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The expansion of the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) has been underway for more than two years now and according to CTICC management, the centre will be operational from mid-2017. However, construction was recently brought to a halt when contractors discovered remains of the old Cape Town harbour.

Back in the early 1900’s, gold and diamonds had just been discovered in South Africa. This discovery brought with it an era of increased trade, immigration, development and expansion. This expansion included reclamation of land from Table Bay in the 1930’s to 1940’s and the construction of Duncan Dock, which replaced the old Cape Town Harbour (see image below).

In 1910, when the harbour was built, the harbour pier included a pavilion where concerts and ballets were occasionally held. When the harbour pier was demolished in 1939, the Foreshore’s boundaries were pushed further out to sea, leaving the original harbour lost in history… until now.

Julie-May Ellingson, CTICC CEO, recently announced that their “contractor uncovered a portion of the old Cape Town pier when tunnelling in the Heerengracht. This meant that construction of the tunnel had to be put on hold while archaeological assessments were made.”

“We appointed heritage and archaeological specialists to identify the structural remains. They have managed to identify that the remains formed part of the base of the endmost section of the old pier which was demolished in the late 1930s during the reclamation of the Foreshore.” Images of the discovery can be seen in the images below.

The heritage and archaeological specialists have completed their research and Ellingson has announced that after consulting with Heritage Western Cape, they have removed the part of the pier for preservation and the “remaining construction works on [the] tunnel [are] progressing well.”

Ellingson also stated that the CTICC plans to develop a pictorial display of the remains accompanied by images of the pier in its original form. The idea is to “acknowledge the position of the pier and recognise the dramatic changes to the Foreshore area that have occurred since 1938.”

The historical significance of this finding and the homage CTICC is giving it adds a bit of historical flair to their brand new facility and reminds us how far the beautiful Cape Town harbour has developed and grown over the past century.

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