Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Early Hotels

The initial accommodation of the 1820 Settlers left much to be desired: rows of tents in the sand dunes where Strand Street is now located, with Algoa Bay’s incessant wind whipping sand into all the exposed orifices. Some might even have been told shameless falsehoods about their future accommodation to lure them to the Cape. But once they stepped off their vessels, they would have to don the mantle of self-motivating, independent pioneers. The unspoken reality is that they would have to turn a pipe dream of a new life into reality. Perhaps they encountered dispiriting moments, but most would batten down the hatches and endure. 

But what the Colony lacked was proper temporary accommodation in the form of hotels especially for visiting colonial officials. 

With their keen enterprising spirit, many would swiftly erect buildings with more than a passing resemblance to hotels. As Port Elizabeth was the entrepot to the Eastern Cape hinterland and later to the Diamond Fields, it rapidly upgraded these Spartan dwelling into respectable establishments.  

This is the story of that evolution. 

Main picture: Scorey’s Hotel being depicted as the large building on the left with the garden of Anne Scorey just below the hotel

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Palmerston, its predecessors and successors

As any Realtor will attest, location is the ultimate arbiter of value.  In an era when long distance travel, especially international travel, was the preserve of ships, the prime locations were always adjacent to the entrance to a harbour. In Port Elizabeth’s case, it was only when a jetty was envisioned to be erected at the end of Jetty Street, did this site become valuable. 

This is the chronicle of that establishment. 

Main picture: The Palmerston Hotel after 1880 when James Raymond Rumsey added a third storey and a verandah in Strand Street. The architect was George Dix-Peek

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