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PORTER, Harold Nixon

Born: 1883 01 01
Died: 1958 02 27


Year registered: 1927

LRIBA 1925; Pres TPIA 1929

Was born in Mowbray, Cape and educated at Wynberg Boys' High School. He trained in Herbert BAKER's Johannesburg office where he was employed for several years. A letter from Baker to FE MASEY, dated in March 1903 notes 'I saw Porter's uncle, Sir Wools Sampson, who asked after his nephew. I told him how well he was getting on, but said it would be difficult to become a good architect without English training, and said it would be nice if he could go Home for a year or two. He at once said he would send him and pay all expenses' (BLB vol 2). However Porter never visited England to this end. By 1915 he was in practice on his own account in Johannesburg. Porter displayed an early interest in town planning and won a number of competitions for the layouts of new towns; he came second in competition for the layout of the University of the Witwatersrand site at Milner Park, Johannesburg (1919), and won the competition for the layout of the proposed town of Elandsfontein in 1920 (cf Building Dec 1920:427 ill) and was responsible for a working plan for the proposed town of Stella, near Vryburg (see Building Jun 1920:366-67 ill) (where he married in 1911). His interest in town planning led to his being elected President of the Transvaal Town Planning Institute in 1924, established in 1920 with Porter as a founder member and DM BURTON the first president.

In 1925 Porter won the competition for the Johannesburg War Memorial (see also J Lockwood HALL). In 1926, in collaboration with AS FURNER, he came second in the competition for Pretoria City Hall (SAAR Jun 1926:35-36 ill). Porter's best-known and most widely illustrated building was the Irene Church in Johannesburg [sic Irene ?] (1932-1933), designed a modernised Romanesque style. After WWII he had established the partnership PORTER, BOHLANDER & PARTNERS. His son Arthur Harold Wilson PORTER joined the firm as a draughtsman and later became a partner.

Porter had a keen interest in botany and horticulture. He served as chairman of the Transvaal Horticultural Society in 1925 and was elected president of that Society (n.d.); he was a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society, received a number of commissions for formal garden layouts in Johannesburg and wrote a number of articles for professional journals in which he developed his ideas. It was his non-architectural interests which contributed most to subsequent generations of South Africans. Among the most important contributions being his study of the genus Erica of plants. He had made a collection of Cape ericas whilst a young man in Herbert BAKER's office, which, according to the Dictionary of South African Biography (IV: 468-9), he donated to the University of Cape Town. His interest in ericas led him to buy a piece of the Cape Peninsula which he developed into a reserve dedicated to ericas, work on this reserve began in 1950. In 1953 he left Johannesburg and moved to Betty's Bay to work on the reserve, now known as the Harold Porter Botanic Reserve. The Erica porteri is named after him. He died at Betty's Bay and at his request was buried in the reserve. He was member of the Johannesburg Rotary Foundation as well as being Executive Member of the Johannesburg Publicity Association.

He married Olive May Finchham (1886 05 02 - 1984 06 19) on 1911 09 11 and they had one child, Arthur PORTER.

Council member Botanical Society of South Africa and of the Wild Flowers Protection Committee; one-time President of Transvaal Horticultural Society.

FRHS. (ARIBA nom papers (1925); BLB vol 2 (27 Feb 1903-25 Sep 1903); Cumming-George 1934; DSAB IV:468-9, this entry by MC Kartsen, covers Porter's career in botanical and horticultural circles in particular; SAAR Sep 1925:82; SAAR Dec 1929: 144 - Our president; SAAR Jun 1959:42 death notice; SAB Jan 1924:27; TAD MHG 1676/58; UTD 1915)

Publ: Layout of university site, Millner Park, Johannesburg, Building Jun 1919:262-63 ill; Working plan of the proposed town Stella, District Vryburg, Building Jun 1920:366-7; Proposed layout for garden township of Elandsfontein, Building Dec 1920:427; Garden design, Building Sep 1922:60, 61; Valedictory address of retiring Pres TPA, Building Dec 1924:92-3; The City Beautiful, AB&E Sep 1926:21; Treatment of water in gardens, SAAR Jun 1927:44-5; Town Planning, SAAR Dec 1928: 187-94; Garden features, SAAR Jun 1929: 71-5; Civic art in town planning, SAAR Dec 1930:124-6; The non-European hospital in Durban, SAAR Apr 1932:95-100, article with JS CLELAND; Nature reserves, SAAR Dec 1933:295-6.

All truncated references not fully cited in 'References' are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

List of projects

With photographs
With notes

Children's Aid Society: 1925. Brixton, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Factory for Lever Bros: 1938. Auckland Park, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Flats around Irene Church: 1934. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Flats Mrs Smith: 1926. Hospital Hill, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Girls' Hostel: 1925. Brixton, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Harold Porter Botanic Reserve: 1950. Betty's Bay, Western Cape - Architect
House Dr ET Mellor: Jesmond: 1922. Parktown, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House Mellor - Jesmond: 1922 : 1999. Parktown, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect 1922
House WS Saunders: 1924. Riviera, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
House: Amaseni: 1924. Westcliff, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk Irene: 1932. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Proposed Garden Township: 1920. Elandsfontein, Gauteng - Architect
Shops/flats: 1935. Rosettenville, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Tattersall's bldg: 1934. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Wanderer's Club, ext alt: 1927. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
War Memorial: 1925. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Architect
Working plans of proposed town: 1920. Stella, North West - Architect

Books citing PORTER

Cumming-George, L. 1934. Architecture in South Africa - Volume Two. Cape Town: The Speciality Press of S.A. Ltd.. pp 29

HSRC. 1981. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume IV. Pretoria: Butterworth & Co (SA) for Human Sciences Research Council. pp 468-469

Porter, Roger. 2011. The Founding of the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden. Hilton: Roger Porter. pp All