Saturday, January 29, 2011

Leopoldville 1958 - New American Consulate Opens

The first American Consulate in Leopoldville opened in July 1929 under Vice Consul Arthur F. Tower, a fairly junior Foreign Service Officer whose previous postings had been in Warsaw and Gdansk, Poland.  However, the US had a long-term diplomatic relationship with the Congo, being one of the first nations, in April 1884, to recognize the International African Association, Leopold and Stanley’s predecessor to the Congo Free State.  From the establishment of the Congo Free State after the Berlin Conference in February 1885, the US maintained official representation in the colony, first at Vivi (across the river from Matadi) and subsequently at Boma, which was the capital of the Congo until the late 1920s (See January 6, 2011 posting – “New Capital of the Colony”).  The US’ primary interest was a significant American Protestant missionary community working throughout the country and ensuring that trade opportunities were open to American businesses.


Leopoldville (Kinshasa district) late'20s - note open space to left of wing tip where Consulate would be built

Arthur Tower’s assignment in Leopoldville was short lived.  Within a year, the Consulate was closed, victim of cost-cutting measures resulting from the Depression.  It was not until 1934 that the Consulate reopened under John Richardson, somewhat more senior than Tower, whose previous posting was Winnepeg, Canada. In November 1936 Edmund J. Dorsz succeeded Richardson.  He had also served in Warsaw and his marriage in Leopoldville in September 1937 to Corrilla Bevan, the Warsaw Consul General’s daughter, was a major social event.

The outbreak of the Second World War brought Congo into sharp focus for the United States.  Japan’s conquest of Southeast Asia cut access to a number of important agricultural and mineral resources that the Congo could supply  (such as palm oil and tin), but more importantly, the colony had immense deposits of copper and uranium, critical to the American war effort. Other geopolitical factors influenced US interest in Leopoldville. In August 1941, the US and UK agreed to establish air routes across western and central Africa to compensate for potential losses in North Africa.  On November 16, 1941 the crew of the first Pan American “Clipper” flying boat and Belgian dignitaries were received at the US Consulate.

Official American presence in Leopoldville expanded after Pearl Harbor and 1942 saw the arrival of a U.S. Army Engineer Battalion to expand Ndolo airport, a hospital unit to support the troops, and the first OSS agents (predecessor to the CIA).  The Consulate opened a library.  Given the numbers of VIPs to invite, the Consulate hosted the 4th of July Reception at the Cercle de Leopoldville.

In March 1943, the US obtained a plot of land, slightly less than an acre, for construction of a Consulate.  Congo’s importance to the war effort was reflected the presence of the Foreign Economic Administration (FEA, a predecessor to USAID) and the Bureau of Economic Warfare (BEW), whose aggressive representative, a Texan named Hickman Price, ruffled feathers throughout the official community in Leopoldville.


The US Ambassador's Residence, Kinshasa

In July 1944, the Consulate was raised to a Consulate General.  An architect from the Department of State was dispatched to prepare plans for the Consul General’s residence on the river opposite Brazzaville.

After the war, despite the closure of FEA and BEW offices, the US diplomatic presence in the city remained significant.  Rented facilities were inadequate.  In 1953, the Consul General testified to a Congressional committee that he was ashamed, “the general public regards the whole set-up as a joke”.  In the summer of 1954, the State Department began planning a new Consulate General building and staff housing using in-house architects.  However, the Architectural Advisory Committee (AAC) found the design unacceptable, “ungracious and uninviting” and the overall design inappropriate for the tropics.  The architects complained that they found no local architecture or history they considered useful to their needs.  In a few months a contract was awarded to Weed, Russell, Johnson Associates of Miami to develop plans for the Consulate.

Coincidently, the Chair of the AAC was Colonel Harry McBride, former Consul at Boma during the First World War (and whose wife published a florid account about domestic life there in the February 1937 National Geographic).  Although McBride had become the Administrator of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC after leaving State in 1939 (overseeing the opening of the John Russell Pope designed Gallery in 1941), was widely traveled and familiar with the conditions and needs of the Foreign Service, the architects tended to dismiss his opinions since he was not an architect himself.

Nonetheless, the planning moved forward.  Weed, Russell, Johnson commissioned Pietro Belluschi (Dean of the Architecture School at MIT) for the design work.  The 1950s was the heyday of the “International Style” and to incorporate the popular glass curtain wall, the architect used decorative block panels to screen the windows for the tropical conditions.  In August 1956, an architect on a tour of Africa commented favorably on the new Consulate building that would replace the “rattletrap” housing consulate staff and USIS, “in line with design theories now happily in force at State”.


