Durban Pot Pourri Six

Durban Pot Pourri  6


This week’s pictures are more a mix of old and new. Some survived to the late 50s early 60s but eventually fell to the demolishers.  Some of the younger viewers will be interested to see what existed in certain locations they may know today.  Feel free to comment if you know the areas.


Picture 1 :  Esplanade and probably the tallest building built on the Esplanade roundabout late 1890s. This building’s original name was changed.  Anyone know the reason?  Demolished early 1960s.


Picture 2 : Corner Field and Commercial Road.  Anyone name the familiar building erected in the area?


Picture 3 : I have indicated the names of the streets to help you out.  I do not know the area too well and am intrigued with Lowther’s Bread.


Picture 4 :  An interesting photo showing the original OK Bazaars as it was before its remodelling mid 1950s.


Photo  5: Who remembers these businesses.


Photo  6: Mid 1950s Christmas Decorations.  Recognise the area? Name the shops around there.


Picture 1

I was a little surprised that the building on the Esplanade was not identified.  This building was built circa 1902 and was originally named Koenig’s Building. I do not know about its early history but do know the building as my late father knew the caretaker, a certain Mr Hass who was a Maltese gentleman. I used to accompany my father when we visited him in the building.  This was roughly early 1950s. More about this later.

I cannot recall where I read about this building’s name being changed but it was changed from Koenig’s Building to St. Andrew’s Building.  The story goes that in in 1915 when the Germans sunk the liner, RMS  Lusitania in the Atlantic with the loss of over 1000 lives, the people of Durban rose in anti-German sentiment.   The anger was so strong that groups of British loyalists in Durban started attacking any firms with a German connotation.  German homes and businesses were torched.  Sound familiar? One firm that really suffered was Baumann’s , the baking firm. This despite the fact that Mr Baumann had served Durban as a town councillor, was a naturalized British citizen, a prominent Freemason and had two sons serving under General Botha in South West Africa.  The fact that Mr Baumann had emigrated from Germany in 1873 was regarded sufficient reason to destroy his business. Baumann’s changed its name immediately to Baker’s.  Likewise Koenig’s Building became St Andrew’s Mansions.

About the caretaker Mr Hass.  Mr Hass was small dapper man always dressed as a gentleman in a pin striped suit. I remember on one visit he was actually wearing white spats.  He also used to roll his moustache into points at the end.  He and my father spoke in Maltese but he was fluent in English as well.  I was just a young teenager then and wandered upstairs, there was no lift, just to see what was up there.  The building was a residence with individual rooms if I remember correctly.   Not flats as such but each floor had communal bathrooms as far as I could make out.  Looking at an old directory and going by the numbering scheme there were 7 floors with the eighth floor being two “penthouses”.    There were 7/8 rooms per floor.  I still recall the wide  passage way on each floor being high ceilinged and the floors wooden with rooms left and right.   Mr Hass had his office on the ground floor tucked away under the stair case.  I was a stamp collector at the time and on visits he would give me a small envelope with foreign stamps he collected for me.  On one visit a tenant had died and he must have had to clear the room of belongings for he gave me a delightful money box which I still have. It is obviously from World War 1 vintage.  I wonder who made it, where and when.  I attach a picture of it.

When Mr Hass died he had willed that his body be returned to Malta for burial. Unfortunately I have no photo of Mr Hass.

When I got to know St Andrew’s Building, Quadrant House on the corner of the Esplanade and Field St was built adjacent to it. On the other side was Shell House.  The entrance to St Andrew’s Building was in a narrow road called Bay Passage which ran from Smith St to the Esplanade. Bay Passage actually ran through an arch under the building onto the Esplanade but this had been blocked off with bollards as exiting here onto the busy Esplanade would have been dangerous.    So to all intents and purposes Bay Passage was a cul de sac.  The back area actually became a car park for Quadrant House tenants.   I still recall as you approached the back of St Andrew’s building, on the left was a high brick wall of another building and on it you could just make out some old faded signwriting  which read “Boat Builders”.  At street level in the front were display windows left and right. One I clearly recall was for Adelson’s Fumigators. In the window display was an actual termite’s nest, samples of wood eaten by termites and pictures of the different termites.  The display must have been there for years as it was as dusty as ever.  I attach a photo of Bay Passage I took many years later facing the Smith St end and pictures of St Andrew’s Building in later years.  Notice that the fancy roof towers must have been removed at some stage.

St Andrew’s Building was demolished in the early 60s and I think replaced by a parking garage.


Picture 2:

This old picture shows the intersection of Field Street and Commercial Road. On the left is the Durban Corporation Telephone Exchange Building which faced Field St and flanked both Pine St and Commercial Road.  Field St ran down to Soldier’s Way and on the left was the Butterworth Hotel.  Someone mentioned it was a dive but not so in the 1960s and 1970s as it was a popular wedding reception venue. It had a fine restaurant and a night club called Le Macarbe with the well known Bats as the resident band.  Coffin shaped tables were part of the décor.  The building on the left on the corner of Commercial Rd if I recall a portion still exists. The next road is Queen St followed by Victoria St and then Soldier’s Way.  The shape at the end of Field Street was the apron of the Triangle Filling Station later known as Aussies Triangle Petrol Station.  On the left hand side the old buildings were demolished and replaced by a parking garage called Nu Parkade(?)   Pine Street Parkade was the first building dedicated to a car park and was popular. Later Nicol Square was built but in the interim this one in Field St was built. I recall in this building at ground floor level was Kleen’s Watch Works, run by a very good Indian watchmaker.  This must be a very old picture as if you look at the Greyville Racecourse, you can see the main grandstand as a single building.

