In the spirit of heritage month in South Africa I grabbed my camera and explored some of the most famous heritage sites in Port Elizabeth.
South African heritage is not something you can sum up or pinpoint to something specific. It’s a delicate, colourful and tangled mix of where we came from, where we are and where we are going. It’s a lot of old with a hint of new breaking through to joyously celebrate our arts, cultures, languages, food and people. It’s our chiefs, our settlers, our generals.
It’s our rainbow nation, our rainbow flag and our rainbow heritage.
It is our South Africa.
A trip to Port Elizabeth is not complete without stopping by at one of the many heritage sites (at least), so if you ever find yourself in town, stay a while and book your accommodation in Port Elizabeth to be closer to the city’s history.
7 Heritage Sites in Port Elizabeth
The Public Library in Port Elizabeth’s Main Street was constructed in 1835 and served as a courthouse before it opened its doors to the public and the bookworms as a library in 1902. While a statue of Queen Victoria keeps a watchful eye over Market Square, this heritage site boasts being the only historic building in South Africa that was built as a public library and still operates as one to this day.
Just opposite Port Elizabeth’s Public Library stands City Hall, a remarkable building in the middle of Market Square, built between 1858 and 1862. City Hall is still being used by the council but it’s neo-Classical walls are also home to numerous public performances and conferences.
The Campanile is situated in close proximity to Port Elizabeth’s harbour and this bell tower was erected to commemorate the arrival of the British Settlers in 1820. There are 204 steps leading to the top and this Italian-style tower is home to the largest carillon of bells in South Africa.
If this stone fort could talk it would take you back to 1799 when British Forces stood their ground to prevent the possible landing of French troops. To this day no retributive shot has ever been fired from Fort Frederick.
Old Grey Institute
This secular-Gothic building was completed in 1859 and declared as a national monument in 1963. During the revival of higher learning Sir George Grey provided the land to construct a school; in the early 1900s the school had one thousand students and moved to a bigger building in Port Elizabeth.
Holy Trinity Anglican Church
This Victorian Gothic church in Havelock Street was constructed in 1866. The roof and interior was rebuilt in 1898 after the building suffered severe damage when a mentally deranged woman tried to burn down the church in 1897.
Donkin Reserve is the cherry on top of all the heritage sites in Port Elizabeth. It’s a place that owes its development to the British Settlers from 1820 but it’s also a place that speaks of South Africa’s growth. It’s a site in Port Elizabeth that celebrates the beginning while it explodes in powerful colour for the dawn of South Africa’s democracy. It’s a place to love, it’s a place to learn, it’s a place to experience the *ubuntu magic under a big South African flag.
What’s your favourite heritage sites in Port Elizabeth?
*Ubuntu is a Zulu word and it roughly translates to ‘Human Compassion’.
Are you visiting Port Elizabeth and need a place to stay? The Radisson Blu in Summerstrand is a world-class hotel just 300 meters from one of South Africa’s most prominent Blue Flag Beaches.