Playing fields along Ave. Aviateurs - the building is opposite the Embassy entrance

The Consulate was erected on the NE corner of Avenue Wahis and Aviateurs on land that had served as the football field of nearby Saint Anne parish and thereby escaped development in the prime commercial district of the capital. 

Portugal was building a Mediterranean-inspired Consulate next door. 









The Consulate late 1950s - shortly after opening







































Governor General Petillon inaugurated the four-building complex January 2, 1958.  At the end of the year, Bakongo activist Joseph Kasavubu visited, requesting US support, only one month before riots in the city set the stage for Independence in June 1960. 


Interior space between main building and offices
 On the eve of Independence, Robert Murphy, the US Ambassador to Belgium and representing the US at the Independence ceremonies announced that the Consulate would become an Embassy.  Consul General Tomlinson would become the Charge and the Eisenhower Administration nominated Clare Timberlake as the first Ambassador.

US Embassy Marine House 1963
A Marine Guard detachment was assigned to the Embassy and a plot for the Marine House was obtained on a lot perpendicular to the Embassy, facing Ste. Anne behind the Portuguese Embassy. 

USIS Office Ave. Commerce 1960s


At the same time USIS opened an office on Ave. DeGaule, now Ave. du Commerce. 












In the 1980s, USIS and USAID moved into new premises across from the Gare Centrale. 

















After September 11, 2001 the Embassy was heavily fortified


US and Portuguese Embassies on Ave. Aviateurs

Sources:

  • "Courier d’Afrique", Leopoldville
  • Foreign Relations of the United States (http://www.digicoll.library.wisc.edu/)
  • Helmreich, 1998, United States Relations with Belgium and Congo 1940-1960
  • "L’Avenir", Leopoldville. 
  • Liturical Arts, 1956
  • Loeffler, 1998, Architecture of Diplomacy.
  • Marine Security Guard (http://www.msg.com/)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Kinshasa 2010 - Boulevard 30 Juin Comes of Age

Kinshasa’s Boulevard du 30 Juin is probably one of the best-known features of the city.  While perhaps not as iconic as the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Pyramids in Egypt, it nevertheless defines the city for both Kinois and visitors.  Running seven kilometers from the Gare Centrale to Rond Point Socimat, it runs parallel with the Congo River, connecting eastern and western communes of the city, and services the central business district, most government offices as well as the international community of diplomatic corps and foreign NGOs.

Historically, contemporary urban Kinshasa developed out of the Belgian settlement established by Henry Stanley in 1881 at Leopoldville (Kintambo-Ngaliema), to the west of downtown. Two years later, however, a second post was established by Stanley’s organization a few kilometers upriver at Chief Ntsuvila’s village of Nshasha (Kinshasa-Gombe).  At that time, travelers coming from the coast reached Leopoldville via the caravan route over the mountain through contemporary Binza, but when the railroad from Matadi reached Stanley Pool in March 1898, the line circumvented the mountain near Petit Chutes at Kimwenza and followed the flat floodplain along the river from Ndjili to Ndolo (Kinshasa) and terminating at Leopoldville (where the Chanic shipyards are today).  The two centers needed to be in touch and the railroad provided the link.  Since the railway only ran every other day, most were obliged to walk or travel up the river by if a steamer was available.

The first road from Leopoldville to Kinshasa

In 1912, District Commissioner Moulaert, who was already advocating for the capital to be transferred from Boma to Leopoldville, unified the districts of Leopoldville, Kinshasa, Kalina and Ndolo into one administrative unit.  In the same year, a road was built between Leopoldville and Kinshasa.

As the commercial hub of the colony, Kinshasa was growing faster than Leopoldville, and plans to relocate the port from Leopoldville to Kinshasa promised further growth.   Consequently, the area between the river and rail line was becoming built out. Reconstruction of the rail line from Matadi to Standard Gauge in 1923 provided an opportunity to relocate the rail line about 1 kilometer south of the original line (see photo Jan. 6, 2011).  That year, as well, the Leopoldville-Kinshasa agglomeration was elevated to an “Urban District” and the colonial government decided to move the capital from Boma.  Given the space constraints in both Leopoldville and Kinshasa, the administrative capital would be built in an undeveloped area called Kalina, between the two centers comprising a classical plan of radial avenues and “garden city” layouts for the residential areas. 

