Contact Artefacts
please if you have any comments or more information regarding this record.

Zwartkops Mineral Baths Sanatorium
Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), Eastern Cape


Date:1915 : 1922 : 1938
Style:Modern : Tectonic ZA Wilhelmiens
Status:Demolished 1984

[Also spelt 'Swartkops']

The Swartkops Mineral Baths Sanatorium was completed in 1938 by the architects Siemerink and Brinkman. The new hotel replaced the earlier bath houses which were built on the site in 1915 following the discovery of the natural hot chalybeate spring on the 29 May 1909. A double-storeyed hotel was built for Nelson Pearson in 1922. This was turned into a modernized complex in 1938. The building was located along the Grahamstown Road just outside Swartkops, in Port Elizabeth. The hotel remained very popular until the unfortunate decision to allow industrial development in close proximity. In particular, the Swartkops power Station and later the Carbon Black factory which produced high levels of air pollution. The hotel was closed and used by a timber merchant until 1984 when it was demolished.

(Harradine, 2010:288; Gerald Humphrey, 2016)


By Lyndi Scott

Submitted by Dean McCleland.

The first borehole sunk in South Africa in search of oil was at Swartkops in 1908, following vague rumours of oil in the area. Adam Guthrie was appointed to investigate the claims.

Excavation began. The plan was to drill to 3900 feet [1189 metre], but at 3348 feet [1020 metre] a hot spring was struck. A flow of 150 gallons [682 litre]/ minute was measured at a temperature of 54.4 degrees Celsius. The spring, it was surmised, could have some value. The drilling for oil was stopped.

On analysis, it was found that the spring water was heavy in healthful minerals. Four baths were established and rheumatic Bayonians swarmed to soak their aching bodies. Reports were enthusiastic, and litres of mineral water was aerated and bottled for sale in Port Elizabeth.

In 1914, the Algoa Mining Company built a fully equipped spa and sanatorium. The building contained 40 bedrooms, 16 bathrooms, a dining room, drawing room, billiard room - and a cinema! In 1916, the spa was bought by the In 1936 a magnificent new spa was built. The equivalent of a five-star hotel, it included a magnificent piece of architecture named Spring Hall. A fountain set in green marble was built over the spring head - water poured out through metal jets into a pool below.

After the Second World War, the Swartkops spa went out of vogue. Antibiotics had been invented and people lost belief in natural cures.

In 1960 the Phillips Carbon Black factory was built. Four years later the Pearson family sold the spa to industrial developers. In 1969 the Department of Water Affairs sealed the borehole with an enormous plug. The Sewage Treatment facility was built on one side of the spa and Railway Electric and Diesel Depots on the other.

In 1984, this spa building, an elegant lady filled with stories of the sick and diseased, was demolished.

Writings about this entry

Harradine, Margaret. 2004. Hills covered with cottages : Port Elizabeth's lost streetscapes. Port Elizabeth: Historical Society. pg 288
Harradine, Margaret. 1994. Port Elizabeth : a social chronicle to the end of 1945. Port Elizabeth: E.H. Walton Packaging (Pty) Ltd. pg 211