On Cape Town’s Grand Parade stands an imposing Italian Renaissance-style Edwardian building constructed from honey limestone. Cape Town’s City Hall took five years to complete, after the laying of its cornerstone in 1900.
Did you know?
Nelson Mandela gave a speech from the balcony of City Hall immediately upon his release from prison. This was his first public address in 27 years, during which he spoke about his commitment to democracy, peace and reconciliation.
Its lower walls and plinths use granite from the quarry on Signal Hill, whilst the honey-beige limestone, building materials and numerous fixtures and fittings were imported from Europe and Bath, in England.
It remains an imposing building, helped in no small part by a restoration of its façade in 1979. In 2010 Grand Parade too was to receive a major facelift, making this block of the city a major landmark.
City Hall lies between Buitengracht and Darling Streets, its forecourt, known as Grand Parade, the scene of many military and political gatherings whilst its balcony became notably famous when Nelson Mandela addressed 100 000 jubilant people just hours after his release from prison, on 11 February 1990 (he was to borrow Winnie’s – his then wife’s glasses to read, having left his in prison).
“Comrades and fellow South Africans, I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom,” said Mandela. “I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you the people.”
At the heart of its tower is a turret clock, half the scale of Big Ben, that strikes the hours and chimes the Westminster Chimes (a specific, and well known, melody chimed every 15 minutes that is also known as the Cambridge Quarters and originates from the church of St Mary the Great in Cambridge).
Now City Hall’s striking stained glass windows, mosaic floors, marble staircases and Grand Hall’s 3 165 pipe organ (designed by Sir George Martin from St Paul’s Cathedral in London) serve as the site for regular music concerts (the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra is based here), City Hall Sessions (music concerts, shared by all), and regular events (anyone can hire the City Hall for exhibitions or events).