This has been an on/off topic that I started, left and finally did finish. Please feel free to add any arcades I have left out and comment on any information pertaining to them.
The Arcades of Durban.
One aspect of Durban’s central business district which I well remember growing up in Durban, was the number of arcades that linked West St. and Smith St. and West St. and Pine St. There were others as well dotted around the city. All the arcades had a myriad of shops at ground floor level and many had retail outlets on first and second floors above them. You really knew your Durban CBD well if you could remember what shops were in which arcades. Now armed with my Durban Directory as backup I thought it would be an interesting exercise to list the many arcades that existed in 1968. Some have now disappeared, many have been revamped, some may have had a name change. Here’s the 1968 list and I have added comments as to some of them I remember. They are in alphabetical order.
African Life Arcade: 362 West Street. West St. through to Pine St.
My memory of this arcade was that from the West Street side all the shops in the arcade were on the right hand side only. On the left hand side, the wall had fairly large picture frame display cases rented by some of the tenants. The last shop at the Pine St. end was Playdays, Toys and Hobbies who were agents for Dinky Toys and Britain’s lead soldiers. The three Monkey’s Coffee Bar was at the West St. end.
Ajmeri Arcade. 141 Grey Street. Grey St. through to Cathedral Road.
One of the iconic arcades in the Indian Quarter. The Cathedral Road end exited directly outside the Cathedral. The Grey Street end was a whole collection of small shops. Upstairs was a shop which sold tropical fish. There were a lot of tailors, and shoe shops in the arcade. I never felt daunted going through the arcade and in later years even took my family through it just to experience it.
Beach Arcade. 20 West Street. West St. through to Palmer St.
An obscure arcade which I remember from the days I worked at the Beach Telephone Exchange complex. The arcade was rather dilapidated and from West St one exited at the back of the Exchange Building. In later years the Mykonos Restaurant (remember eat as much as you like? ) was adjacent. One would arrive for work on Monday mornings to find workers from a pig farm loading drums and drums of uneaten food scraps being the weekend’s “leftovers”. In the arcade was a gift shop run by a family named Cramer and a hair salon called Salon de Beaute. The whole arcade was demolished in the 80’s and redeveloped as a CNA outlet, the arcade disappearing.
Castle Arcade. 318 West Street. West St. through to Pine St.
One of Durban’s landmarks which should have been preserved in my opinion. It was an old building already when I remember it. If I remember correctly it had a glass paned roof covering the central arcade and steps leading upstairs. About midpoint in the arcade used to stand a large glass showcase which housed a model of the Armadale Castle, the first Union Castle Liner to cross the bar and enter the port in 1904. This ship’s model was moved to the Durban Museum. The entire arcade was eventually demolished and the 320 West Street complex now stands on the site. There is a passage through the new complex but as far as I recall it was not named Castle Arcade; in fact I am not sure if it ever was given a name. In the new complex probably one of the first “eating house” franchises was located on the ground floor passage called the Golden Egg. This would have been early 1970s.
DoDo Arcade. 389 West Street. West St. through to Smith St.
A vague memory of this arcade. Seem to recall it had steps in it so it was not level right through. In the arcade was the Universal Watch Works and they had a neon sign to this effect. On the West Street side there was a lady’s shoe shop called Do Do’s which also had a basement section. Do Do’s was part of the Eddels Shoe Group.
Guildhall Arcade. 25 Gardiner Street. Gardiner St. through to Durban Club Place.
Another not well known arcade in the lower part of Gardiner Street, Esplanade end. I know where it is as at street level was a shop called Audiolens who were agents for Bang & Olufsen (B&O) hi fi equipment. In the late 60s it became trendy to have a serious hi fi set up and equipment. I recall B&O (Swedish Bang & Olufsen ) being top notch if you could afford it. Sansui, Pioneer, JVC, Akai and Kenwood being cheaper imports. Audiolens were also agents for Japanese 35 mm SLR cameras which at that time saw the changeover to Single Lens Reflex and the demise of European view finder cameras.
Henwoods Arcade. 342 West Street. West St. through to Pine St.
This arcade came up for discussion with Henwoods of West St. on FAD. A very old arcade from what I have read in the history. There was some uncertainty as to whether it was a single storey or double storey building. The 1968 record shows that Henwoods actually had seven floors! The 6th and 7th Floors were occupied by the Natal Business College which I recall offered early school leavers the opportunity to get what was called Commercial Matric certificates; shorthand, typing, bookkeeping etc. Very vaguely recall that in this arcade there was a shop that had various sea corals for sale as well as rocks with crystals in the insides. Not many memories of Henwood’s Arcade.
Himalaya Arcade. 159 Warwick Avenue. Warwick Avenue through to Lancers Rd?
The closest I got to it was going to Angler’s Paradise (103 Warwick Ave) with my uncle to buy fishing equipment. Fridays they stayed open till late and the whole area was alive with people. Himalaya House would have been opposite the old Indian fresh produce Market which was on the point of being done away with not so long ago, but eventually saved. Another I never visited.
Kismet Arcade. 75 Prince Edward Street. Prince Edward St through to Leopold St?
Never visited this one. In the heart of Indian Commercial area.
