of Birth:   1803
Place of Birth:  Cork, Ireland
Parents: Father: Thomas Mahony & Mother:  Ann
Name of Spouses:   1) Henry Watson Henderson 2) Joseph Smith of Port Elizabeth
Date of Death:   30 Mar 1873 age 70
Place of Death:  At sea



Hills Covered with Cottages-Port Elizabeth’s Lost Streetscapes by Margaret Harradine

Panorama of Port Elizabeth by Eleanor K Lorimer

Port Elizabeth – A Visual History by Kin Bentley

Port Elizabeth in Bygone Days by JJ Redgrave


South African Settlers: http://www.southafricansettlers.com/?cat=18&paged=41

Rootsweb:  http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/SOUTH-AFRICA-EASTERN-CAPE/2007-12/1197841514

List of heritage sites in Port Elizabeth: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_heritage_sites_in_Port_Elizabeth

Related articles:

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Gracious Grand Hotel

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Legacy of Henry Fancourt White

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Slipway in Humewood [1903-1939]

Port Elizabeth of Yore: King’s Beach

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Sand dunes, Inhabitants and Animals

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Horse Memorial

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Road through Target 3Kloof & its Predecessors

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Parsonage House at No. 7 Castle Hill

What happened to the Shark River in Port Elizabeth?

A Sunday Drive to Schoenmakerskop in 1922

The Three Eras of the Historic Port Elizabeth Harbour

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Railway Station

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Great Flood of 1st September 1968

The Friendly City – Port Elizabeth – My Home Town

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Dean
    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your posts, but a bit confused by this one which is of interest because my late mom was literally born at 7 Cora Terrace on 9 July 1925, and my grandfather, who immigrated to SA from the USA with his parents at the age of 5 in 1902, grew up in the same house.
    You say that “it is known that they were built during the period 1831-1834 by Henry Henderson who, with his father-in-law, Thomas Mahoney was murdered at the clay pits near the Kap River in 1834 during one of the intermittent Frontier Wars with the Xhosas”.
    You also say that Henry and Eliza had a daughter, Cora, “who died at sea aboard the “Alexandrina” on 21st April 1861 at the age of 16.”
    There is a problem with the dates, because if Cora died in 1861 at the age of 16 then she must have been born in about 1845, long after Henry died.
    To confuse the issue further, the caption on the second picture on the page says that they were “Built between c1858 (the first house) and c1866 (the upper pair) for Eliza Smith, widow of Joseph. Their daughter Cora died at sea on board “Alexandrina” on 21 April 1861 aged 16 years.”
    OK, so perhaps Eliza Smith had two daughters called Cora, one from her first husband, Henry Henderson, and a second from her second husband, Joseph Smith? But that still does not account for the discrepancy of dates from the caption of your second picture, which looks like a magazine or newspaper article.
    Why is this so important for others who don’t have a personal connection to Cora Terrace?
    Well consider Number 7 Castle Hill Port Elizabeth, the home of your great great grandfather, and the “oldest extant house in Port Elizabeth.” The Bayworld website says it was “built” in 1832, Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism website says it was “built” in 1825, MYPE website says it was built in 1829, and Artefacts website says it was built in 1830. Pretty confusing for one of Port Elizabeth’s most important historic buildings, isn’t it? Your website is the only other one that gets it correct – “about 1830”. So why can’t Bayworld (our museum) and NMBT (our tourism) get it right? It’s very, very unprofessional if you ask me.
    My last but very important question is this: If Number 7 Castle Hill Port Elizabeth was built “about 1830”, that means it could have been built in 1829, 1830, or 1831 when Rev Francis McCleland bonded the house. We just don’t know. However, if the latter is correct, and it is also true that the lower house/cottage in Cora Terrace was also built in 1831 (no day or month is given), there is a very good chance (50/50) that the Cora Terrace House is the “oldest extant house in Port Elizabeth.”
    I’m just saying, that’s all. What are your thoughts about this?
    Kind regards
    Barry G S


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