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THEN & NOW: No more temple to stand guard over legal eagles

Durban’s Masonic Temple in Smith Street with the Riches Building in the background. Between them is Masonic Grove.

Durban’s Masonic Temple in Smith Street with the Riches Building in the background. Between them is Masonic Grove.

Published Oct 30, 2021

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The old picture this week is from local historian Gerald Buttigieg and was posted on the website Facts About Durban (www.fad.co.za).

It takes in a section of Smith (today Anton Lembede) Street and shows the Masonic Temple of Port Natal Lodge. The building further along the street is the Riches Building ‒ “virtually the last elegant old style building left in the area,” Buttigieg writes.

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The lane between them became known as Masonic Grove, today Dullah Omar Grove, which still forms the hub of Durban’s legal fraternity who have chambers in the road which leads to the Durban High Court.

The original Masonic temple was built on the site in 1871, but this was destroyed by fire in 1892. The building in the picture was the second Temple, enlarged and rebuilt in 1894 and designed by architects Street-Wilson and Fyfe. It was used for Masonic purposes until 1949, before the site was sold and the building demolished to make way for the multi-storey Sanlam building, which today is known as Sangro House.

The scene on Anton Lembede Street today. Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

The Riches Building still stands but sadly the dome, cupola and the embellishments round the roof area have been removed and all that is left are the lower two floors. The statue in the alcove remains, as does the Victorian lace decorations and uprights supporting the front roofing.

Our photographer Shelley Kjonstad’s picture of Anton Lembede Street this week show a very different scene.

A sculpture in the Riches Building on Anton Lembede Street today. Shelley Kjonstad/ ANA

The Independent on Saturday

Related Topics:

Architecture

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