Bulawayo In 1947
- 31/ 10/ 2007 <--Prev : Next-->
Entertainment in Bulawayo 1947 Style. From Conal
Frank and Vicky decided to go out on the first Saturday night. They had been told that
there was only one place to go, ?The Grand?. The Grand Hotel dominated the area of Main
Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenue. Built at the turn of the century, in Brick, which
betrayed an influence of merging Byzantine and Italian architecture. Two stories, with
rooms set in the roof, it was a fine example of Victorian architecture with decorative
gables, wooden balustrading and pillars. The Corner facing Main and Ninth avenue was
dominated by a cupola. The middle section, of the hotel , in Main Street, had been
replaced by a more modern four storey section, built is a style that was sympathetic to the
older part. The hotel had a sumptuous dining room and two function rooms, the large
MacMurray Hall and the Connaught Rooms, (named in honour of the Duke of Connaught,
the one time Governor General of South Africa, who was married to a daughter of Queen
Victoria). It also had three bars, the Corn!
er bar and two others, which were called, in the 1960?s The Steering Wheel and the Sable
There were four cinemas within easy walking distance from the hotel. Between Main and
Abercorn, in Ninth Avenue there was the elderly Empire Theatre, which was often referred
to, by local people as the ?Bug House?. Further up Ninth, towards Fort Street there was the ?
Prince?s?. This was a very large venue, the ground floor was not raked and was flat with a
sprung wooden floor. The Grand often used it for large balls and the like. Heading south
on Main Street on the corner of Eleventh was a modern Cinema, ?The 20th Century and a
block to the east on the Corner of Abercorn and Eleventh was the Palace a sumptuous
theatre which was part of the Palace Hotel.
In the following years the focus of entertainment changed, though it is probably true to
say that Frank and Vicky did not notice. With a young growing family their chances on
going out were very limited. In the early 1950?s The Empire was gutted by fire. On the site,
Bulawayo?s largest building ?The African Life? rose. The name however survived for many
years in a bar in the new basement, The Empire Bar. The 20th Century died in the 1950?s,
unlamented and the building became an automotive works of sorts before becoming the
home for a while of Tattersalls. The old foyer with its glass windowed booking office, the
prices painted on the glass, survived into the 70?s. The Prince?s survived until 1962 and in
dying was probably the first victim of television. It then became a bed showroom until the
70?s when it became a bowling alley and then a nightclub.
The Grand soldiered on, though with the Rhodes Centenary Exhibition and the opening of
the Victoria Hotel in Wilson Street, it was no longer the largest hotel. However its function
rooms continued to host balls and weekly bingo. The Warnborough night club, opened in
1953, with its late licence probably served to take part of it?s business. The end came in
1970 when it was sold to be redeveloped as the ?Bulawayo Centre?. It what can only be seen
as architectural vandalism, not the first, the demolishing of Scotts Buildings on the corner
of Main and Eighth avenue in 1963 was probably worse, the old section was demolished to
be replaced by a row of shops which attracted the derision of locals, calling it ?Bombay
House?. (Ironically the name stuck and for years the business on the corner was called ?
Bombay Bazaar?) The new building lasted barely 20years. However a piece of the Grand did
survive, the cupola was transported to a garden in Heyman Road in the suburbs, where it
became a summer house.