• It once served as the chambers of the defunct Municipality’s mayor and the meeting room for civic leaders from 1947 to 1966.
• The building has been closed for public use, to allow renovation to preserve its heritage.
The Nakuru government is planning to renovate Nakuru Old Town Hall where founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta met with white settlers, four months before Kenya became independent.
Though a lot has changed in the county, Nakuru Old Town Hall prominently stands out.
Nakuru Old Town Hall is difficult to miss, probably because it stands out like a sore thumb in a city that is mostly made up of glittery modern buildings. The building situated at the edge of Kenyatta Avenue was completed in 1945.
It once served as the chambers of the defunct Municipality’s mayor and the meeting room for civic leaders from 1947 to 1966. It is currently occupied by Nakuru county’s public health and enforcement department.
Governor Susan Kihika’s administration has now announced that the county government will soon start rehabilitating the historic Old Town Hall after the building's roof collapsed last year.
“The building is very old, dating back to colonial days,” Nakuru City manager Gitau Thabanja said. He said it has now been gazetted as a historical site.
He said the building has been closed for public use, to allow renovation to preserve its heritage.
“The Nakuru City Board has budgeted for the renovation that will commence immediately. We are committed to the preservation and restoration of our heritage,” Thabanja said.
Former Nakuru Mayor Kimunya Kamana, 95, said the hall is rich in history. He said it was used by Jomo Kenyatta to sign a treaty with British colonialists in 1963.
“He assured the colonialists that no one would harass them and urged them not to be fearful because they would be allowed to live in the country,” Kamana said.
The Hall was gazetted along with the Nairobi Cinema, the National Archives building in Nairobi and Menengai Town Hall in Nakuru town as historical buildings.
"This is one of the oldest buildings and it is historical, but the good thing is that the building had earlier been closed. We could have lost many lives here. We hope the county government will renovate it because we don't want to lose it," Thabanja said.
Nakuru City Board vice chairperson Jepta Rono said the repair works will involve roofing, flooring and interior works.
“Properly maintained historical buildings that are aesthetically cohesive and well promoted can be an important tourist attraction and in that way attract revenue from visitors,” Rono said.
Rono expressed regret that despite Nakuru’s rich architectural history, old buildings in the city are being pulled down at an alarming rate to pave way for gleaming structures that announce the departure of the county from its historical moorings.
“What many seem to have conveniently forgotten is that these old buildings represent an irreplaceable heritage that is an important legacy of the present generation to the later ones, especially in terms of culture, aesthetics, educational and inspirational benefits.”
Thabanja said old buildings give a sense of cultural significance and allow locals to experience architecture in a different way.
“They serve as memorials, providing continuity to earlier times. One can tell a lot about a city from the history of its buildings, even about how a metropolis came to be. And preservation leads to increased dialogue among children, parents, and grandparents regarding our ancestors and history,” the city manager said.
Thabanja said old buildings accentuate a city’s culture and character by keeping its distinguishing features.
“It is not Rome until you see the Colosseum, it is not the Vatican without St Peter’s Cathedral, nor is it Paris without the Eiffel Tower. Such is the significance of characteristic buildings to a city,” he added.
The city manager warned that if the mindless destruction of old buildings continues, Kenya will soon change from a beautiful place, rich in aesthetics and heritage to an impersonal concrete jungle.