Then and Now – The Athenaeum building

The Port Elizabeth Athenaeum Society of Port Elizabeth was founded in 1856 to promote the interests of science and literature among the members and general public.  In 1859 land was granted for the erection of the Town Hall and it stated that the building had to provide space for a library and athenaem as well.  In 1887 the athenaeum was dissolved and the Council took over it’s assets, which included a museum, which was housed in the Town Hall
In 1894 the Athenaeum was revived and comprised of the PE Institute, School of Art, Naturalists’ Society and the Camera Club.  Although they claimed their right to space in the Town Hall, the Council gave a new site and 3000 pounds for the construction of a new building for them to use.  The building was opened on 26 July 1896 which is about the date of the Then picture. 
In 1901 a new wing was opened and in 1919 the Athenaeum became a social club.  Since 1946 the Little Theatre has also been in operation from here and the building became a National Monument in 1980.  The whole building was renovated by the Municipality and MBDA a couple of years ago and still houses the theatre.  It also has a new coffee shop, exhibition and meeting space as well as a few other components.

The historic information in this post was taken from Margaret Harradine’s excellent book, Port Elizabeth, A social chronicle to the end of 1945.

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