Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Humewood Hotel

The history of this beachfront hotel is shrouded in mystery. Details of its past are sketchy. Unlike other prominent and venerable old hotels in Port Elizabeth, I am unable to produce a complete history of this hotel. Suffice to say that this is an attempt to lay out the facts that are known.

Various establishments over the years bore the word Humewood as part of their name. Some of them are unrelated to one another. This blog serves to set out what these establishments were and their connection if any to the others.

Main picture: The Humewood Beach Hotel was located where the current Garden Court is situated before it was burnt down

The Humewood Beach Hotel

Most changes to hotels relate to upgrades such as the original Palmerston Hotel. Some are relocated such as the Phoenix Hotel while others are replaced with a completely new structure viz Elizabeth Hotel. The Humewood Hotel ticks all these boxes. There is no connection between the initial establishments bearing the name Humewood as part of its name. The first one was the Humewood Beach Hotel located on the current site of the Garden Court Hotel.

The date of construction of this hotel is unknown. As Humewood was only opened up for development in the 1880s with the sale of the first plots in the S-bend, the original hotel was probably only constructed during the 1890s.

The Humewood Beach Hotel dated 02 December 1904

This hotel was to have a fiery death knell, being destroyed by fire on the 1st December 1915. On 30th January 1917, the remains of the hotel together with the cottages, skating rink and temporary bar, were sold to the municipality.

Roller skating

Resuscitated “Humewood” Hotel

After purchasing the site of the Humewood Beach Hotel, the Council unsuccessfully offered to lease it to a hotel developer. As none was forthcoming and in order to satisfy an urgent need for hotel accommodation at Humewood, the Council requested permission itself. Simultaneously it intended to develop the surrounding area at the same time. The winners of the architectural competition were Baker, Kendall and Morris of Cape Town. What threw a spanner in the good intentions was the cost. It far exceeded the original amount and the ratepayers refused to borrow more. This culminated in the plans being remodelled in 1924 and redesigned by Municipal architects in 1925.

The original Elizabeth Hotel on the site of the original Humewood Beach Hotel

According to Margaret Harradine, the official opening of the rebuilt Humewood Hotel occurred on the 29th July 1927 by the Mayor, J.S. Young who was to throw a spanner in the works by suggesting that the hotel be renamed the Elizabeth Hotel. This proposal was duly accepted.

The completed hotel was sold to Amalgamated African Hotels Limited on 29th April 1937 for £ 29,000.

In effect, the name Humewood Hotel was stilborn and this hotel was never officially for business purposes known as the Humewood Hotel.

The Humewood Mansions Hotel

It can be reliably presumed that the hotel’s name was derived from the names of the roads behind and on its western flank.

Humewood Hotel in Beach Road

Its precise history is unknown and vague as memory apart from the fact that the owners for since its inception has been the Templer family. Current management contend that “around 1920 the two side wings were added which then took the hotel to a 100-room hotel. The precise dates of the construction and additions might not be known, nonetheless they do have dates on the structure based upon pictures taken in 1921 and 1925 showing the new wings.”

In 1985 the second story in the middle was added along with a lift inside the hotel.

Humewood Hotel as seen from the Esplanade

During the 1990s, our family stayed at this hotel for ten days. The reason for the stay was to introduce my family to my home town. Forever I will recall this stay with extreme distress as I gained ten kilograms over those ten days after having lost 12kgs over the previous six months!

Humewood Mansions Hotel pre 1985
Humewood Mansions Hotel


Port Elizabeth: A Social Chronicle to the end of 1945 by Margaret Harradine (1996, E H Walton Packaging Pty Ltd, Port Elizabeth)

David Snuggs – GM of the Humewood Hotel

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