This blog is a verbatim copy of an article of unknown origin or authorship. That begs the question of who indeed wrote it. As a best guess it was Tennyson Bodill as it came from his files.
Notwithstanding vigorous growth during its first forty years, Port Elizabeth was still a dinky-sized town in 1861. From a scruffiness in its early years, which was unbecoming, it was the debut of the Town Hall which ushered in a whole array of elegant buildings such as the original Standard Bank building. What the town lacked then, and the city does now, was greenery. This paucity of vegetation has deprived its inhabitants of its aesthetic beauty, which would have enhanced the attractiveness of the town.
Main picture: The original St Mary’s Church before it was burnt down in 1895. Never an object of beauty, it was a plain unadorned box of a building.
The houses in Donkin Street add to the charm of the area bracketed by the Hill Presbyterian church at the top and Nedbank building in Main Street and bounded by the Donkin Reserve in the east.
Main picture: Painting of Donkin Row, as it is called
Initially the Presbyterians in Port Elizabeth could not afford their own church so they supported the “New Church,” an Independent Church, from 1853. This church was located at the corner of Main and Donkin Streets. Finally, in 1861 they were able to support their own church.
Accordingly, they built a magnificent Gothic Revival style church in a prominent position on the hill which is visible from Algoa Bay.
Main picture: View of the Hill Presbyterian Church from Donkin Reserve
One of the little known facts about Port Elizabeth of Yore is that there was another church in Main Street apart from St. Mary’s. It was known by the highly imaginative name of The New Church. It stood in Main Street between Donkin Street and Constitutional Hill, which extended down to Main Street in those days. This church was initially an independent church built by the members of Union Chapel.
Main picture: New Church is on the right looking towards the market square. One is unable to view the Town Hall at the end of Main Street, as it did not yet exist.