In the early days, the area was simply known as the Corner of Main and Jetty Streets, descriptive but unimaginative and boring. The name Union Castle Corner only arose once the Union Castle Steamship Company occupied these premises in 1901. From 1820 until it was demolished in 1978 to become a bus terminus, it had effectively only had two buildings on this site but with multiple tenants over the years and one major upgrade. With the harbour being the centre of the town’s focus, this area was prime real estate.
This blog covers the buildings and their major tenants which occupied this site over the years.
Main picture: The original multi-storey building before the extension of the building down Jetty Street
For my research, I am always purchasing second-hand books on the internet. As reports had indicated that the service at the Post Office had improved, I took a chance. Instead of paying a courier R100 for a delivery within two days, I would save some money and pay R55 for the Post Office. I might have to wait a few extra days but that was not the end of the world.
Or so I incorrectly thought.
Main picture: Post Office International Mail
Many of Port Elizabeth’s historic gems such as the Custom’s House have already faced the demolisher’s wrecking ball yet the more compelling danger to Port Elizabeth’s magnificent architectural heritage, is not the building’s outright destruction, but rather inappropriate renovations which wrench these buildings from their historical and social taproots, transforming them into anodyne objects divorced from their past.
For me, the amber light of caution has ineluctably been switched to red as unscrupulous developers and renovators take no heed either of the original design of the structure or the materials used in its construct-ion. In such a callous manner is this irreplaceable heritage being flushed away, substituted by architecture shorn of its historical roots.
This is a plea – nay clarion call – not for vigilance but action to stem the tide of ahistorical renovations couched in terms of restoration. For not to do so, will forever doom this jewel to its gradual but ultimate destruction.
Main picture: Many sins of omission and commission were committed in the restoration of these terraced houses in Donkin Street
The building located on the corner of Main and Jetty Streets, once formed a prominent part not only of the history of Port Elizabeth, but also the elegance of Market Square.
In 1978, was demolished to make way for a bus station.
Main picture: Market Square in 1882
After much confusion and loss of mail, the Post Office had been relocated to the double storey house of the Harbour Engineer, Mr. Woodifield, adjacent to the Phoenix Hotel in Market Square.
The first innovation, the use of prepaid stamps, had by now been accepted then the second radical change was proposed.
Main picture: Corner of Main & Jetty Street in 1876. Originally the London and SA Bank occupied this site and then it was taken over by the Post Office. Later the then Union Castle Mail Steamship Company took it over. The little building two buildings on the left was the original building of T. Birch and Co.