Town located on the east coast of the island of Ovalau, in Fiji, capital of the province of Lomaiviti
Levuka Historical Port Town
First colonial capital of Fiji, commercial and port activities
Location and site
The town and its low line of buildings set among coconut and mango trees along the beach front was the first colonial capital of Fiji, ceded to the British in 1874. It developed from the early 19th century as a centre of commercial activity by Americans and Europeans who built warehouses, stores, port facilities, residences, and religious, educational and social institutions around the villages of the South Pacific island’s indigenous population. It is a rare example of a late colonial port town that was influenced in its development by the indigenous community which continued to outnumber the European settlers. Thus the town, an outstanding example of late 19th century Pacific port settlements, reflects the integration of local building traditions by a supreme naval power, leading to the emergence of a unique landscape.
Levuka Historical Port Town is set amongst coconut and mango trees along the beach front of Ovalau Island against the forested slopes of the island’s extinct volcano. From the 1820s onwards the port was developed as a centre of commercial activity by American and European colonisers and the town became the first colonial capital of Fiji, peacefully ceded to the British by Tui (King) Cakobau in 1874. A stone and concrete sea wall runs the length of Beach Street, from which other streets and lanes branch inland in a radial pattern following the contours of the land. Inland are the sites of two former indigenous villages Totoga (Vitoga) and Nasau located on one of the three creeks draining the slopes above the coastal plain. Copra sheds, warehouses, bond stores, port facilities and commercial buildings developed along Beach Street, and residences, religious, educational and social institutions grew up around the villages of the indigenous population. These are generally single or two storied corrugated iron or weatherboard clad timber buildings with hipped or gable roofs. Development continued beyond removal of the capital to Suva in 1882 as companies continued to establish bases at Levuka, reflecting all stages of colonial development in the South Pacific.
Criterion (ii): Levuka Historical Port Town exhibits the important interchange of human values and cultural contact that took place as part of the process of European maritime expansion over the 19th century in the geo-cultural region of the Pacific Islands. It is a rare example of a late colonial port town, which illustrates the cultural hybridity of non-settler communities in the Pacific, with an urban plan that merges local settlement traditions with colonial standards. As such, the town exhibits the processes of the late, industrialized stage of colonization, which was based on maritime extraction and export processes.
Criterion (iv): The urban typology of Levuka Historical Port Town reflects the global characteristics and institutions of European colonization in the 19th century. As a specific type of Pacific port settlement, which reflects the late 19th century stages of maritime colonization, Levuka provides insights to the adaptation of European naval powers to a specific oceanic social, cultural and topographic environment. The combination of colonial settlement typologies with the local building tradition has created a special type of Pacific port town landscape.