Below is a short write-up on the architectural style of our house

Monday, 28 November 2011

Three Classic Courts in Arcadia

The suburb of Arcadia was established in 1889 and primarily developed as a residential area. In 1911, the area above Church street was subdivided into 87 erven by land surveyor J.H. Fehrsen.  During the 1930’s three medium-high residency buildings were erected in the area in response to the urbanisation of the rural population of Pretoria.

The three historical buildings namely, Clarendon  Court, Twentyman Court and Savoy Court have not lost their original character and style. All three buildings were built in the colonial style and enclose  a courtyard. Tenants are often surprised to find the beautiful flats, with original wooden floors and fireplaces, in the centre of Arcadia among all the high-rise apartment blocks.

Clarendon Court
Clarendon Court – 1929 162 Eastwood Street (8 units) Clarendon Court was commissioned to be built in 1929 and would be one of the first high residency buildings above Church street. It is interesting to note that the flats in this area are contrary to the town planning requirements of the time, as high density dwellings and buildings were placed below (south of) Church street. This could also explain the loose grouping of the buildings, giving them a character of clustered mansions, rather than a single block of flats. These type of flats were known as ‘Flats-de-Luxe’ or ‘Mansion flats’ at the time and a ‘companion volume’ to the British style of homes.
The site for Clarendon Court is placed along Eastwood street which ascends Meintjieskop to the north. The length and narrow width of the site is typical of the erven laid out in 1911. The small flats are arranged around a central courtyard with steps to navigate the sloping terrain 

Twentyman Court
Twentyman Court – 1934 730 Church Street (20 units) The flats of, the two-story, Twentyman Court are similarly arranged around a central courtyard.  The architecture of this building is typical for buildings designed and constructed in the International style in the 1920 to 1940 period.  The financier, a Mr. Strydom, was also responsible for the construction of other medium density housing projects and hotels such as Helena Mansions.
Twentyman court remained unchanged until 1982 when the architectural firm Peter Hattingh & Genote was commissioned to refurbish the building and to enclose almost all the open balconies. 

Savoy Court
Savoy Court – 1935 249 Eastwood Street (12 units)  The owner, HA Newman submitted plans for a ‘new building’ to the City Council of Pretoria on 8 August 1935.  The first foundations for the new Savoy Court were cast on 25 August 1935.  On 9 December 1935 the Arcadia Ratepayers Association objected to the erection of the nine garage units facing Pretorius Street. It appears this objection was overruled.

Reproduced from an original article in ARRA by Marian Cloete - October 2011

Source (and for more detailed information):

Andries du Toit was the man who laid out Arcadia

Arcadia is one of the oldest suburbs and has always been seen as one of the most authentic and attractive historical residential areas in Pretoria. Well, Arcadia is not one of the oldest suburbs in our beloved city but THE oldest pregnant with historical landmarks that have been neglected for too long.
Andries du Toit

Most Arcadians will know that their leafy suburb was established by land surveyor Andries du Toit who was born 8 August 1813 on the farm Eerste River in the Stellenbosch district. His father, Jacobus Fran├žois du Toit, was the fourth generation of the Du Toit family at the Cape and his mother, Gertruda Johanna Buykes was of Flemish origin. Andries studied at Stellenbosch in order to qualify for acceptance at a theological institute in Holland.

Before departing for Europe, however, he fell ill with chronic chest trouble and was advised not to undertake the dangerous sea travels but to take advantage of the dry Karoo air. Andries then settled on the farm Grootfontein in the Beaufort West district. He married Elizabeth Getruda Jacoba de Villiers with whom he had ten children. In order to support his large family, he concentrated on selling, buying and bartering among the Trekboere in the Caledon area as well as with Voortrekkers living north of the Orange River. In spite of his strong religious conviction, he did not deem it necessary to abide by the law. He devised ingenious ways of smuggling guns and ammunition across the Grootrivier. Before long Du Toit was trapped and arrested but he managed to escape to the Orange Free State.