London Arcade. 356 West Street. West St. through to Pine St.
The arcade running through London House, a really central block of flats in the heart of the CBD. I recall this as being a rather narrow arcade with many small and strange shops in it. The lift to upstairs was closer to West Street than Pine Street. The Brides and Maids Shop was on the West St. end and used to have full size models in the display windows. JIX Model Centre was the place for balsa model aircraft kits as well as the motors for them. CrisCraft and Baby Bees come to mind. Near the West St. end as well was Norwegian Silver, a gift shop run by two elderly ladies. It was one of my favourite places to buy affordable but good quality wedding gifts. Empire Watch Works was in there as well as a second hand bookshop which also had a vast array of sea shells and coral pieces as decor. In the directory it is shown that Emile’s Wigmaker was on the first floor. Emile’s was run by a dapper, Mr Dressler. I was friends with the guy who married his daughter and eventually ran the business. On the first floor windows facing Pine Street, the advertising was shown as Emile’s Postiche. Emile’s made a name for themselves in the wig world notably supplying Tina Turner and the late Mr Rajbansi! Interestingly enough I found that Emile’s Hairdressers were operating at the beach end of West Street in 1938. London House suffered severe fire damage I think in the 1990’s and today looks rather worn down. An interesting arcade and one I walked through often.
Madressa Arcade 145a Grey Street. Grey Street through to Cathedral Road.
This arcade is in the Indian business area close to the Grey St. Mosque. I never went through it. Probably took its name from the school that was linked to the nearby mosque.
Murchie’s Passage. Between West and Smiths Streets.
This was not an arcade as such, as I remember it, but more a walkthrough between West and Smith Sts. It ran under the Barclay’s Bank building. This was adjacent to the Cuthbert’s Building in West St. The Barclay’s Building was replaced by the Eagle Building and I seem to remember the last surviving Murchie daughter opened the new Murchie’s Passage in the late 80s? I seem to recall there were no shops in the Passage.
Salisbury Arcade. 349 West St. West St. through to Smith St.
Probably one of the best known and used arcades in Durban in the 1960s. Very centrally located it always had traffic going through it. On the West St. side was Jerome’s Outfitters. In the arcade was the Stork Shop (baby wear), Sincerely Yours (card shop), Arcade Tobacconists, Elna Sewing Machines, Burlington Art Galleries, Florette and Goodyear (florists), Dragon Tea and Coffee House, The Umbrella Shop, Moore Shoe Co. and at the Smith Street end, Bermeisters Camera Centre. At the Smith St end, the arcade on the right was open to an open space with staircases leading to the upper floors. This space was made into a small garden area. On the floor above the arcade I remember there being a bridal shop and a shop I visited quite often, Track and Trestle which specialised in Model Trains, Models and hobby equipment. It was owned by the late Carl Peters and the shop became a meeting place for model and model train enthusiasts. There was an escalator on the inside of the arcade which took you to the first floor. In the building above many doctors had rooms. In the early 60s on the West St end when music record shops started appearing, a shop opened on the corner. I stand corrected but I think it was called the The Record Den. This was the time of the Beatles and 45 rpm and LPs were eagerly bought. The shop if I recall had booths where you could listen to the tracks using earphones. A popular coffee shop (called The Press Club) opened at the Smith St. end in the early 90s (?) and on the Smith St frontage Keogh’s Stamps and Coins opened a large outlet for a few years. Keoghs did not last many years at all and it was replaced by a Hilton Weiner retail outlet.
Sadly I walked through Salisbury Arcade but a few years ago and it was deserted. Just about every outlet on the ground floor was TO LET. The CBD just wasn’t what it used to be.
Sanlam Arcade. West St. through to Smith St.
This is probably the newest arcade in the CBD. When the Standard Bank building was demolished the whole site was redeveloped as the Sanlam Centre. There was much controversy as to the demolition of the Standard Bank building which was highly rated architecturally. But in the end it did not survive the jackhammer. I did go through this arcade but cannot recall much of what was in the interior bar that there were escalators from ground level going upstairs.
Trust Arcade. Corner West and Gardiner Street.
This was an odd arcade in that it had a right hand bend in it linking West St. and Gardiner St. It was at the base of the Trust Building which has now been demolished and replaced by the multistorey Old Mutual building that stands there now. I think it has changed hands now. The Trust Arcade had Bernina’s Sewing Machines, Cafe Madeline, Alpine Cake Shop as tenants. For years prior to its demise, a shop with Pottery Seconds occupied the Gardiner Street frontage.
West Walk 405 West Street. West St. through to Smith St.
A more modern arcade relatively speaking. For the young dudes in Durban this was the arcade were Bachelor’s was. Bachelors in the 60s was the shop where to get suited. I cannot recall the names of the two owners but a school friend, Clem de Gaye worked there for quite a few years. The swinging London dress fashion had hit Durban in a big way and one, to be “hip”, just had to have a 60s suit to go with the mini skirts of the fairer sex. West Walk if I remember also had steps in it and it cut through at an angle. There was an open coffee bar in the middle and a large mosaic tiled post box below a staircase leading upstairs.
Times have changed. Will the hustle and bustle of the arcades ever be revived?Share this: