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SWAKOPMUND NAMIBIA HISTORY part 2

 

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Swakopmund Namibia - a history part 2

   
The Herero Uprising War brought along with it a boom for Swakopmund as the soldiers, weapons of war and supplies all had to be shipped in through the small port. By 1905 the population of civilian ex-patriots had risen to 1433. The town now had a Bank, Hotels, shops, and even a  brewery to tend to the needs of the community.

 

Soon, a system of rail tracks was laid around the town for the public transport system of horse-drawn trolleys. The cost for carrying a person with their travel luggage from the Station to the Mole was 1 Mark. All of this helped in assuring the community that the future promised a long term prosperity. 

Hotel Furst Bismarck

Furst Bismarck Hotel

Hotel Kaiserkrone

KaiserKrone Hotel

Deutsches Afrika Bank

Deutsches Afrika Bank

Altes Staatsbahnhof

Staatsbahnhof

A Swakopmunder Trolley horse drawn along rail tracks

Swakopmund Trolley

         
OMEG Otavi Bahnhof narrow guage line for transport of copper

OMEG Otavi Bahnhof

The Post Office in Schlucte St.

Old Post Office

The 'new' Post Office 1907

New Post Office

Lutheran Church

Lutheran Church

Early Swakopmunders

 

In 1885 a postal agency was opened in the store of Otto Erhard who took on the duties of Post Master. Otto's part time job carried with it a great amount of responsibility for the colony. When a ship arrived with the mail he had the task of sorting the letters not only for Swakopmund, but for all interior destinations also. It was at these times that the locals, all eager for the latest news from Germany, were a constant cause of distraction to the trusted Mr. Erhard, so he made a ruling that his store would remain closed until the post  had been sorted without interruption. On completion of this task, Erhard would walk into the street and fire off a rounds from his revolver to announce to the people that they could now come and collect their mail. As the colony grew the responsibility of the Reich's Mail warranted a full time Post Office with an appointed official. In these times the German flag would be raised to indicate that the mail had been sorted and was ready for collection. In 1888 German South West Africa became a member of the Universal Postal Union. The construction of the large double story building to house the Post Office in the then Schlucht Street commenced in 1906, and was opened on 1 April 1907. The event was thought to be of such importance to the country that the street was renamed Post Street. It remained as the Post Office until 31 March 1967 when it was put into commission as the Swakopmund Municipality Offices.

 

The original light beacon on the Mole

The Beacon at the Mole

Swakopmund Lighthouse original design

The Lighthouse & Kaiserlischebezirkgericht

The Lighthouse raised in height 1911

The Lighthouse and BZ improved

 

The original (1902) beacon was situated at the end of the Mole and was soon washed away by the powerful South Atlantic rollers. By 1903 an 11 meter high lighthouse was built on the 11 meter high dune that overlooked the Mole Basin. The light helped to guide shipping as far as 13 nautical miles out. The next few years saw a dramatic increase in traffic to the port of Swakopmund and in 1910 the structure was raised another 10 meters, enabling the light to be seen for 35 nautical miles. The lighthouse remains operative to this day.

The Great War 1914 -18:  Sadly the expansion was to halt suddenly with the outbreak of the Great War. A British Auxiliary cruiser shelled the town at will causing a general evacuation inland to the safety of the desert. The lifeline of the colony had been severed and the much needed supplies and ammunition were no longer available through the port of Swakopmund.

 

The South African Union troops entered Swakopmund on 15 January 1915 to find a deserted town. An armistice was declared with the citizens in July and the people of Swakopmund returned to a lifeless town. Gone was the bustling sea port, for the new authorities made use of the  harbour facility at Walvis Bay. A terrible depression followed and many people were forced for economic reasons to leave town. By October 1919 all German officials along with their families were expelled from the country. A total of 5781 people had to be relocated.

1923: The ruling authorities agreed on a salvage plan for the town. It was to be developed into being a holiday resort for the people of South West Africa. Swakopmund's healthier climate also made it an attractive place in which to educate children. Initially South African children were given the use of the existing schools, while the German speaking children were moved into disused buildings such as the Wille-Haus, The Kaserne, The Woermann Haus, The Ritterburg and the Altes Amtsgericht. Separate hostels were opened to accommodate the pupils. The attractions of the climate also found favour with people who had decided to spend their retirement years away from the heat of the inland summer.

Swakopmund continued to establish itself as being a holiday and retirement venue. Industrial development remained small along with population growth until the early seventies when the Rossing Uranium Mine was being built some 70km into the desert. The town enjoyed a boom as housing for employees and all of their needs had to be catered for. Since independence Swakopmund has developed at a steady pace and the Municipality have wisely recognized the importance of tourism.  Many of the once salt streets have now been tarred or covered with interlocking bricks. There has been a flourish of apartment block developments most of which have architecture in keeping with the character of the town.

 

Acknowledgements and further reading: A1, H5, H8, H11, M3, P2

 

Orange Bullet  Back to Swakopmund History Pt 1

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