While looking for new opportunities to earn a living there, he met Commandant General Andries Pretorius who invited him to survey farms in the Voortrekker areas. Thus, towards the end of 1856, Du Toit arrived with his family by oxwagon in Pretoria. Among his tools were a ship’s telescope, a spirit level mounted on a tripod to serve the purpose of a theodolite and a trek-chain made up of 50 metal links together with a marking gauge. In Pretoria he surveyed 78 erven that were to be developed on the open square, a task which took him almost a year to complete for an erven was only surveyed when a buyer came forward to join the people who had already settled there. His surveying method may have lacked sophistication, but it proved to be extremely accurate when qualified land surveyors checked the measurements many years later with modern instruments. On 2 May 1857 Du Toit was sworn in as the first landdrost of Pretoria with responsibilities that would have broken most other men. However, with no government buildings at his disposal, Du Toit had the privilege of working from his modest home situated in the vicinity where the present Lion Bridge crosses the Apies River in Church street. Even before he was sworn in as landdrost, he stressed the necessity of postal connections between poor Pretoria, which he considered as an outpost to which he was moved, and the other towns. He was duly elected to serve as Pretoria’s first Postmaster.
While Du Toit has gone down in history as the man who surveyed the first erven in Pretoria, his pioneering efforts in municipal matters are of equal historical significance. They were as diverse as drafting regulations which dealt with the water supply for the young town, the maintenance of the furrow starting at the Fountain, the control of cattle, and in particular outspanned oxen who posed the constant threat of contaminating the water, and, on 2 June 1857, solemnising the marriage between Jacobus Abraham Botes and Christina Sagarian Johanna Beatrix du Preez, which was the first marriage that took place in Pretoria.

Du Toit was instrumental in having Pretoria declared the capital of the South African Republic and he was involved in moving the seat of government from Potchefstroom to Pretoria.
When his many public functions he had to carry out finally proved too much for him that he, at the age of 45, asked the President for permission to relinquish his post and resigned on 31 December 1859.

Next, Du Toit acquired a tract of land from President Pretorius extending from the present Du Toit Street to the official residence of South Africa’s State President in Arcadia, and this in lieu of a Basuto pony. Perhaps the deal was meant to be a golden handshake after the services he had rendered to the emerging town. The story that Du Toit had named his property after Arcadia – a central region of the Greek Peloponese, idealised in pastoral poetry for its idyllic life and innocence and simplicity, too, is a charming tale that does deserve retelling.
Du Toit set out to survey Arcadia at once, cutting the land rising gently towards the east into 82 erven. He sold the erven to Stephanus Johannes Meintje for £ 1,00 on a promissionary note for three months. After the registration of the sale Meintje received about £250 worth for the deal. Du Toit left Pretoria in 1871 to settle in Nazareth, which was to become Middelburg, where he died on 15 August 1883 and was buried.

Reproduced from an original article in ARRA by Eric Bolsmann June 2010

Sunday, 19 June 2011

First Ford sold outside North America

The first Ford to arrive in South Africa was a 1903 Ford Model A, which was imported by Mr Arthur Youldon of Johannesburg.
1903 Ford Model A Runabout
In September 1903 Mr Youldon, an importer, was in New York where he saw Henry Ford demonstrate his new car. He immediately placed his order with Henry Ford, who informed him that it would be the first Ford to be sold outside North America.

The Ford Motor Company was founded earlier that year, on 16 June 1903.
1903 Ford Touring Car

The car only arrived in February 1904 in Port Elizabeth from where it had to be transported by train to Johannesburg. This car survived to this day and can be viewed at the Franschhoek Motor Museum in the Cape, which has a  large display covering 100 years of motoring in SA.

The first two Ford agents in South Africa are believed to be Arkell & Douglas of Port Elizabeth and Georges Chapart of Durban. Mr Chapard, a Frenchman, travelled throughout Natal and later also the Orange Free State, selling the popular Ford Model N, the predecessor of the Model T.

Other early Ford dealers followed such as Mr H.G. Holmes of Kimberley who later moved to Cape Town and Atkinson's Motor Garages of Bloemfontein, which much later were incorporated in the McCarthy Group of companies.

During July 1923 Mr Holmes and Mr H.F.A. Stockelbach visited the Ford factory in Canada to investigate the possibility of starting an assembly plant in South Africa. Due to preferential tax and duty applicable to Commonwealth Countries, it was advantages to source the kits from the Canadian Ford factory rather than the USA.

This was realised in February 1924, when an old wool packing shed in Port  Elizabeth was used to start the assembly of the Ford Model Ts. 

