Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Destruction of the Architectural Integrity of the Market Square Precinct

Many people once pejoratively called Prince Charles a sentimental old fool for deploring the destruction of the architectural coherence of an area by demolishing an old building within a section of a town or street which epitomised a particular architectural style. As such, Charles was roundly condemned for wanting to stifle progress and advancement. Instead, it was an earnest plea by Charles to preserve such sections of the town where there was merit to do so. For not to exercise caution would destroy the architectural integrity of that area.

Sadly, Port Elizabeth has witnessed the destruction of such an area which would fall within the remit of Charles’ rebuke. Without a doubt, this area encompasses the old Market Square and includes Jetty Street and the old Customs House. To this we can add the demolition of the Fleming building and the old Collegiate School for use as a parking area

Main picture: The Main Library in 1939. All of these buildings whether they were constructed in 1859 like the Grey Institute or the Donkin lighthouse in 1861 are still standing. At this date if one had to turn around and look across Market Square, all of the original buildings would still be standing. From Castle Corner to the Mosenthal and Richardson buildings, they would all be present. Then as in in fit of pique, in the 1970s they would all be demolished.

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Market Square used as a Market

For the first forty-five years of Port Elizabeth’s existence, Market Square was the focal point of trade in farmers’ produce in Port Elizabeth.  During 1865, the Municipality relocated the Market close to the Law Courts’ Building, but subsequent civic pressure forced them to relent. This was a temporary repieve as it ultimately had to be permanently relocated elsewhere. 

This blog covers the period to 1868 when the Market was held in Market Square. 

Main picture: Market Square and Castle Hill circa 1860 painted by Mrs J Clark. The free-standing house was the original dedicated Post Office

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Market Square Through the Ages

From a position of being the focus point of trade in Port Elizabeth in the first fifty years of Port Elizabeth’s existence to its position where it now occupies the lowly position as a parking space for the members of the Metropolitan Council.  

Its name change over the years reflected this change. From Market Square to Mayor’s Garden to Vuyisile Mini Square.  

Main picture: Ox Wagens filled Market Square all days of the week except Sundays

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