The sense of movement that emanates from the modern Florida Rd was set by a past that saw transport guide the development that today we view as the nostalgic charm of the road.
Stretching from Greyville Race Course to Innes Road, it was the development of the tramway system on Florida Rd and around the Berea in general, that moved people into the area, and left us with a legacy of transports firsts and a series of Edwardian buildings, well over 100 years old.
In 2016, street artist Shaun Oakley aka: thatdamnvandal was commissioned by the Florida Rd UIP to capture this history and indeed the pulse of the future in a mural painted on the bare and rather unsightly public information kiosk located at the Gordon Rd Park – read more about this commission under Art Tells The Story
Below are a few snippets of Florida Rd’s history.
- Florida Rd has always been a central route through Durban originally a well-worn elephant track that took the animals on their daily trek for water from the top of Berea down to the Greyville Marsh (now part of the Royal Durban Golf Course).
- It was along this track that the first private horse-drawn tram service in Durban began on 25th March 1880.
- The original shelter used as a stop for this service still exists today at the top of Florida Rd. At 137-year-old, this is the oldest shelter of its kind in eThekwini.
- In 1892 the first municipal tram line in South Africa was laid along Florida Rd, using horses as motive power.
- On 1st August 1899, the Durban Municipal Corporation took over the service, with the last horse-drawn tram running on 25th October 1903.
- The shelter was then used as a stop for the Umbilo Service that ran the Electric Trams that first began operations on 1st May 1902.
- It was then the turn of the double-decker electric trolley buses that began services on 24th February 1935 and ran alongside the electric tram until they ended their services in 1949.
- The first diesel double-decker buses started on 28 August 1938 with petrol and diesel single decker buses commencing on June 1925.
- Since then services such as the Mynah Buses, Mini Bus Taxis and the City bus service have made use of the shelter.
- The tram shelter was restored by the Municipality in February 2017, as part of collective efforts by the City and the Florida Rd UIP to create good quality public open spaces that enhance the experience and functionally of this key node in the City.
- This shelter is one of 3 left in Durban, with the others in Cowie and Stella Roads.
- A story-board depicting Durban’s transport history will soon be built into the area around the shelter, making it a destination site that provides a glimpse of the history of Florida Rd and the area.
- The Edwardian veranda-fronts and elements of cast iron of most of the Florida Rd homes, were selected from catalogues and bolted together on site.
- The choice of patterns for the veranda pillars are typically Edwardian, complete with base, shaft and capital detailed with foliage, and braced with filigreed brackets and beams.
- The Elephant house at the top of the Berea dates from 1849 and is reputedly the first house built on the Berea and is possibly the oldest and most historic of the remaining colonial period houses in Durban. When first built, elephants still trampled around the property often damaging parts of the building.
- Number 101 Florida Rd is home to The Quarters Hotel and is made up of four beautifully restored Victorian homes.
- Number 113 Florida Rd is known as Heritage House. Built in 1901 it is now the Durban office of Home Fabrics.
- Number 178 Florida Rd is a landmark Edwardian house built in Baroque Revival style with arched verandas. Currently home to Velvet Lounge, this building was constructed by Mr Jack Hollis who was a building contractor for the Durban City Hall.
- Number 200 Florida Rd shows typically Edwardian veranda pillars complete with base, shaft and capital detailed with foliageand braced with filigreed brackets and beams.