Kumase Public Works Department

Colonial Administration Survival

The Public Works Department (PWD) played a major role in early and later Anglophone colonial architecture and utilities. Although operative in the Ghana's coastal area as early as 1850, the PWD's Kumase presence did not commence until about half a century later, due to Asante independence that ended in 1900. Initially responsible even for the very production of "burnt bricks" and the creation of wooden shingles, the PWD's architects and engineers planned, created or supervised the construction and maintenance of municipal buildings, roads, bridges, water systems, harbors, and other infrastructural aspects. Their reshaping of landscapes in the early years of colonialism was a given, and favored European goals. Initially, African participation was deliberately limited to laborer status.

After the 1900 Anglo-Asante war, the European presence in Kumase solidified. By 1905, Kumase had only one British supervisor, who saw to the construction of the "native" hospital, market sheds, improvements to the male prison and military structures, a slaughterhouse, and "enclosure of the European water supply", as well as cemented street drains. By the following year, the city saw a female prison and the addition of a hospital, dispensary, and kitchen to the male prison, the initial construction of a European hospital, police headquarters and an additional station in the Muslim Zongo quarter (20 constables and three senior officers total). No government school had yet been established.

The PWD's road work stepped up in 1916 with the construction of the Kumase-Ejura road, specifically meant for vehicles. This inaugurated plans for rapid increases that saw 300% expansion within a year or two, but the trunk road between Accra and Kumase, was still not completed in 1937--probably because a railroad had covered this route since 1906. In the early colonial period, the PWD took responsibility for roads designed to connect desirable resources to ports, directing the chiefs to create and maintain roads from smaller polities to regional centers.

By 1937, the city as a whole had pipe-borne water and electrification was complete. Completed PWD construction now included four public schools, provincial police headquarters, expanded police and military barracks, extensive civil service housing, and a divisional Supreme Court.

In the 1940s, the Kumase PWD constructed an airport and cemetery. Although British consulting firm were still involved in major projects, the level of local participation had increased. The future Asantehene Opoku Ware II trained as a surveyor and draughtman, and worked for the Kumase PWD from 1941 to 1943.

The Kumase PWD still operates, now controlling maintenance and construction of government offices, housing and other property in the city. It still makes use of the two-story colonial structure with its decorative quoins, louvers, and ground floor pilasters. Many structures built by the PWD, such as Manhyia Palace and civil service bungalows, still stand.



Old Station Road, Kumase, Ghana