Monday, June 18, 2007

paradise found!

This morning K and I went on an expedition to the middle of town, and when we got to our destination, we thought we had died and gone to bookworm heaven!!

It all started because lately, we have been talking a lot about the origins of this historic area we live in and love so much. We decided that the only place to find the information we want is the old Public Library in the middle of town.
We have always known it was there, we had even been in there once about 20 odd years ago, but at that time we had different interests.

Also, Port Elizabeth's city centre went through the cycle of Urban Decay that is common to most big cities, as decentralisation kicks in, but because of the unrest during the breakdown of apartheid, it became worse than many, and was no longer considered a safe place to go to. So we got into the habit of using the suburban libraries closest to us, and it really just never occurred to us to go back there.

Lately there has been a big urban renewal project going on, there are security patrols in the area, incentives are being offered to landowners who upgrade their buildings, and it is beginning to be safer to go back to that part of town.

Naturally, if you know me by now, you will anticipate a small digression... I thought I would just put the building in its context for you before we venture into the treasure trove inside!

I dealt with the surrounding buildings in more detail in THIS POST.

.....so here is the city centre, called market square, as painted by Thomas Bowler in 1862

and here it was this morning,

145 years later!.. The pretty building to the right is the city hall.

This shows the City Hall in 1901, draped in black on the death of Queen Victoria, which leads us to the Library, diagonally across market square from the city hall, and presiding over it looking positively daunting is a marble statue of good old humourless Queen Vic! (She of 'we are not amused" fame!!)

It is a lovely old building and as you can see from the date, was completed in the same year that Queen Victoria died, 1901.When you go inside, you can't help being overawed by the lovely stained glass everywhere, even on the spectacular central domed skylight.but of course the main point of a library is.... the books

and they are there in abundance, stories high, on cute little balconies, many old leather bound historic volumes...

if we spent hours there every day for the rest of our lives we could not get through it all.... but, determined to make a noble effort, we staggered back to the car laden with wonderful old treasures.....watch this space, I am sure to bore you into a coma soon with all the stuff I find out about!

A taste of things to come, a map of early Port Elizabeth
In the meantime.... it is a seriously windy time of the year, as cold fronts sweep in from Antarctica every few days, and during one of the gales, a few of those lovely ancient pines that I commented on when we strolled through the graveyard have finally succumbed to the wind, and blown over. Shame, they lasted over a century....

Another gale is blowing today, the chokka fleet is sheltering in the bay, and I just love the way the wind blows the tops of the waves back....perfect weather to snuggle up at home with a cup of coffee and a good book.... guess the painting may have to slow down for a while!

5 comments:

RUTH said...

What a lovely building...sounds like you had a wonderful time. Love the photos of the high waves.

Shirley Goodwin said...

Lovely arches and domes!

Blue the Spa Girl said...

I love the dome! And the tomes!!! I love books, I can't get enough of them. That library looks like a wonderful place to get lost in for a few hours.
Your choppy waves make me nervous...I get seasick!
xo

Sheila said...

We often travel far and wide and never really get to know our own home town. I have been making an effort lately to learn more about where I have lived for over 20 years and like you I'm delighted at what I am discovering.
You town appears to have some lovely old buildings and a lot of history, I hope we will get to share some of it in future posts..
xx

Janet said...

I'm so green with envy over that library! It looks wonderful. I would be in heaven if we had a library like that in my town. They'd never get me out of there!!