Thursday, April 5, 2012

Historic Public Library

One of my favorite places as a child was the Public Library in the city centre.  We used to go to work with my mom during school holidays every now and then and would spend just about the whole day in the library.  Its such an amazing place with its rows and tows of books on various levels and magnificent stained glass windows.

The history of the library is quite interesting.  A small reading society, known as the Port Elizabeth News Society, was established in 1844 and housed in a rented room above a shop in Jetty Street.   The reading matter consisted mainly of English magazines and London newspapers and the main South African newspapers published at the time, in addition to a small collection of books.

In 1845, the Society moved to a rented room in the Commercial Hall which stood on the site of the present Main Library building.   At a public meeting held on 26 July 1848, the residents decided to start a subscription library.  £585 was collected from public subscriptions, and a yearly income of £197 was guaranteed.   In addition, the government of the day gave a grant of £200.

The Public Library was very successful and, partly through buying shares, but mostly through members who donated their shares, managed to acquire the Commercial Hall wholly as their own building.  In 1854, the library moved out and rented the building to the Government, which used the old Commercial Hall as a court house.

The library was housed at various sites until 31 July 1902, when it was officially opened and housed in its present building.


  1. Oh wow! That is a really cool looking library!

  2. I like how this has a central atrium where you can see up to all the floors

  3. This is a Marvelous library. I too spent much childhood time at the library and it had multiple open floors like this but not the pretty stained glass windows.

  4. Everything a library should be!

  5. Nice piece of local (and family), history in this post. And a very impressive library.

  6. I have so many happy memories of spending time at that was however a bit freaky browsing books on those balconies!