Kruger House is the historical Pretoria residence of the
Boer leader and President of the South African Republic, Paul Kruger. It was
built in 1884 by architect Tom Claridge and builder Charles Clark. Milk was
used, instead of water, for mixing the cement from which the house was
constructed, as the cement available was of poor quality.
The Kruger House is now a house museum that tries to
recreate the ambience of the period that Kruger lived in.
What follows is an extract from a posting by the Heritage Portal:
|Paul Kruger House museum|
|Paul Kruger's house|
The house was also one of the first in Pretoria to be lit by electricity. The house contains either the original furnishings or items from the same historical period, some of the many gifts that were presented to Kruger as well as other memorabilia.
|Verandah (stoep) of Paul Kruger's house|
Another interesting feature of the house is two stone lions
on the verandah that were presented to President Kruger as a birthday gift on
10 October 1896 by the mining magnate Barney Barnato.
|Stone lion gift by Barney Barnato|
|Inside Kruger House|
What follows is an extract from a posting by the Heritage Portal:
"Let us return to the dismal afternoon of 29 May 1900 when the devoted old couple said goodbye after a married life of nearly 54 years. Tant Sina was too old and too weak to accompany the President into so uncertain a future. Mr and Mrs F.C. Eloff (who lived next door) undertook to look after her, even in the event of the British entering Pretoria. The fact that she could lean upon her daughter, Elsie, and her husband in her closing days was her one consolation.
Before the President left Lourenco Marques on 20 October 1900 he sent her a farewell message: 'May God bless you. Trust in Him, Who governs all.' Letters reached her from him while he was in Europe. On 20 July 1901 she died in her 71st year.
After Mrs Kruger's death the house was claimed by the South African Constabulary, a curator bonis being appointed. Part of the furniture still stood in the house and many pieces were packed and removed in boxes, some objects being placed in the safekeeping of the National Bank. In 1901 the contents of the house were valued at £2 774; an inventory was made that covered 12 typed pages, without giving details. This indicates how many Kruger relics may still be in private possession, either heirlooms or items removed from the house after 1901.
|Paul Kruger's funeral|
The Constabulary remained in possession of the house even after 1902. Mr Eloff and his family were compelled through pressure from the military authorities in Pretoria to leave the town after the death of Mrs Kruger. They joined the President in Europe, living with him in Holland, the south of France and finally at Clarens, where they were present at his death.
In April 1904, shortly before the President's death, Mr Eloff bought the Kruger House for his little son out of the joint estate. In the mean time the house had, without his knowledge, been used as a boarding-house. A disgraceful episode in Pretoria's past is therefore the fact that Paul Kruger's old home was a boarding-house, named The Presidency, at the time of his funeral. The residents were supplied with writing paper bearing a portrait of the President seated on his stoep.
The owner and members of the public intervened and the house once more became private. Up to 1916 the widowed Mrs Van Broekehuizen, mother of the President's son-in-law, lived there, and for a short while afterwards it was occupied by her daughters.
After the President's funeral in 1904 a great number of wreaths (nearly 300) were stored in one of the rooms. On the table in the main bedroom were two visitor's books - one, the 'Book of Mourning', with the names of many of the 30 000 people who attended the funeral, and the other giving the names of those who came to look at the wreaths. In 1918 Mr Eloff granted the use of the house to the Association of Afrikaans Mothers for use as a maternity home until they could build a maternity hospital on their own premises in Beatrix Street, Pretoria.
Museum of Kruger Mementos
The suggestion that the Kruger House should be turned into a museum was made by the Transvaal Museum Board to the Minister of the Interior on 26 February 1923. The Board pointed out that although it had many Kruger relics in safekeeping, a large number had already been lost. A lack of funds, however, prevented the Government from buying the house; it was also felt that the matter should be taken up by the newly constituted Historical Monuments Commission.
The Transvaal Museum then already had many Kruger relics, chiefly through the intervention of Dr W.J. Leyds and others. After 1904, too, when the contents of the House were largely divided among the children, many objects were restored to the Kruger House.
Most of the relics of the President's last days were to be found in Europe. During his lifetime he had given many objects to the South African Museum at Dordrecht, Holland. Personal belongings and garments, which had been stored in eight chests at Menton, were later also sent to Dordrecht. At the time of his death he had in his possession one large and six smaller Bibles. There were also the orders and ribbons presented to him by various states after 1884.
Dr Leyds and General Louis Botha were chiefly responsible for the return of many Kruger relics from Dordrecht to the Transvaal Museum, 21 boxes and a crate arriving at the Museum in 1921.
On 3 October 1924 Mr F.C. Eloff wrote to Mr P.G.W. Grobler, then Minister of Lands, saying that his end was near; that he had bought the house not for the purpose of making any profit on the transaction; and that he was prepared to sell it at a reasonable price to the Government. Before Mr Grobler, Dr H.D. Van Broekhuizen and the Minister concerned (Mr Tommy Boydell) could act, both Mr Eloff and Mrs Eloff died within a few weeks of each other, in October and November 1924, respectively.
On 25 August 1925 the House was bought for £3 600 from the Eloff estate by the Union Government, but the maternity home could find no other accommodation. Their lease ran for another seven years and on 4 June 1932 the Government at last began making the house a Kruger museum and restoring, as far as possible, its original appearance.
For this purpose a committee was formed in Pretoria by the Government and recommended that the house be gradually restored to its original appearance and that the historical atmosphere be preserved as far as possible.
A National Monument
This recommendation was accepted by the Government on 20 September 1932 and the Department of Public Works undertook to renovate the house. The building was handed over to the Board of Trustees of the Transvaal Museum on 23 October 1933. The cost of renovation was more than £900.
On 10 October 1934 the Kruger House was officially opened to the public. Additions were made to the collection already in possession of the Museum through purchases and presentations and in 1933 Anton van Wouw's "Kruger in Exile" and the Kruger head by the French sculptor, Achard, were bought.
The Kruger House was declared a national monument on 6 April 1936 and a bronze plaque bearing an inscription was inserted in the wall on the verandah. This is the translated inscription:
|Kruger House national monument plaque|
Historical Monuments Commission
During the period 1884-1900 this building was the residence of His Honour S.J.P. Kruger.
State President of the South African Republic
Look in the past for all that is good and beautiful, take that for all that is good and beautiful, take that for your ideal and build on it your future.
From President Kruger's "Last Message".
|A scale model of the Kruger House at Santarama Mini Land|
Source: The Heritage Portal http://www.heritageportal.co.za/article/long-journey-create-kruger-house-museum