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Restoration of the Point Police and Fire Stations

By Allan Jackson - December 2008

Quite a lot of Durban's architectural heritage has been lost over the years, but there are encouraging signs that people are starting to pay greater concern to preservation.  A couple of buildings which have recently been restored are the old Police and Fire Stations in Point Road.

The two buildings are located at 162 to 170 Point Road and how are opposite the main gate to the harbour which would have been in an ideal spot for the police and firemen to deal with any crises or problems.

I was recently lucky enough to be invited on a tour of the building's along with the Friends of Architectural Heritage Society. We were guided by architect Eerhard Huizinga of Huizinga Architects.  Drawing from the info sheet that we were given at the start of the tour, the police station apparently dates from 1902, and was the third police station which had been erected at the Point.

The info sheet we were given describes the building as follows:

"The design, with Gables, porticos, arched and flat lintelled windows and pediments, is in a strong asymmetrical baroque revival style.  The corner tower is missing.  The verandas along both front and side elevations were originally enclosed but have now been opened up again although with an aluminium and glass treatment.

The Durban coat of arms is located on the building's pediment.  Despite the alterations, the building retains a rich richness and robustness in detail and a strong relationship with the adjoining building."  (That would be the fire station. Ed.)

The Point fire station was built in 1907 and again quoting from the leaflet we were given:

"It is two storied Edwardian gabled building with an asymmetrical facade and flamboyant baroque revival style, decorated with a fireman's helmet and hose motif.  If you look at the ground level of the entrance to the shops you will see that curved metal shields which were protection against the wheels of the wagons as they rushed out of the building to extinguish fires.  There was also a black blacksmith's shop at the back of the building."

The leaflet also describes how the floors on the ground floor of the fire station building slope down towards the door to let the horse-drawn fire engines roll-out more easily.

The two buildings were bought by Maingate Buildings Pty Ltd, a family-owned company, in 1971.  The family has been responsible for, and has funded the refurbishment and renovation of the two buildings, and it's thanks to those efforts that the buildings have been saved for Durban.

Leigh Dougall managed the project on behalf of the family, with on-site project manager Red van Zyl, and Eerhard Huizinga.  Work began on the restoration and renovation in December 2007 and January 2008, with the roof wetting taking place on the 29th of August 2008.

The previous tenants in the building included take-away food stores but, at the time of writing, it wasn't yet known who the new tenants of the buildings were going to be. By the look of the buildings, though, they would be ideal for either small retail operations or offices.

During the tour, Eerhard described the process of restoration and said that things proceeded on the project very differently from your average construction project. He said that the workers would essentially do the work, guided by what they found, and then he would do the drawings to suit; not an architect-driven pproject.

He said that the decision to renovate had come about about because the roofs of the buildings began to leak and accelerated the decay of the structures. The roof had to be redone and it was decided to renovate as well. It was never the intention to restore the buildings to their original form because they had been altered so many times over the years. The idea was for the builders to reveal and renovate as much of the historic structure as they could, replacing and patching where they had to. It was always a requirement that the buildings would need to be suitable for letting when completed but, within that, the builders made every effort not to spoil their Edwardian character.

Some pictures I took on 16 August 2008, during the renovation. I missed out the Police Station on this occasion, unfortunately. Duh!
The Fire Station.
The Coat of Arms on the building's pediment.
The Coat of Arms and the fireman's helmet.
The Fire Station and, behind the tree, the Police Station with white pillars in the front.
Taken on the tour on 16/11/2008
Looking from the catwalk overlooking the courtyard behind the police station. The area behind the wooden fence was nearly the site of a serious accident during restoration, when a wall of sand collapsed, from the left, on a bulldozer working there.
Much, the same view. The wing on the right housed the holding cells on the ground floor, and above them, the brracks for the policemen.That wing is still awaiting restoration.
Eerhard Huizinga leads the tour.
Taken from the courtyard, showing the catwalk and the the chimneys of the Police Station kitchen.
Looking from the catwalk towards the Spinnaker building.



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