Not many people are aware that off of the Grahamstown Road towards Swartkops in the region of Algorax, the Fish water Flats and Railway Depot a luxury spa (sanatorium) existed between the years 1914 and 1964 until it was sold to developers.
The mineral spring was discovered in 1906 by a private syndicate that was boring for oil and, at a depth of 3 600 feet struck water that rose under pressure to several feet above the surface and a quarter of million gallons of water at a temperature of around 55 degrees Celsius continued to flow until it was capped by the Department of Water Affairs in 1969.
On analysis, it was found that the spring water was heavy in healthful minerals which led to the building in 1914, by the Algoa Mining Company, of a fully equipped spa and sanatorium. The building contained 40 bedrooms, 16 bathrooms, a dining room, drawing room, billiard room – and a cinema. In 1916, the spa was bought by the Pearson family of Port Elizabeth.
In 1936 a magnificent new spa was built. The equivalent of a five-star hotel, it included a magnificent piece of architecture named Spring Hall. A fountain set in green marble was built over the spring head – water poured out through metal jets into a pool below.
After the Second World War, the Swartkops spa went out of vogue. Antibiotics had been invented and people lost belief in natural cures.
In 1984, this spa building, which was then used by a timber merchant, was demolished.
Dr Jan Lapere, through Warwick Owen, has sent the images that you see below of the Zwartkops Mineral Baths and Sanatorium, taken from the Eastern Province Annual for 1940.
The marketing page reads:
One is naturally and wisely guided by the opinion of experts ….. and the voice of experience …. when choosing the Spa at which one will “take the cure”. In “Town and Country News” (London), Arnold Richards describes Zwartkops Baths as “One of the most effective mineral baths in the world.” This view has been confirmed bu other experts. These remarkable Radio-active Chalybeate* waters contain …. in ideal proportion … medicinal properties which world-famous Continental spas lack and have to add artificially.
Amazing cures have been affected in cases of rheumatism, sciatica, lumbago, gout, insomnia, nervous complaints, painful afflictions of the muscle and joint, strains, sprains, indigestion, also intestinal, liver and kidney disorders, obesity, anemia, general debility etc. Thousands from all parts of Southern Africa, including long suffering invalids have regained health through drinking of and bathing in these wonderful waters. Special medical and other treatments available at the Sanatorium.
“Zwartkops” has other great claims to the patronage of health-seeker – it is the only Coastal Spa in the Union … it is unique in South Africa in that the Spring, Baths and Hotel are all in one building (a wonderful convenience to guests) … it has the distinction of being the hottest Chalybeate Spring in the world: 130 °F. (Pure cooled Mineral Water is used to reduce the temperature as desired) … it enjoys the equable climate with which Port Elizabeth is blessed. All these and breezes from the warm Indian Ocean, conspire together to pleasantly and quickly restore vitality and health.
The modern hotel accommodation is all that could be desired … well-balanced menus include the famous Nelson Pearson health food products … the sea, river and beach are near … long wide sundecks invite one to relax and enjoy the freshness and beauty of it all.
Single and Double Rooms, also Suites with private batch and toilet at varying terms … hot and cold mineral water installation in every room … radio … 25 private baths … guests have easy access to Port Elizabeth’s cinemas and shops.
Visitors by rail should book to Zwartkops Junction (car meets guests by arrangement).
Proprietor: Nelson Pearson, Box 3006, Port Elizabeth (Phone 007 Zwartkops or 2642 Port Elizabeth).
- Drinking Fountain in Spring Hall over actual Spring-head. the Hot Mineral Waters are brought up 3,260 feet in steel pipes. Thus they do not come into contact with the atmosphere and there is no loss of temperature, nor of medicinal properties and beneficial gases. No other spring in the world, it is believed, has this peculiar advantage. These Chalybeate waters are quite palatable and are most beneficial to the blood, stomach, intestines, etc., and greatly aid the digestion.
- The sheltered warm swimming pool with sun-bathing lawns. Floodlight at night. Filled by ever-flowing, health-giving mineral spring water at body temperature.
* Chalybeate waters – also known as ferruginous waters, are mineral spring waters containing salts of iron.
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