Place de la Gare ca. 1920
 As the new southerly rail line was completed over the next few years, the original railway infrastructure along the right of way was relocated, clearing the way for a major boulevard.  A new passenger station was built at Leopoldville (Kintambo Magasins) in 1925.  In November 1928, plans for a Gare de l’Est were approved, providing for relocation of the Kinshasa station from the center of the Kinshasa commercial area (where the future Hotel Regina would be built).  At the end of December 1931, with the realignment complete, the railway station at Leopoldville was no longer the end of the line, though architectural plans for the Gare de l’Est were yet to be approved (all other stations along the reconstructed line were rebuilt in the opulent style of Belgian coastal villas of the era).  This situation prevailed throughout the decade, most likely due to budgetary constraints of the Depression, and it was not until 1938 that Colonial Public Works Engineer Rene Schoentjes was tasked with designing a passenger station.  Plans for an Art-Deco structure were sent to Brussels for approval in July of the following year.

Hotel Regina (l) and Istat building (r) ca. 1945
By this time, the concept of a major boulevard along the former railroad right of way was coming together.  June 30, 1939, a monument to the late King Albert I, intended to anchor the new thoroughfare, was inaugurated on the new Place de la Gare.  The invasion of Belgium in May 1940 and global conflict of World War Two overtook these priorities, but by the beginning of 1942, the boulevard had reached Avenue du Port (the intersection at the current Grand Poste).  The newspaper “Courier de l’Afrique” noted that the boulevard was shaping up, especially since Istat was planning to build a commercial structure next to the Paul Storey-Day’s new Hotel Regina (succeeding the Pension Paula across the boulevard on the old Place de la Gare).  The city council approved plans to pave this section in concrete.  By the end of the war, this section of the boulevard was paved, as were several other major arteries, allowing the development of public transit for African workers, who were only allowed in the European city under certain restrictive conditions.
Place de la Gare now Place Braconnier - Ste.Anne in background
At the end of the decade, a major Ten Year Plan was developed for the colony and Leopoldville was to benefit from a design to give the “whole urban entity an imperial grandeur” with monumental axes.  This planning became mired in the politics of segregation and creation of spatial “neutral zone” barriers between European and African sections of the town (which the relocated rail line of the Twenties intended to define), but by 1953 the thoroughfare to the west extended five kilometers as far as Kalina.  A lavish spread in LIFE Magazine in May described Leopoldville as “boasting an American-style thruway, the broad three-mile Boulevard Albert”. 

As the boulevard passed through Kalina, other monumental structures including the twin Sabena buildings (designed by Claude Lorens), the Royal residential-commercial building (built by Forescom Building contractor Henri Trenteseaux) and a LeCorbusier-inspired apartment complex for civil servants were under development.  By 1955 a meeting of the Rotary Club noted that the boulevard was recently completed.  The dual highway, divided by landscaped traffic islands, was planted with Limba trees along its borders, a species which grew tall with few limbs to obstruct the view.

After Independence, further development along the boulevard changed little, except for occasional demonstrations in front the Royal Building, which was the headquarters of the UN operation in Congo.  June 30, 1963, the boulevard was renamed Boulevard 30 Juin to commemorate Congo’s Independence Day.

In 1974, following President Mobutu’s state visit to China the previous year, the traffic islands on the section of the boulevard from the Gare to Ave. Nzongo Ntolo (at the intersection of the current South African Embassy) were pulled up so tanks and other military formations could parade past at Independence and new regime celebrations.

By the late ‘90s, the Limba trees were aging, often toppling onto the boulevard after heavy rains. City government would cut these down while other commercial proprietors along the way cleared the trees to provide parking for their businesses. 
In 2007, as part of the “Cinq Chantiers” infrastructure program of the newly-elected government, a Chinese company was awarded a contract to rebuild the boulevard.  All remaining trees were cleared to make way for an 8-lane roadway, completed in 2010.










When the lane dividers were painted, Kinois were surprised to find that drivers actually respected them and would stop for the zebra-striped pedestrian cross-walks.