Monday, 23 May 2011

First Motor Car in the Southern Hemisphere

First Motor Car in the Southern Hemisphere

As early as 1896, in what is believed to have been the first car in the Southern Hemisphere, Mr John Percy Hess of Pretoria made the decision to import a Benz "Velo" from Benz & Co of Mannheim Germany to South Africa.
During the same year this car was shipped to Port Elizabeth and then transported to Pretoria. It was the start of a business relationship which lead to Mr Hess becoming the sole agent for Benz & Co in South Africa.

On Monday, January 4th at 4pm.1897 at Berea Park in Pretoria, in a widely advertised event (see below), Mr John Percy Hess first drove the car with a Mr A.E. Reno (his business Partner and co-founder of the Pretoria News), and a Dr W.J. Leyds, then State Secretary of the Transvaal, as passengers. President Paul Kruger was also invited to ride on the car, but he preferred to just watch the event. 

In honour of President Paul Kruger attendance a "vierkleur" flag was attached to a pole on the carriage and a gold medal was minted to commemorate this occasion. A large number of spectators who came to see this spectacle had to pay an entrance fee of 2 shillings and 6 pennies.

Prominent Pretoria citizens pose with the Benz on its first outing. Dr Leyds, state secretary of the Transvaal, occupies the rand hand seat, whlie Mr A.E. Reno, co-founder of the Pretoria news, is at the controls.
The following week, the Benz was shown at the Wanderers in Johannesburg and then sold to Mr A.H. Jacobs, a coffee importer. Every customer who purchased 500g of coffee from his shop in Pritchard Street was allowed to see his car. Unfortunately, some months later, this car was destroyed in a fire

Surrounded by "sports" in dashing Wanderers Club headgear, South Africa's first lady motorists seem a trifle apprehensive. The Benz reached its maximum speed of 14 mph round the club enclosure

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Some things you probably didn't know about Pretoria

Based on an article by Simon Williamson –

February 17th, 2010

For the purposes of this article, and at the time of writing, the name of the city I shall use is Pretoria. Should the government bigwigs manage to force through the name change past this publication date, I am probably not going to rush back and edit it. Other than this twisty name, here are ten things I will bet you never knew about Pretoria

1.  Pretoria in South Africa is popularly known as The Jacaranda City due to the enormous number of Jacaranda trees planted as street trees and in parks and gardens. In flowering time the city appears blue/purple in colour when seen from the nearby hills because of all the Jacaranda trees.
The time of year the Jacarandas bloom in Pretoria coincides with the year-end exams at the University of Pretoria and legend has it that if a flower from the Jacaranda tree drops on your head, you will pass all your exams.
Jacaranda trees are not indigenous to South Africa!  Jacaranda trees are native to tropical and subtropical regions of South America (especially Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay), Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean

Jacaranda trees   

2. The name of this city is a massive bone of contention as the debate as to whether it should be called Pretoria or Tshwane continues to rage. It seems to have always been the case though. Pretoria was first called Petoriusdorp - a little later, someone suggested the name Pretorium, but finally, to the relief of many the name Pretoria was finally adopted. 

3.  The Union Buildings (Afrikaans: Die Uniegebou) form the official seat of the South African government and also house the offices of the President of South Africa. The imposing buildings are located in Pretoria, atop Meintjieskop at the Northern end of Arcadia.
The Buildings are one of the centres of political life in South Africa; "The Buildings" and "Arcadia" have become metonyms for the South African Government. It has become an iconic landmark of Pretoria and South Africa in general, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city and an emblem of democracy.
Union Buildings 
These buildings, built from light sandstone, were designed by the architect Sir Herbert Baker in the English monumental style and are 285 m long. They have a semi-circular shape, with the two wings at the sides. The clock chimes are identical to those of Big Ben in London.
These buildings are considered by many to be the architect's greatest achievement and a S The building was sited on a disused quarry, which now makes up the Amphitheatre. The statues on top of the towers are Mercury, a mythic Roman messenger and a god of trade. Mercury is holding up the world. The closest suburb to the Union Buildings is Arcadia, which means "Playground Of Gods".
Pretoria as seen from the Union Buildings    

4.   Pretoria has the second largest number of embassies in the world, after Washington, D.C., most of which are located in or near Arcadia.

