Dr John L Dube House
The history of King’s House begins in 1872 when Durban’s Mayor W.M. Palmer welcomed Lieutenant-Governor Anthony Musgrave to Natal and said he hoped His Excellency would “devote some portion of each year of your office to a residence in Durban”. Palmer told Musgrave that the town would assist in providing a “marine residence suited to Your Excellency’s state and dignity”.
It 1875 the Natal Colonial Government voted £ 2 500-00 for the building and asked Durban for a site in Albert Park. Durban replied that these lands were inalienable and offered instead a site in the west end of the town adjoining the Park. The government refused this offer and bought Portsdown House, a house built for Mr Hugh Gillespie in 1856. This was later found too small and Overport House was used instead.
Finally in 1901 Mayor John Nicol announced that a marine residence was to be erected on “the beautiful site at Montpelier”. A sum of £ 15 000-00 was voted for the building and this estimate was later changed to £ 28 000-00.
The Chief Architect of the Department of Public Works, A.E. Dainton, in association with a Pietermaritzburg firm of architects, Stott and Kirby, carried out the design. On 29 June 1904 Sir Henry Bale, the Chief Justice of natal became the first occupant at King’s House. A civic lunch was held to celebrate the opening.
Sir Henry McCallum was the first Governor to stay at King’s House.
How King’s House acquired its name remains in the realm of speculation. For many years the name was attributed to the visit of the Royal family to the home in 1947, but mayoral minutes of 1907 already describing the marine residence as King’s House.
Another theory holds that that following King Edward VII’s serious illness in 1902, it was thought that he might recuperate at the proposed marine residence. Mayoral minutes of the time record Durban’s deep concern at his illness. Coronation celebrations were postponed and replaced with prayer meetings and a special Council meeting was convened. Crown and colony held strong emotional ties in those days, but His Majesty never visited South Africa.
What is known is that King’s House lived up to its name from the beginning. In 1906 it welcomed its first royal guests when their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Connaught and Princess Patricia paid a quick visit to Durban.
On 17 May 2012, President Jacob Zuma renamed Kings House to Dr John L Dube House, after the highly regarded educationist, journalist and first President of the ruling African National Congress, Dr John Langalibalele Dube.
The renaming follows the President’s announcement in his 2012 State of the Nation Address, the government’s drive to celebrate, preserve, restore and promote South Africa’s heritage.