By the time of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Independence in June 2010, the boulevard was transformed.  Major new construction was underway and plans are proposed to extend the boulevard to Kintambo Magasins.  At the Place de la Gare and the granite base of the former monument to Albert I, a popular plaza was created where the curio market and public transport terminus had been.  The Rakeen Group, an Emirates-based company constructing a major complex on the Place de la Gare, proposed plans to transform the Gare into a major commercial-residential complex.

The future of 30 Juin will depend on improvement of additional east-west arteries across the city so that traffic is not funneled into the CBD to get from one part of town to the other.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Leopoldville 1961 - The American School Opens

The American School of Leopoldville opened its doors September 18, 1961, in improvised facilities at the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS) compound on the Congo River.  The school had been hastily put together to cater to a growing English-speaking community comprised primarily of American missionaries, US Embassy staff and United Nations personnel.  Although the Congo continued to be a concern for western governments, the election of Cyrille Adoula as Prime Minister the previous month appeared to offer the prospect of more stable governance in the young nation.
Notwithstanding its location on a Protestant mission station, the school was intentionally planned as an American school, to offer an American curriculum for expatriate American children.  In 1958, ABFMS (the only American church with a long-term presence in the city) established a hostel on the compound to enable its children from up-country mission stations to attend the Belgian metropolitan school – the Athenée Royale – but parents were concerned about disruption caused when children switched from French to English (and Belgian to American curriculum) during year-long furloughs in the U.S.  Further, after Independence, the Belgian school system ended (though a new Belgian international school continued at the main Athenée campus at Kalina)

ABFMS’s mission Treasurer, Jerry Weaver, worked with a member of the US Embassy to develop the school’s charter (eventually a cap of 60% native English speakers was established to maintain the American character of the student body).

TASOL - Sims House Halloween 1961

The school itself was housed in the Sims House, built in 1893 by the pioneer Baptist Missionary, Dr. Aaron Sims.  The modest brick residence, in the shape of a cross, was painted school-house red and accommodated a large combined 5th & 6th grade in the main wing, 3rd & 4th grades in the right arm of the cross, while the entire High School occupied the other arm.  The combined first and second grades were in an adjacent car port, screened in with a half-wall to provide a semblance of classroom structure.  An ancient iron-wood tree, said to have been the site where Henry Stanley negotiated the land concession for the Baptists, shaded the assembly area between the two classroom buildings.  There were 45 students enrolled in the 12 grades that first day.

Two-person desks (wood and steel with ink wells) ordered from FNMA, were not delivered until after a mid-morning rain shower.  Desks and tables ordered for ABFMS’ Christian Center in Kintambo were pulled into service.  Text books from the American Mennonite Brethren Mission’s (AMBM) Ecole Bellevue in Kwilu District, were eventually received.  The library consisted of a single shelf of books, featuring C.S. Lewis and other fiction tomes.  Notwithstanding its charter as an American School, the missionary influence was significant.  The Principal, Orv Wiebe, was seconded from AMBM.  His wife Ruby, taught 5-6th grade, while the wife of an MAF pilot taught 3-4th grades.  ABFMS continued to operate its hostel on the mission grounds, and a Swiss-American couple with the Bible Society, the Chaponnieres, hosted several Mennonite children in a rented house in Utexleo (behind the building currently owned by the French Embassy at the end of the Boulevard).  Under these circumstances, classes often started with devotional stories and prayer.  Sims’ Chapel, an earlier structure overlooking the river, served as the venue for Assemblies.
5th and 6th Grade Class Trip to White Mountain (Mangengenge). Mwana Mboka with red lunch box (l.)
The student body continued to grow as more expatriates returned or began working in Congo.   By the beginning of 1962, the school cleared ground for a six-classroom building and library on land below Sims’ House. The arrangement with the ABFMS hosts was that the buildings would eventually revert to the Mission.  Additional classroom blocks were built and playgrounds prepared before the high school moved to Mont Ngaliema in 1966 on land obtained through the auspices of the U.S. Embassy.  The elementary school remained at the ABFMS compound until the “pods” were built on the current campus in 1971.  Sims’ House is now used to support women’s programs of the Communauté Baptiste du Congo Ouest (CBCO – the Congolese church that succeeded ABFMS) and the purpose-built classroom complex houses CBCO offices and apartments.
 

