Visionaries

Visionaries

After Chief Samuel Shonibare died very prematurely at 44 in 1964, his wife, Chief Mrs. Alice Olaperi Shonibare took over the business and helped not just to keep his dream alive, she continued to dream new ones. She redeveloped Shonibare estate. In fact, it was never called Shonibare Estate, people called it by that name in memory of our first Chairman. There was a Maryland Comprehensive school which was run by missionaries and which still exists. He actually called the estate Maryland Estate but people now call it Shonibare Estate. So, after he died, his wife who was an incredible, self-effacing and very smart woman took over. They had been formidable partners. She, it was, who created the Maryland Hotel, a 50 room hotel which became a huge success with a restaurant and dance club. She paid back the loan to Barclays Bank in 1969, acquired the interest to Elephant house from the Pearse Family. Now Elephant House is widely recognized as one of the most interesting examples of Brazillian architecture in Nigeria. It stood magnificent on the Broad Street but one of the conditions attached to her acquiring this building was that any building that had to be built there must be called Elephant House. So this was the original Elephant House, a hostical monument which people like John Godwin have fought very hard to have listed. It took ten years to get the permission to build Elephant House because, in those days, the Lagos state government was very strict about the condition under which you could build a high rise. You had to have 50 feet setback at the front, 50 feet at the side. You had to do a survey of the impact of the construction on the environment. You had to submit what you now call, an Environmental impact analysis. And because the size of the land around Elephant House was modest she had to acquire 3 more plots to make up 2,502.52 square meters of what is now the present Elephant house. So, it took her 10 years to get the approval and she always contended that that was the hardest part of the process and once she got the approval, she handed it over to her daughter, Taiwo Taiwo, to raise the funds for the project. Taiwo Taiwo was just 29 but it didn’t matter to her mother. She said; “Listen, I have done the hard job; you go and raise the money. Your father was very young when he put together western house so you go ahead.”

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The Visionaries