Port Elizabeth of Yore: The “Aloes”-The House & its Inhabitants

A century ago, Park Drive was akin to Houghton Estate in Joburg, housing the well-heeled of the town in the multitude of stylish and elegant houses lining Park Drive. Amongst them was a house, “The Aloes” at No. 56 Park Drive. Given the large stand sizes, many of these mansions, such as the Matopos of the Frielinghaus’, have already been converted into blocks of flats. Hopefully this one, which is currently on the market, will not be another victim of progress.

Information on the houses in this street were supplied by Tennyson Smith Bodill for which I am grateful.

Main picture: The “Aloes” – No. 56 Park Drive

“An Englishman’s Home is his castle”, so the old saying goes. And how true it is. ‘Aloes’ must be the finest stately house in Park Drive built in the English tradition on Lot 24. This lavish double-storeyed house was designed by Jones & McWilliams, a local firm of architects, who specialised in Art Nouveau architecture.

One of the partners, Victor Thomas Jones worked as architect and interior designer at the fashionable London store, Liberty & Co, for several years. The founder, Sir Arthur Lazenby Liberty, was an important promotor of English Art Nouveau and commissioned prominent artists and architects to do exclusive designs for the store. When Jones arrived in South Africa in 1896, he carried this stylistic influence with him.

‘Aloes’ was built in 1911 for Oscar Bracht by R.G. McClelland and its overall simplicity, tapering columns and fretwork balustrading are references to the more fashionable Art Nouveau movement. The house has its original roof, and the walls are finished with a tinted roughcast cement, the aggregates being imported from Scotland.

The gables are Italianate in concept while the chimneys are typical British architecture to accommodate fireplaces installed in almost every room. The interior of the house is Arts and Crafts rendered.

Harraway

Harry James Harraway was born on 14 April 1875 in London, England, and started his business career with a London firm. He came to South African in 1893 on a contract to Dunell Ebden and Company, whom he served for ten years before joining Mosenthal’s in 1903. As head of this vast and reputable organisation, Harraway played a prominent role in the commercial and industrial development of South Africa, particularly in the primary industries of wool, mohair, skins and hides, ostrich feathers, karakul pelts and citrus growing.

Aloes No 56 Park Drive

During the lifetime of service Harraway devoted to Mosenthals, the company became the first dealers in Karakul pelts and later the largest exporter of skins and wool. The company also fathered the Sunday’s River Valley citrus industry by undertaking the first experimental shipments overseas at a loss.

It was during Harraway’s period in office as General Manager, which began in 1915, that the company branched into the manufacturing industry with the operation in Port Elizabeth of a clothing factory.

While he held the reins, too, Mosenthals took a prominent part in organising the South African exhibit at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1925 and was responsible for the huge crest of ostrich feathers displayed at the South African pavilion. The crest had actually been made in Port Elizabeth for the visit of the Prince of Wales to South Africa, when it was erected opposite the Johannesburg railway station.

In his position as General Manager, Harraway had administrative responsibility for the whole of the organisation with its establishments in London as well as five major South African and Rhodesian cities.

H.J. Harraway was President of the Port Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce in 1920 and 1922, and his place among the Union’s leading commercial figures was recognised with his election as President to the Associated Chambers of Commerce of South Africa in 1924. He also held office in many public institutions and was on the directorates of several other commercial enterprises. Being particularly interested in the National Thrift Organisation, Harraway was a committee member of this organisation. He was Chairman of the Zwartkops Saltpan and Company Limited, and a director of Mosenthal Brothers Limited, Johannesburg, E.K. Green and Company Limited, Cape Town, and the Castle Wine and Brandy Company Limited, Cape Town.

Besides being associated with Mosenthal’s agricultural enterprises in the shape of the Gariep Estates on the Orange River and the Limpopo Ranching Company in the British Bechuanaland Protectorate, Harraway was personally interested in farming as a Karoo wool­grower. In addition to being associated with Mosenthal’s agricultural and ranching ventures, Harraway was also President of the Port Elizabeth Agricultural Society from 1927 to 1930, and Vice-President for a period of seventeen years.

H.J. Harraway took a benevolent interest in the welfare of the town’s sportsmen and their sporting activities.  He also played some practical part in the development of organised sport, especially athletics and cycling, and was for a number of years President of the Eastern Province parent body.

In 1935 Harry James Harraway moved to “Aloes”, a pretentious house at 56 Park Drive (which still belongs to his family), having sold the property – “Knockfierna” – to Raymond Whitworth Hutchinson, B.A., London, the founder and owner of St. George’s Preparatory School.

The Future

This house is currently on the market. In Joburg, Houghton’s elegant homes on huge stands are being supplanted by upmarket complexes. Even though they cater for the same social strata, the leafy suburb becomes denuded of trees. Even if his mansion survives the current sale but is likely to ultimately be demolished for flats.

Source/

Articles by Tennyson Smith Bodill:

The Architecture of Park Drive: An Assessment and

Houses in Park Drive

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