Sims House today
  


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Kinshasa 2005 - TASOK Reunion City Tour

During the June 2005 TASOK reunion, alumni went on a: 

HISTORICAL and ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE TOUR of KINSHASA

Background -- The area of Pool Malebo above the rapids of the Congo River was settled with numerous villages when the explorer Henry Morton Stanley arrived here on his trans-continental journey in 1877. When Europeans came here, the first settlement was established between Mt. Ngaliema and Kintambo, and was called Leopoldville. Later, Kinshasa was established as a post in the area of downtown (now called Gombe).  In 1922, the entire urban area was consolidated as "Leopoldville" and as the town grew in importance, the capital of the Belgian Congo was transferred here from Boma in 1923. The area of Kintambo-Ngaliema became known as "Leo Deux" or "Leo Ouest". In 1966, Leopoldville was renamed Kinshasa.
The numbers on the map correspond to the locations described below.

1. Old Leopoldville (Commune de Ngaliema) - The original settlement called Leopoldville was established August 1880 by Stanley, who negotiated with Chief Ntamo (hence Kintambo) for the land. At the time, there were four villages on the Pool; Ntamo, Nshasha, Lemba and Kimbangu (Masina), each with a population of about 5,000.  In April 1882, Stanley first used the name "Leopoldville" in a letter in honor of his patron, Leopold II, King of the Belgians.

2. Commune de Ngaliema - Ngaliema was another of the chiefs Stanley negotiated with. Today, the Commune offices are housed in the turn of the century European hospital, initially established by the Red Cross in 1897. Note the street across from the Commune is called the "Route de Caravans". This was the path of the caravan road from Matadi -- the only way to get to Kinshasa before the railroad was completed in 1898 -- was on foot. Inside the presidential gardens enclosure on the hill was once a pioneer cemetery. The summit of the hill (Mt. Ngaliema) once held Stanley monument (erected 1956).


3. Paroisse St. Leopold - The Catholic order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Scheut) established Paroisse Leopold in 1889. St. Leopold church was erected in 1902 and the present cathedral was built in 1951. The compound now houses Jean XXIII Seminary, established in 1967. The first Catholic missionaries in the area were Jesuits, who settled at Kimbangu (Masina) on the Ndjili River in June 1893, but relocated within a month to Kimwenza (near the Chutes de la Lukaya -­ Little Falls) due to unhealthy, swampy conditions.




4. CHANIC -- The Chantier Naval et Industriel du Congo (Chanic) was established in 1928 on the site of the original port of Leopoldville to build ships and barges for the Congo river transport company OTRACO (now ONATRA). In 1937, the company launched the first barge entirely built in Congo. Chanic later expanded into other industrial activities, including elevators (Schindler), construction equipment (Caterpillar) and radios (Motorola).




5. CBCO -- Protestant missionaries of the Livingstone Inland Mission (LIM -- inspired by the example of the missionary explorer, David Livingstone) established a station on the bluff above Ngaliema Bay in 1883. Stanley negotiated with the local chief for the land. The following year, LIM transferred its work to the American Baptist Missionary Union (later ABFMS) and in 1891 Dr. Aaron Sims built a chapel on the river, which is the oldest permanent building still standing in Kinshasa. Below the chapel, the mission docked small river steamers, including the "Henry Reed", at the time the only means of mechanized transport into the interior.  Two years later, Dr. Sims built "Sims House", which in 1961, housed all 12 grades of the new American School. During 1962-65 new classroom wings were built, before the school moved to its present location in 1966.

6. Old Kintambo Village site -- The baobabs at Ave. de l'Avenir & Fleuve attest to the site of an original village. Other mature baobab trees around town are likely sites of early settlements.


















7. Road to Kinshasa – The bridge across the Basoko River was rebuilt by the United Nations in 1963 following major floods in Kinshasa the previous year. It was named for the late UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold, but the plaque has since disappeared.


8. Majid Rasul Mosque -- Built 1986-87. Most Congolese Muslims originate in eastern Congo, and Kinshasa's Islamic community was historically made up of West African, Middle Eastern and South Asian expatriates. This mosque serves the Lebanese community.













9. UtexAfrica -- In 1925, the Texaf company began work in Kinshasa and in 1928, opened the first textile mill in the colony. In 1934 it became known as UtexLeo, becoming the UtexAfrica group in 1985. The company also built the first hydro-electric dam at Sanga, near Kisantu to provide power for the mill (which explains the location of SNEL nearby). 