5.  Depending on where you are from, Pretoria is Johannesburg's outermost suburb, or it is its own city. Those from Pretoria staunchly believe the latter, and are indeed quite correct. However, the exploding expansion of the northern suburbs of Johannesburg has reduced the gap between the two cities to almost nothing, so those of us from eGoli believe that the Jacaranda City is just a part of ours. And we lend them our airport too!

6.  During the Anglo-Boer war, Winston Churchill was imprisoned in the Staats Model Skool in Pretoria, but he managed to escape to Mozambique. Just as well, as he had a little problem which required his attention about 40 years afterwards.
Staats Model Skool

7.  According to Wikipedia, the language spoken most widely in Pretoria is not, in fact, Afrikaans.  - It is Pedi.

8.  The Gautrain (a metro) will soon be in action to move people from Johannesburg to Pretoria and vice-versa without haemorrhaging the highway between the two cities, as happens every morning and afternoon. This new development will also link up the airport to the centre of both cities as well as Sandton, which is virtually a city on its own, anyway. It should be ready shortly after the Fifa World Cup, which is nice and useful not to have when our country is at its fullest.

Image from The Gautrain.

9. One of South Africa's most famous modes of transport is The Blue Train which covers the 1600km track to Cape Town from Pretoria. This luxury experience comes at a premium, but is an excellent way to travel from PTA, although it is rather slow and it's probably just easier to use Johannesburg's OR Tambo Airport.

Image of the Blue Train.

10.  Mrs Ples (the nickname for what is considered one of the oldest intact skulls of a distant ancestor of humankind - dating back over 2-million years ago) was discovered in The Cradle of Humankind and now resides in the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria.

Mrs Ples.



111.  Pretoria is the home of the world's biggest soccer ball. As soccer fever hits South Africa during 2010, corporate involvement is increasing. This ball adorns the top of Telkom's Lukasrand tower. The ball is 24 meters across and 8 storeys high and is 100% recyclable.
Photo by Di Faktor on Lunar Raves


12.  Pretoria's main street, Church Street, is the longest urban street in South Africa and one of the longest straight streets in the world. To my knowledge, Cape Town certainly doesn't have many straight streets of which to boast.

Church Street

13.   Pretoria Boys High School, one of the flagship schools of the city, boasts some incredible alumni including current Springbok captain John Smit, Paralympic gold medallist Oscar Pistorious, anti-Apartheid activist and British MP Peter Hain, and ex-Bafana Bafana player Mark Fish.
Pretoria Boys High School main building

Some information about the architectural style of our house

Melvin Residence
We live in a house that was built in 1890 and we are constantly busy with the restoration of this beautiful house.

To the best of our knowledge the house was designed by Wilhelm Johannes
 De Zwaan**, one of the architects from Holland that was brought in by Pres. Paul Kruger

The house is in the Victorian (Queen Anne) architectural style. Queen Anne style (1887-1910) has the following characteristics:

  • Basically, a free form composition with Classical details
  • No rules of proportion (house expands in every direction).
  • Bay windows may jut out from load-bearing walls, sometimes out of a corner at an angle of 45 degrees
  • An ornate porch along one or both sides with rows of  stick-and-ball spindles
  • Complicated roof planes, e.g. gables pointing in several directions
  • Usually has a tower, a cylindrical or polygonal structure topped with a "candle snuffer"
  • Vibrant colors were used to highlight decorative features
  • Eclectic appropriation of ornamental elements from earlier periods, e.g. garlands, columns and carved wood
  • May have triangular wooden gable end perforated with jigsaw ornaments

The sketch above was done by Hannes Meiring*

Mr Meiring describes the building as follows:
“A short distance from the Union Buildings, in Pine Street is a house at present known as Melvin Residence – very different indeed from the Union Buildings. The house reminds one of the ostrich palaces of Oudtshoorn and is a rather amusing conglomeration of styles that were popular at the beginning of the century: decorative wooden railings around the stoep, a near classical gable and ornamental plaster work above the bay window, tall chimneys and a stairway that widens towards the bottom and is decorated with pot plants. Today genuine Victorian houses such as Melvin Residence are once again appreciated.”

*Meiring, Hannes. Pretoria 125: Human & Rousseau Publishers (Pty) Ltd, 1980. ISBN 0 7981 1087 2