Establishment and early days as a private residence (1929-1951)
Ducor Hall was built in the1920s by Charles Edward Cooper, former Liberian diplomat and author of one of Liberia’s first novels, “Love in Ebony”. Charles Cooper was the son of Jessie Reed Cooper and Florence Irene Wiles-Cooper. He served as Liberia’s Consul General to the Court of St. James in England from 1922 to 1931. While in England, he purchased the winning ticket for a horse race that won a large sum of money. When his friend, Winston Churchill asked him what he planned do with the money, Cooper replied that he wanted to build a house just like the one he passed by every day in Liverpool. Arrangements were made to build his dream house in Liberia. Cooper hired a British architect and a contractor who travelled to Liberia to commence the work. The building, completed in 1929, was christened Ducor Hall.
Mr. Cooper and his wife, Jeanette L. Howard-Cooper (she later married former President C.D.B. King) returned to Liberia in 1931 and took up residence in Ducor Hall. The four-story building was a striking piece of architecture in those days. The house featured 10 bedrooms, running water, a boiler to heat water, indoor plumbing and even a wine cellar.
Liberia in the mid-1940s under the newly elected President W.V.S. Tubman was a place of post-World War II opportunities. Foreign assistance programs were being set up and foreign technical advisors began arriving in the country. But there were no available hotels. Sometime in the 1940s, the Coopers leased their home to the American Government and the house was used as the residence of U.S. Vice Consul General, Mr. Clifton R. Wharton. During this period, Ducor Hall also provided accommodation for over 6 U.S technical advisors in the health and agricultural sectors and 6 Haitian doctors.
Upon Mr. Cooper’s death in 1951, he willed the building to his seven children. Two of these children are still living.
Government Guest House (1952-1979)
Prior to the opening of the Ducor Intercontinental Hotel in 1960, there were few hotels in Monrovia. The Government of Liberia leased the Ducor Hall from the Cooper family from 1952 to 1979 and it was used as a government guest house.
Many statesmen and foreign dignitaries stayed at Ducor Hall especially during the period of African de-colonization in the 1950s. Notable dignitaries who came to Liberia during this period and stayed at Ducor Hall included:
- Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president
- Nelson Mandela, first democratically elected president of South Africa
- Tom Mboya, one of the founding fathers of Kenya
- Robert Mugabe, first president of Zimbabwe
- Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia
- Sekou Toure, first president of Guinea
- George Padmore, Trinidadian political activist and Pan-Africanist
- Patrice Lumumba, first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The war years to today
In 1979, when Liberia hosted the annual meeting of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Government of Liberia handed back the Ducor Hall to the Cooper family as it no longer needed a guest house, having built Hotel Africa and 27 presidential villas in Virginia. The Cooper family secured the building by hiring a security service to protect it. In the confusion that accompanied the 1980 coup d’etat, the security officers were run out of the house and government soldiers occupied Ducor Hall. Over the years after 1980 until today, the house deteriorated as squatters moved in.
To this day, Ducor Hall remains the property of the heirs of Charles Edward Cooper. The Cooper family plans to restore and preserve the property as a historic building where Liberians and tourists can visit to learn about the early history of Monrovia and the role Liberia played in the African de-colonization movement.
Written by the heirs of Charles Edward Cooper