10. Rond Point Kalina -- December 23, 1882 an Austrian officer in the employ of the Congo Free State, E. Kalina, attempted to travel by canoe from Leopoldville to Kinshasa with Chief Ngobila. At Ngombe Point, where the Palais de la Nation stands (the old Parliament), the canoe overturned in the swift current created by the point and Kalina drowned. Commune de la Gombe was called Kalina until 1971.  Coming from Leo Ouest, this rond point was the entrance to Kalina.














11. Chez Nicola – In 1962, Nicolas Bianco took over the "Auberge du Petit Pont" restaurant, which in the 1940s and 1950s featured a popular outdoor cinema whose masonry screen can still be seen from Ave. de l'Ouganda.



Avenue Valcke curving left at Petit Pont (Blvd. Albert on r.)

12. Avenue de la Justice. The "Petit Pont" area at the end of the Boulevard du 30e Juin takes its name from the little bridge which crosses the Gombe River at that point. Before Boulevard Albert 1er (Blvd. 30e Juin) was built in the 1950s, the main road from Kinshasa to Leopoldville followed VanGele (Lukusa) and Valcke (Justice).

13. Clinique Ngaliema -- As Kinshasa began to supplant old Leopoldville as the center of town, a hospital for Europeans, "Reine Elisabeth" was built at Kalina in 1933. Next to it is the Clinique Kinoise, completed just prior to Independence in 1960 to serve the European community and was initially operated by the Danish Red Cross as part of the UN assistance program to Congo. A hospital for Congolese was started in 1912 (near the current zoo) and expanded in 1923. After President Mobutu came to power, he upgraded the hospital and named it after his mother, Mama Yemo. It is now known as Kinshasa General Hospital.




14. Grand Hotel de Kinshasa -- Originally built as the Intercontinental Hotel by Pan American Airways in 1968, the Grand reverted to the Congolese Government after 30 years in 1998. In the last days of the Mobutu era, the hotel became the last bastion of the regime as people congregated there prior to crossing the river to Brazzaville.  Behind the hotel on the left is the Clinique Kinoise and in the trees on the right is a wing of the former Clinique Elisabeth.









15. Central Government District -- The capital of the Congo was transferred from Boma to Kinshasa in July 1923, but the transfer was not completed until 1929 as insufficient infrastructure existed for the administrative services. It was at this time that government offices were transferred from old Leopoldville. A modern quarter was laid out, but a decision on the residence for the Governor General, to be built on Pointe de la Gombe, was not reached until just prior to Independence in 1960. The building became the first Parliament and now houses the President's offices. The late President Kabila's mausoleum and statue stands in front where a statue to Leopold II was erected in 1928.

16. Sacre Coeur -- In the 1920s, the Soeurs de Sacre Coeur arrived in Kinshasa and opened a school for European children which later became Lycee Sacre Coeur and in 1974 renamed Lycée Bosangani.











17. College Boboto -- In October 1937, Jesuit missionaries started a primary school for European boys. In 1940, College Albert opened in a permanent building on Ave. Valcke. After College Albert opened, Lycée Sacre Coeur offered classes exclusively for girls. College Albert was renamed Boboto in 1974. The cultural center (now includes a retail art gallery) was built in 1942 and during Belgium's occupation World War II housed the Belgian worldwide radio broadcasting center.







Union Mission Hostel now the Centre d'Acceuil Protestant

18. BMS Mission-- In 1887, the British Baptist Mission Society (BMS) moved from Mount Leopold to Kinshasa, establishing themselves on English Point, the highest point of ground in the area. On the grounds of the original mission station are two pre-fabricated oak and iron houses, imported from England. The church on Ave. Lukusa (ex-Van Gele), now known as the International Protestant Church of Kinshasa, was built in 1915. Another structure on compound is the Centre d'Acceuil Protestant, built as the missionary guest house, Union Mission Hostel (UMH) in July 1920. A more contemporary structure, Centre d'Editions et Diffusion (CEDI) was erected in 1946 as the Librarie Evangelique du Congo (LECO).






19. Marsavco -- Sharing the land around Pointe Anglaise are the installations of the Lever Brothers Company, known by its French acronym "Marsavco". Established in 1911, in a few years Lever Bros. operated a bustling factory which eventually expanded into an industrial complex processing palm oil from its upriver plantations into cooking oil, margarine and soap products.











