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Notes on the Geography of Ghana: Accra 4: Suburban Development

Let's scout out a few residential neighborhoods.

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Looking for a bit of high ground, the British about 1916 chose a low ridge on which to build a residential district for officials. Many of the houses built here in the adjoining West Ridge and East Ridge districts survive, big and two-storied in hopes of a bit of breeze. In this case technology has come to the rescue with the addition of window-unit air conditioners.

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Quoins for palazzo elegance.

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Pilasters, yet, but nobody could accuse the British of venturing into untrod architectural domains.

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What was good enough for officials was good enough for private homeowners. The neighborhood of Adabraka, close to the ridge, was settled about 1916, with more houses from the same plan drawer.

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The largest subdivision of that era was Korle Gonno, a gridded area between Korle Bu Hospital and the sea. We can walk around a bit. One thing: the old houses are being demolished and replaced--a sign that somebody's got money.

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A new house across the street.

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Here's an example of the kind of houses being replaced here: one or one-and-a-half stories. The front yard has been let for commercial purposes.

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Its neighbor: stacked blocks, with shops below.

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Were there ever yards surrounding these homes? Gardens? Were the boundary walls original equipment? I'm betting yes, yes, and no.

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The drains are new.

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Corner store.

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Shipping containers converted to shops.

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Spiffy, but watch your step when it's wet.

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Sidewalk bar.

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A relaxed morning brew.

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Showers for rent.

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Another residential neighborhood, just north of the Kaneshie Market and created about 1945.

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Think crime is a worry?

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Before you jump the wall, remember that Bougainvillea has nasty thorns. But the streets are clean, well-paved, and drained.

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In the middle of the neighborhood, a cemetery.

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Here's something unusual. It's some kind of model housing from the 1960s. How can we tell? Because it's located hard near Government House, the so-called Christianborg Castle. Taking picture here was tricky; lots of soldiers and warnings. The architect apparently felt that the sun was the enemy. You can't tell just by looking at the pictures, but he was right.

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Another view. Turns out that the group was built as junior staff quarters for government officers who needed to be close by when the Governor called. The architect (J.G. Halstead, chief architect of the Public Works Department) laid out these 24 apartments in three blocks around a central open space to which the apartments face. They're all one-room deep to maximize breezes; each also has a private courtyard for sleeping outside. The floor plans were published in New Buildings in the Commonwealth, edited by J.M. Richards, 1961.

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The rich, too, are always with us, here protected by electrical fencing. Tempted to test the voltage? Resist the urge: 220 hurts.

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Color to make a statement.

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Another castle in the offing.

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What can a poor apartment dweller say to someone with a house? "My gate's bigger than your gate."

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Driving along a road we pass this lineup. What 'tis?

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The answer is Crystal Homes Cantonments. We'll sneak in.

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Homes for sale or rent.

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The agent says the place is fully occupied. You'd never know it.

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Kitchen in rental unit. Two bedrooms, furnished. USD 5,000 a month on a lease.

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And you don't have to go far to work, because offices are moving this way, convenient as well to the airport and the embassies. No photography!

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Where to spend your lucre? Try Oxford Street, officially Cantonments Road. The traffic (as in most of Accra Central) is so bad that walking is much faster, though not recommended if you're fastidious about sweat. Those caught in traffic may recall this tidbit from the 1920s: "...the first motor vehicle in the Gold Coast arrived... in 1902 for the use of the Governor... The car remained in use until 1908, when it was sold to Monsieur A. Dumas, a local French trader, for L5. M. Dumas was, however, unable to get it to move and eventually the Sanitary Department, during a clean-up of the Secretariat compound, in which the car was standing, carried it off and threw it into the sea" (The Gold Coast: A Review of the Events of the Years 1920-1926, Accra: 1927, p. 79).

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Not many of the usual suspects, but here's one.


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