The Nelson Mandela Bay Mayoral Committee on Wednesday 25 October gave it’s support to the recommendation that the Main Library be repaired at a cost of R33 975 594.73.
The Main Library has been closed since the Municipality temporarily closed the Govan Mbeki Avenue building on Thursday, 11 September 2014 so that necessary repair and maintenance work can be undertaken, as a continuation of previous repairs undertaken. See: Temporary Closure of Main Municipal Library.
The Main Library building is registered as a Grade 2 heritage building and is one of the few historical public buildings in the Central Business District.
The building was officially opened in 1902 and is well regarded as a fine example of Victorian Gothic architecture. The terra-cotta façade was manufactured in England and the Sicilian made marble statue of Queen Victoria was erected and unveiled in 1903.
The library had humble beginnings back in 1844 and begun as the Port Elizabeth News Society, there was only a small collection of books and a large variety of English magazines, London newspapers and the main South African paper.
At the time of the shutdown in 2014 an amount of R15 Million was allocated for the repairs – new estimates place the cost of repair at R33 975 594.73 leaving a shortfall of over R18 Million.
In approving the recommendation to commence with repairs Executive Mayor Athol Trollip was confident in saying; “We believe that we can even identify international funding for this building.”
The Main Library is in the Northwest Corner of Vuyisile Mini Square.
The Port Elizabeth City Hall, which is located overlooking Vuyisile Mini Square (Market Square), was built between 1858 and 1862. The attractive clock tower was only added in 1883. The City Hall until the advent of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality served as a Council Chamber. Now the hall is utilised as a concert hall, a lecture hall and offices for city council employees and the Mayor.
The City Hall was proclaimed a national monument in 1973. It burnt down in 1977 and was rebuilt. Also in the Square, is a replica of the Diaz Cross, donated by the Portuguese Government to commemorate the arrival of Bartholomew Diaz in Algoa Bay in 1488.
Located on Vuyisile Mini Square the City Hall stands sentinel over what was formerly known as Market Square.
The name change from Market Square to Vuyisile Mini Square took place on 6 November 2010 in memory of Vuyisile Mini who was a union leader, a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe, a singer and the first ANC member to be executed by the government in 1964.
On Vuyisile Mini Square 23 black workers were killed by police and a white vigilante in 1920. The victims were workers in the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union in the city. They were demanding the release of Samuel Masabalala, their leader, who had been arrested for fighting for 10 shillings per day for workers.
One other notable building around the square is the Public library and in front of the library is a marble statue of Queen Victoria which was unveiled in 1903.
For a long time Councillors used to park on the square but that has since ceased and the square is now open to the public.
The Square is one of the most noteworthy landmarks of Port Elizabeth. The ships landing beach was nearby in the early days and the handling of most of the goods in and out of the city was done through the Square, turning the square into a busy trading ground for local farmers. A bell was installed to alert the community that trading was taking place and the bell also served as a fire alarm.
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