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Monday, August 21, 2017

Travel Review: Nairobi’s Historic Buildings

The city of Nairobi began in 1899 when the colonial authorities set up a train depot for the Mombasa to Uganda Railway. One of the first buildings was Kipande House built in 1913 initially as a warehouse.

This is where local Kenyans obtained the kipande identity passes used to monitor the movement of Africans during colonial times. Now a branch of the Kenya Commercial Bank, Kipande House was tallest building until 1935 when City Hall was constructed.

The Nairobi Gallery of 1913 at the corner of Kenyatta Avenue and Uhuru Highway, is the old Provincial Commissioner’s Office. It also houses Point Zero, the place from which distances from Nairobi to all parts of the country are measured.

The Standard Chartered Bank building on Kenyatta Avenue with its colonnades and Roman-style architecture was the second bank in Nairobi after the National Bank of India. Next door is the three-storey Westminster House with balustrade balconies that is the Ecobank. It was constructed in 1928 as a hotel.

The adjacent Pan African House, now housing a branch of Family Bank, is another bluestone historic building in Georgian style architecture.

The red brick building of Stanbic Bank was the Torrs Hotel. Modelled on Stockholm City Hall in Sweden, it was erected in 1928 by Ewart Grogan, the British settler most noted for walk from Cape Town to Cairo to impress the father of his sweetheart.

The oldest hotel is the Stanley Hotel, named after Welsh explorer, Henry Morton Stanley. The original 1902 building was destroyed by fire and the New Stanley Hotel was built in the present location in 1912. The Norfolk Hotel opened on Christmas Day of 1904. This Tudor-style structure was a favourite of explorers and settlers who enjoyed sipping drinks on the front terrace while watching passing wildlife.

McMillian Memorial Library, opened in 1931, was named in memory of American millionaire, Sir William Northrup McMillian who settled in Kenya.

The neoclassical styled Kenya National Archives, also of 1931, was previously the Bank of India before the former vice president, the late Joseph Murumbi, established the Archives in 1966 to store important historical files and government records.

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