End of the road for iconic Beach Hotel

I was quite surprised to see this one line entry in the Natal Mercury announcing the closure of what must be one of the iconic hotels on Durban’s beachfront. One would have thought that the imminent closure of the Beach Hotel would have been considered a bit more newsworthy.

But Durban is changing and the CBD is no longer what it used to be. I suppose with the economy as it is, the tight margins to keep hotels going in these tough times is having its effect. I have no information on the Beach’s Hotel past history but from old postcards and photos it would appear that it may have been the first beach front hotel of them all. As it was the Beach front was known as the Back Beach for in the early days the beach was actually the “sandy shore” along what is now the Esplanade. The present Beach Front apparently was a series of high sand dunes which in time were levelled when the development of the shipping wharves became a priority and the “beach front” on the Bay had to give way.

I have managed to gather a few pictures of the Beach Hotel as it transformed over the years. I remember it as the single storey with the long verandah and the big sea facing gables. Then the redevelopment of the corner site it stood on into a multistorey building that it is today. One wonders what its future will be. More student accommodation like its not too far off neighbour down West Street the Lonsdale Hotel.

Click on the pictures to enlarge.

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15 Responses

  1. Graeme
    | Reply

    What a sad state of affairs. G..wizz… That place is a landmark of our Durban, South Africa. So glad I had many a good time there in the 60s and 70s. How very sad. Anyone know the reason for the closure???

    • susan coates

      can you remember edgar adeler performimg at the beach hotel in the 1970’s he was the composed of ‘lily the pink’. he was a character and played the piano.

  2. Gerald Buttigieg
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    Hi Graeme
    Unfortunately where I am I do not get the paper everyday and the Sunday paper content at R25 a copy is not worth the paper it is written on. Whether The Beach Hotel is going to be converted into student accommodation I am not sure but that does not bode well. The Lonsdale Hotel apparently has been converted and if my memory serves me right there already has been a fire and a murder on the premises. Payne Brothers Building I hear has been taken over by one of these firms that repurposes old buildings and the interior has been changed into flatlets. This must have cost a pretty penny to provide bathroom facilities as if I recall the building was originally office accommodation.

  3. Donald
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    The memories is all we have left of what was once a beautiful and clean city which has now developed into filthy decay with no management from the city fathers.
    The Golden Mile is now the Filthy Mile so the hotels which cannot operate in such an enviroment will one by disappear or become decadent dives as has happened to the Lonsdale / Metropole / Four Seasons and many others.
    I wish I could have posted something positive but that was impossible to do !

  4. Richard Leeflang
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    Hi there Graeme and Gerald sad to hear the the Beach Hotel is no longer going to be used as a Hotel. When I was many years younger I was very lucky to get a Glimpse of Niel Armstrong the First Man on the Moon, who came walking down the stairs of the Beach Hotel with a whole crowd of people. There were lots of flags hanging outside, don’t know if he stayed at the Hotel or if he had been there for a Conference. Just thought I wanted to share this with you Guys . It was around the 1980 s when he visited . I was born in Durban have not been back in Ten years. Live in Cape Town now. Regards Richard

  5. Mark Lowe
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    Sadly, not only has the Durban beachfront changed but so has the quality of journalism and of newspapers like The Mercury. Once a fiercely independent and newsworthy title, it now is just another Iqbal Surve propaganda rag. No wonder important events like the closing of this landmark hotel was given so little attention. Neither the publisher, Editor or reporter is remotely interested in this story. For shame.

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Mark
      I cannot agree with you more. I grew up with The Mercury, the Daily News and the Sunday Tribune. All three papers are now just a ghost of what they were and stood up for. The Sunday Tribune has become collection of articles garnered from overseas news agencies or local articles so badly investigated they are not worth reading. The other ploy in the Tribune is to add half page pictures to fill the gaps. As for the cartoonists I doubt whether they have an idea of what a cartoon is supposed to convey. The fact that names have to indicated on the caricature is indicative of the ability of the cartoonist to actually draw. No wonder there is a crisis in journalism and its demise is being predicted.

  6. graeme
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    Lets hope they keeps something of the Beach Hotel. Even its a piece of the original building. Lockdown is slowly relaxing. maybe someone with bucks will keep it going. U cant kill history. Love live Durban.

  7. gerard walls
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    I remember staying there when I moved to Durbs from Jhb. I really enjoyed the Lonsdale and remember the swimming pool area was very nice. I moved on to live permanentely in John Ross house on the esplanade.Has that block of flats suffered the same fate as the large blocks in Hillbrow have.If SA doesn’t tell a story since 1994 I don’t know what can.It is all a crying shame I moved back to the UK after 42 years over there and I miss it every day

  8. Mona
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    Hi I worked at the Four seasons and Lonsdale Hotels and Killarney hotel as a Reservations clerk and accounts. It was owned then by Mr Yeagen Moodley. It was from 1995 to 1997. It was very neat and clean then. When foreigners started coming in and renting rooms for permanent accommodation the place started to go downhill. I worked with a wonderful gentleman there like a father figure Pat. Even the Chef was good. He thought me a good few things in the kitchen.

  9. David Taylor
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    I’m a bit late to this but came across this today when I typed in Gooderson Hotels. I shared an apt on the 11th ,or maybe 10th floor when I was employed at the Killarney,Brickhill Road in 1970. It was mid summer and no a/c-was it hot!,Then I got sent Cape Town to help in the Century,Sea Point. A long time ago but the best memories even if not the happiest time for S A

  10. Garry
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    I worked for Schindler in the 70s and have very fond memories of all of those hotels
    2 beers and curry and rice bar lunch what a fabulous time we had I’m in Texas now but dam I miss the old days, Durban is a big filthy crime ridden dump now
    Very sad. Blessings to all you fabulous South Africans.

  11. David Taylor
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    I remember one night when there was a massive power outage in Natal(a bit of mischief I recall) and we had folk stuck in the lifts. I imagine it was the same all over Durban. Anyway two or three burly chefs jemmied the door open. Management was not happy. Yes great memories. I am on North Scotland now with nearly a foot of snow!!

  12. Garth Smith
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    I get a lump in my throat reading the comments on “the golden mile “. Claridges (sp) hotel Beach Hotel Lonsdale Hotel Elangeni Hotel etc. All places I/we frequently visited ‘65-‘80s ish. I had the pleasure of spending 6 months of my army stint 1966 at “Natal command” commonly known as Hotel Command. Resulting in frequent visits to the Cuban Hat then on to the night life on the beach front. I’m ex Durban, Maritzburg, Cape Town, Salisbury (Zimbabwe) now live in the UK. We lived in those days back then now it’s just an existence with fond memories. Regards to all the ex Durbanites.

  13. Garry
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    Yes Garth I can feel your pain. I been in Texas 26 years and still miss Durban Zululand and the time we had in Margate ,we will never see good days like that again but at least we had them the fools that have messed the whole of Natal and SA will never know it bunch of communists that’s why it’s like it is. Blessings to all you good old people. Garry. AKA. Crow

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