Surprises in store at historic Campanile

ALMOST DONE: Renovation work on the Campanile is all but complete. Work is under way on phase two and all that is still needed is for the special elevator to be installed. On the left MBDA project leader Monica Martin shows off the new viewing deck added at the top of the tower. Picture: EUGENE COETZEE
ALMOST DONE: Renovation work on the Campanile is all but complete. Work is under way on phase two and all that is still needed is for the special elevator to be installed. On the left MBDA project leader Monica Martin shows off the new viewing deck added at the top of the tower. Picture: EUGENE COETZEE

Viewing window, bell fun and lift await visitors, writes Athena O’Reilly

A special viewing deck window and a lift which will enable those who cannot climb the stairs to enjoy its stunning views are among the improvements done and still planned for Port Elizabeth’s historic 52m-high Campanile.

The landmark’s 23-carillon bells have already been removed, refurbished and returned to their cradle and plans are afoot to add more exciting new features.

Among those already added is a viewing room where visitors can experience the feeling of vertigo which can be felt at the top of the 204 steps of the tower.

A two-metre-high stainless steel window has been installed, hanging just outside the building on the harbour-facing side.

A special lift has been ordered and contractors are in the process of creating a space in which to fit it.

Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) project leader Monica Martin said it had been quite a mission to find the perfect lift to accommodate wheelchairs and those who could not climb the stairs.

“We needed to order a special lift as we do not have the space for a motor room above the lift,” she said.

There are three floors that will be used as exhibition spaces, with the most fascinating being just beneath the bells.

Martin said tourists would probably spend most of their time in this room, which was why it also had benches.

“You have a stunning view of the harbour and you will have a chance to ‘step outside’ with the viewing window that was installed,” she said.

Ibhayi Contracting site manager Mark Hamilton said the rear wall of the building had been chosen for the window so as not to distract drivers on the freeway and to offer a sea view.

“It is a really interesting feature but we did not want to take away too much from the historical element of the building.”

Located at the Jetty Street entrance to the Port Elizabeth harbour, the Campanile was erected to commemorate the centenary of the 1820 Settlers’ arrival .

The MBDA will only be responsible for upgrades on three floors – the reception area that will act as an information kiosk, the exhibition areas where replicas of the bells will be on display and the tower’s eighth floor.

“The fifth floor’s room with the bell replicas and inscription will offer an educational aspect and will be the most fun for kids because they will have an opportunity to play tunes while the bells light up,” Martin said.

The landmark will hopefully be reopened to the public as a starting point for Nelson Mandela Bay’s Route 67 art and heritage trail in early April.

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