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University of Fort Hare, Henderson Hall
Alice, Eastern Cape

PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT: Architect

Date:1942
Type:University
Status:Extant

 


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Coordinates:
32°47'09.95" S 26°50'45.68" E

It is not unlikely that the building footprint of Henderson Hall had to follow a predetermined master-plan and that the architectural style had to conform to the existing buildings – but this has not been confirmed. The starting point for the design of the building was clearly the reference to the adjacent Stewart Hall and Livingstone Hall.

Henderson Hall was a symmetrically planned, linear double-storey building in a neo-classical style, with its length oriented on a diagonal axis from southwest to northeast. A short transverse wing terminated each end of the linear block and the entrance was symmetrically placed on the north west elevation.

The plastered external walls of the building were set on a low projecting hammer-dressed sandstone plinth. The windows are steel casements. The lower windows were each framed with a simple moulded plastered surround; a continuous moulding at lintel height united the first floor windows. The building has a double-pitched clay tiled roof.

Entrance into the building was framed with a moulded sandstone surround which was capped with a moulded projecting sandstone ledge. The words HENDERSON HALL were inscribed in large V-cut roman letters in the painted plaster panel above the door.

The Henderson Hall now forms a portion of the south eastern edge of the large central open space on the UFH campus, now known as Freedom Square.

[William MARTINSON, April 2011]

The plans for Henderson Hall were drawn up by the Department of Public Works.

Reference supplied by Philip Clarke, Africana and Rare Books Librarian, Alice Campus Library, University of Fort Hare - sent to us by William MARTINSON

Ref: Notwala, M.D.S. University of Fort Hare from 1916-1926. University of Fort Hare Thesis, 1984: p. 30

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Henderson Hall opened in 1942. It completed the symmetry of the Stewart and Livingstone halls, forming a classic university quadrangle between them which became known as Freedom Square. This architectural outcome was a triumph for Dr Alexander Kerr, Fort Hare's rector from 1916 to 1948. "He might easily have done what other European administrators of African schools have done, and contented himself with the thought that inferior buildings were good enough for inferior Africans," noted Fort Hare's eminent alumnus and academic Prof ZK Matthews. "Instead, he insisted that brick for brick, Fort Hare had to be the peer of any college."

Henderson Hall also housed two marks of a fully-fledged university: a library of rare books and a museum. The books were left to Henderson Hall by James Howard Pim (1862-1934) an art collector, accountant and Quaker philanthropist who had "a great love of beautiful things".

The FS Malan Museum came to hold over 7,000 increasingly rare artefacts, from beadwork to hunting weapons, a curated representation of indigenous cultures across South Africa.

Oliver Tambo, who was later the ANC's president-in-exile, would have witnessed the construction of Henderson Hall day by day. Exactly half a century later, in 1992, the Hall's curatorial space would provide the archives of the liberation movement with their first home at Fort Hare.

The construction of Henderson Hall was funded by a donation by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, an influential American foundation founded by Andrew Carnegie, and was built by black journeymen and apprentices who had been trained at Lovedale College.

Henderson Hall was named in honour of Rev Dr James Henderson, a Scottish missionary who served as the third principal of Lovedale from 1906. He was born in 1867 and educated at Edinburgh University and New College. Henderson's time at Lovedale was preceded by missionary work in what are now Malawi and Zambia. He became involved in the creation of Fort Hare not long after his arrival at Lovedale - he was chairman of the provisional committee responsible for establishing the University.

References:

Burrowe, M.R. A SHORT PICTORIAL HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF FORT HARE, 1910-1959, Lovedale Press, Alice, 1961

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Text extracted and edited from a display panel at the University of Fort Hare's 'Centenary Exhibition 1916 - 2016' displayed in the De Beers Centenary Gallery. The exhibition was compiled by the University of Fort Hare and Urban Brew Studios in 2016.

Submitted by
William Martinson


Writings about this entry

Burrows, HR . 1961. A short pictorial history of the University College of Fort Hare, 1916-1959. Lovedale: Lovedale Press. pg