Picture 3:


Picture 4:

The OK Bazaars frontage as it was circa early 1950s. It was totally revamped in the early 60s and was a very popular shop. Always remember the signage OK Bazaars (1929) Pty Ltd.  Must have been 1959 when as a school boy I went for an interview to work there during the Christmas holidays. I was accepted and was told to report to the office on the first day after school broke up in December.  I was allocated to the men’s underwear department and still remember thinking what a boring department.  My mentor was a lady who ran the counter by herself and she showed me the ropes.  Well was I wrong.  Every man, boy and child must have got new underwear for Christmas. We never stopped all day and what was interesting was dealing with foreign ships’  crews  who could not speak English and you had to assist them.  The brand line was Curzon and another called Runacan.  It was fun though looking back.  I still remember the OK had a policy of as you entered the shop you were confronted by counters facing the entrance doors.  These were the sweet counters.  So as you entered you had to go either left or right to get into the store proper. Anyone remember this?  In those days each counter had tills and you paid there and then.  Here is a picture of the OK Bazaars as it was revamped.


Picture 5:

I included this picture because of the Waldorf Café.   The building on the left was Embassy House and the one on the right Shelton House. I have an idea these two were swallowed up in the development of the 320 West Street building. In the 60s pharmacies or chemists were individually owned so one knew them by their names such as Gaylens, Kahns, Floyds  etc.  or the area served Congella, Berea, Musgrave etc.  There were no Clicks. You got to know your chemist as you knew your doctor.  As shown here in the Kodak sign many chemists were agents for the development of 35 mm, and other films.  Kodak had a photo lab in Gale Street so films would be collected for processing and then returned.  Embassy House was a three storey building with small businesses upstairs.  Next door was Shelton House, a six storey building. H J Henochsberg was a clothing manufacturer making uniforms, caps, protective clothing etc under the Heritage brand name.  Again small businesses in this building, Athella Chapman School of Dancing, Anne Freed Theatre School, Durban Judokwai, Masque School of Ballet, John Curtis Photography.  The Waldorf Café I recall as a really nice eatery.  Not a restaurant as such but they had a nice menu in a sedate setting. A good go to place with a date if you were on a limited budget. It was not a big locale, the tables being at the back. As you see on the sign it was air conditioned which was unusual for small businesses.  The name brings back memories.


Picture 6:

This picture is of West Street looking at the intersection of Grey Street. In the far distance is the tower of the West Street Mosque.  The “black block” building on the right would be the corner of Grey  and West St.  This was a Beare Bros furniture store. Coming further down on the right hand side was the Roxy, possibly the most well-known bio café in Durban.  (I am still trying to get a picture of the actual cinema). The Roxy was probably the cheapest entertainment going. And a free refreshment thrown in.  I have to admit I killed time there as well especially during school holidays. Further down was Alwyn House with an Edworks Shoe Store at street level. Then came Foundry Lane between Alwyn House and Ackermans.  Foundry Lane got its name from John Gavin who had a foundry in this lane circa 1860. (from Origin of Durban Street Names by John McIntyre).  Then came HomeLeigh’s Furnishers  with Bale’s Building next door.  Then came the block building with the menswear outlet called Man’s Shop.   On the opposite side of the street was John Orr’s, then Howard’s Chemist and the tall building was McIntosh House.  Then Art  Leather and Handcraft  possibly the most visited arts and crafts store in the 60s. The Durban Shoe Centre and Morrison’s Lace and Madeira . Then came Gabriella’s Dress Shop, Electrical Construction and the legendary Colombo Tea and Coffee.  Then there was Tru Life Photography , the Bourn Bottle Store and finally the Polar Bar on the corner of West and Broad Street.  At this intersection Grey St ended  and Broad St began.  From my memories, The Polar Bar was as far as the family walked on Saturday evenings when window shopping. The car would be parked somewhere down West St and then a slow walk up West St to the Polar Bar were ice cream cones were bought , crossed the road and walked down the other side.  Having seen West St as it is today,  all you would see are roll down security doors.  Times have changed.   (Information from Lawrie’s 1965 Durban Directory)



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  1. Etta Nabbi
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    Nostalgic pics. I can identify with the actual sites but more so The Waldorf Cafe & Shelton House and also The OK Bazaars. As I worked at my first job in 1967 in Shelton House – on the 5th Floor for Joseph’s Agencies. I was there for 2 years and then in 1969, I left to join the OK Bazaars. I was interviewed at the OK Bazaars(as in the pic) in West St. Hence, I worked in the city centre from 1967 to 1997 and then with the Shoprite takeover of the OK Bazaars(1997) I had to move office to the Shoprite Divisional Office which was in Boscombe Terrace in the beachfront area until I retired in 2016.
    Practically 50 years in the city and also born in the Grey Street complex I have great memories of the old Durban City Centre.

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