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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Leopoldville 1930s – Postcards from the Art Deco (II)

This post continues the earlier Art Deco tour which was constrained by large files. Please refer to Post Cards from the Art Deco (I) for the reference map.


(8). Elite Office Supply. Down Ave du Port and turning right onto Ave des Aviateurs to the Place de la Poste. Avenue des Aviateurs, Kinshasa’s first boulevard (See Apr. 12, 2016) with its landscaped traffic islands and parking spaces, no longer provides a link across downtown.  The US Embassy, Monusco and more recently the ANR (security service) have closed off sections of the street to through traffic.  Opposite the Monusco offices is the former Elite office supply store, later relocated to a 1950s commercial building around the corner on Ave Equateur (Beernaert).
Place de la Poste.  The old Elite store is on the right, the later Elite store is the 3-storey blue structure at the left.
The Elite store on Ave Aviateurs.
(9). Grand Magasin Sedec. At the eastern end of Ave des Aviateurs, one passes the Hasson Africa complex, formerly part of the Sedec retail network of the Lever Bros. operation in the colony. Sadly, this retail fixture of nearly 60 years is scheduled to close December 31, 2017, the owners citing multiple and excessive taxes (See Oct. 8, 2017).
The Entrance to Hasson Africa on Ave Aviateurs.

Side view of the Espace Hasson store.
(10). Monument Albert 1er. Ave des Aviateurs ends at the former monument to King Albert 1er, in front of the Gare Centrale. The monument was designed in 1939 by Public Works architect Rene Schoentjes (Aug. 5, 2011).  In 2010, a Chinese construction firm renovating the Place du 30 Juin (aka Place de la Gare), sanitized the rusticated stone columns from which Albert’s monument and memorials to the agricultural and public health foundations by Albert and Queen Elisabeth were removed in the 1970s (Aug. 28, 2011).
Monument Albert 1er in the 1950s with Gare Central behind.

Place du 30 Juin in 2012, Gare at far right.
(11). Gare Centrale. At the far end of the Place is the Gare Centrale, also designed by Schoentjes.  Although the Art Deco lines of the Albert Monument can be discerned, the Art Deco basis of the Gare is not apparent. Lacking any exterior ornamentation, the rectangular masses of the façade suggest instead a facile design for a time of limited budgets.  At any rate, the recent make-over by Chinese contractors has masked those nuances for good.
The Gare Centrale in 1955
The Gare in its current incarnation.
(12-13). Jardin Zoologique. Heading west on Blvd. 30 Juin (Blvd. Albert Ier), turn left down Ave Equateur (Ave. Beernaert) for a loop through the Cité, as the Congolese townships were called.  Physically separating the two communities was the Neutral Zone, where Art Deco was applied to public facilities built in the 1930s to separate the European town from the Congolese neighborhoods (Feb. 6, 2011).  This second zone includes: Parc De Bock, the Zoo, some structures in the Hopital des Congolais and the Marché Publique, all of which were built by the colonial government in the 1930s and early 1940s. 
The Garage Central looking down Ave du Parc and the arches leading to the Botanical Garden.
The entrance to the Zoo. The smaller tower behind the umbrella is a guardhouse.
The Zoo Restaurant with Leopoldville coat of arms, one of the most popular venues for public events in the city.
The Zoo Restaurant in 2004. It is now a Police station and not an ideal photo subject.
(14). The Marché Publique, built in 1943, was demolished in 1968 to allow construction of a new Marche Centrale.  The sellers were temporarily transferred during construction to an area near Pont Kasavubu (Pont Cabu) where the Stade des Martyrs would later be built. 
The entrance to the Marche Publique in the 1950s.
A view of the entrance with its distinctive art deco lettering.
(15-18). Avenue du Commerce district. Some private investors in the area embraced the style, including commercial properties on Avenue Ebeya (Ave. Cambier), Avenue Tombalbaye (originally Ave. de la Cité, later Tombeur de Tabora, and recently renamed Tabu Ley) and Avenue du Commerce, (originally Ave. des Travailleurs then Ave. DeGaulle).
This building on the extension of Ave. du Commerce repeats the cinema marquee of the Zenit Building.
The Centre Congolais de l'Enfant et Famille on Ave. Ebeya.
The Nogueira store on Ave. Luambo Makiadi.

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