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Nairobi through the lens

By ALLAN OLINGO January 11th, 2014 2 min read

Nairobi has buildings and gardens that boast unique architecture and history. On a traffic free weekend, take a tour of the city to marvel at the pre-colonial architecture and learn a few things about the city. Here are a sample of the buildings, gardens and roads that stand out.

 Kenyatta Avenue

This was one of the first streets in the city originally called Sixth Avenue because it was the sixth street from the railway station, and later renamed Delamere Street after the famous settler before taking its present name at independence.

It leads to the then Kipande House and the Old PC’s office (at the Kenyatta Avenue/Uhuru Highway round about) among other buildings. In the colonial period, concrete blocks were placed at strategic points for police officers to stand upon to control traffic.

The popular buildings on this avenue included the then Torr House, now CFC Stanbic Bank opposite Nation Centre, the Cameo Cinema then known as Theatre Royal, Phoenix House, the statue of Lord Delamere, Barclays Bank House, and Standard Bank of South Africa (currently the Standard Chartered Bank).

These buildings have not been changed externally and thus make Kenyatta Avenue an interesting road to walk along.  You will also find various war memorials including an obelisk and the three figures from the King’s African Rifles.

Kipande House which is at the junction of Kenyatta Avenue and Loita Street. PHOTO| JEFF ANGOTE
Kipande House which is at the junction of Kenyatta Avenue and Loita Street. PHOTO| JEFF ANGOTE

 Kipande House

Another lovely place to take photographs is Kipande House. At the junction of Kenyatta Avenue and Loita Street, it houses the Kenya Commercial Bank.

Did you know that Kipande House used to be a railway depot? Historians say that the Africans working for the colonial masters in Nairobi used to come to this building to be registered and then issued with identification cards. That is how it got its name — kipande, for identity card.

Kipande House’s Italianate architecture is typical of the colonial period and it is one of the buildings protected by the National Museums of Kenya.

 Jevanjee Gardens

It’s one of the most favoured recreational places in the city. Sandwiched between Koinange Street and Moi Avenue, Jeevanjee Gardens is named after Alibhai Mulla Jeevanjee, a pioneer Asian millionaire and the first member of the Municipal Committee of Nairobi.

Mr Jeevanjee built and donated the gardens to ‘the poor people of Nairobi’ as a place for them to relax and they were initially known as Victoria Gardens before changing to Jeevanjee Gardens.

Within the gardens is a statue of Queen Victoria and a monument to A. M. Jeevanjee. Entry is free and you are allowed to take photos. However, you will be charged if you want to do filming.

 Macmillan Library

It is one of those places that people rarely visit in spite of its imposing presence and attractive architecture. Macmillan Memorial Library is situated near Jamia Mosque and has a rich constructin history.

The library was built in memory of Sir William Northrup Macmillan, a US-born Scot. It is said that Macmillan arrived in Kenya in 1901 for some big game shooting, playing host to Roosevelt during his famous 1911 safari at their Juja ranch. After his death in 1925, his wife Lady Lucy built the Macmillan Library.

It will cost you Sh50 to access it and you can take photos within for free.