From a pristine lagoon in 1820 to a commercial area in forty years, is how long it took to destroy this once virgin wilderness. Unlike the Settlers, the previous inhabitants of this area, the Khoisan, without any discernible talent at building permanent structures, left no detectable evidence of their presence in the area over eons.
As my blog entitled “Port Elizabeth of Yore: What Happened to the Baakens Lagoon? deals with the why and how the lagoon was reclaimed, instead this blog will focus on the various attempts at bridging this normally placid waterway and the development of commerce and industries within the restricted confines of the valley floor.
Main picture: The bridge across the Baakens in 1866 before the flood showing the lagoon
South End has experienced a tumultuous past. From devastating floods in 1867 to the destruction of a culturally diverse community through Forced Removals in the 1960s, South End has experienced it all.
The focus of this blog is the initial beginnings when the Baakens River isolated South End from Port Elizabeth and its subsequent transformation from a huge farm into a residential area.
Main picture: Port Elizabeth from an agrarian South End in 1830
Like many of the rivers in the Eastern Cape, the Baakens River also originally possessed an impressive lagoon. Old photographs and paintings show it being used for leisure activities such as boating.
What eventually happened to this splendid lagoon?
Main picture: Baaken’s River looking up from the mouth in 1860 with Fort Frederick atop of the ridge
Swimming in the 19th century must be understood against the backdrop of the conservative mores of that era. This resulted in a flurry of rules to prevent men and women swimming together. By the end of the century, attitudes towards “mixed swimming” were more relaxed.
This blog chronicles the saga of sea swimming in Port Elizabeth from its first attempt at the breakwater in 1866, the construction of the first swimming pool in Port Elizabeth and finally to swimming at Humewood.
Main picture: Swimming facilities at the harbour breakwater beyond the surf boats