20. Forescom Building -- Kinshasa's first skyscraper was erected in 1946 in art deco style by the Societe Forestriere et Commercial (Forescom).  Initially, it was called "Le Building".  The names of R.Fostier (architect), R.Hins (engineer) and H.Trenteseaux (builder) can be found on brass plates on the black marble baseboards along Ave. du Port.  Henri Trenteseaux also built the Royale office building on the Boulevard, which became the UN headquarters after Independence.




















21. Ave. des Aviateurs -- This street in an original part of early Kinshasa is named for flyers who made the first flight from Belgium in 1921. However, the street was originally created in 1892 by Lt. Richard of the Force Publique, who dynamited existing baobab trees, and which led to a military camp near the current port. It was then called Ave. du Camp Militaire.  The obelisque and statue at Ave. du Port and Aviateurs was taken down in the 1970s.






22. Place de la Poste -- This circle is named for the Post Office built in Beaux Arts style in 1916 when this was the center of town. In the 1930s, the building became the Musée de la Vie Indigene. In 1971 Union Zaïroise de Banques demolished it and several other period structures to erect a 7 story office building. Diagonally across the circle was the venerable Bar Hardy, which in the 1950s was the only place in Leopoldville to serve ice cream. The building now houses the Belgian Cultural Center (Centre Wallonie).






23. United States and Portuguese Embassies -- The U.S. Embassy was built in 1957 as the U.S. Consulate and inaugurated in January 1958 by Governor General Petillon. The Portuguese Embassy next door was probably built about the same time, as the land on which the two were built had served for many years as playing fields for Ste. Anne Church and school. After Father Raphael de la Kethule arrived in 1919, he organized soccer matches among Congolese teams. "Queen Astrid" stadium (now Tata Raphael) was built in 1936 in the cité near Ndolo airport.





24. SEDEC -- This art deco inspired building was originally Sedec Motors, the commercial arm of Lever Brothers in Congo. Later Sedec Motors moved to Ave. Van Gele (now the US Embassy garage) and in the 1950s the building became one of the first self-service grocery stores. In the 1990s, it was known as Select but closed in 2003.  In May 2005 it was reopened by Hasson Freres Group (est. 1936) with the art-deco motif maintained and enhanced.
















25. Paroisse Ste. Anne -- In 1903, a mud and thatch house for Congolese catechists serving in Kinshasa was built, followed by a chapel of durable materials in 1908. Five years later, construction of a new Cathedral was begun and completed in 1917. In June 1960, the official community celebrated a mass to commemorate Independence attended by Kasavubu, Lumumba and most of the new Congolese leadership.



















26. Flying Boats -- During World War Two, flying boats operated by Pan American and BOAC (British Airways) landed regularly near the Brazzaville ferry landing on the Congo River to assure connection between the Congo and the two primary Allied powers. Ndolo airport was built (expanded) in July 1942 by a U.S. Army construction battalion to serve land-based planes connecting the U.S to Egypt and the Far East.






27. Albert 1 Monument -- The monument to King Albert 1 of Belgium, who succeeded his uncle Leopold II, was erected June 30, 1939 at the head of the boulevard which bore his name. The Blvd. was renamed "30e Juin" on June 30, 1963 to commemorate the country's independence. The space for the broad avenue was available because the rail line from Ndolo station to Kintambo originally used the right of way. In 1971, as part of President Mobutu's "authenticity" campaign, the colonial era statues were taken down and stored at the Public Works garage in Kinshasa.  In January 2005, the equestrian statue of Leopold II was briefly mounted on the pedestal of the Albert monument by the Minister of Culture, but was removed the following day.  Albert, Stanley and Leopold's statues are now on display at the National Museum at the base of Mont Ngaliema.



28. Gare de l'Est (Ndolo) -- Engineer Nicolas Cito drove the first locomotive into Leopoldville in March 1898. The ten-year effort to build a railroad from Matadi to Kinshasa took the lives of 132 Europeans and over 1800 Congolese, Africans and Asians. The original locomotive is on display inside the gare. A frieze on the street commemorating the 50th anniversary of the railroad in 1948 was removed in 1971. The Latin phrase, "Aperire Terram Centibus" refers to the opening of the country by the railroad.







Sources:
·         Katembo (www.katembo.be)
·         Kinshasa Kananga Kisangani (www.groups.msn.com/Kinshasa/Kananga/Kisangani)
·         Kolonga Molei, “Kinshasa : ce village d’hier , Kinshasa, 1979.
·         Lumenganeso Kiobe, A. “Kinshasa, Genese et sites Historiques, Kinshasa, 1995