A stroll round Calitzdorp 1

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About A stroll round Calitzdorp 1

A stroll round Calitzdorp 1

Calitzdorp on foot - walk 1

The general architecture of the central village area of Calitzdorp is English-derived and its beauty is that of severe simplicity in the so-called Karoo style.  Many of the older homes were built as "church houses" (tuishuise) for the temporary accommodation of farmers travelling to town for church services. 
These tiny structures - some of them almost doll's houses - are mostly to be found in the vicinity of the DR Church, a national monument that has been the main feature of the town for a century.

1.  Dutch Reformed Church (declared a National Monument in 1991).  (Open Monday to Friday on the vestry side, i.e. the southern side.  The key is also obtainable from the Museum.)

In 1855 work was commenced on a church although the congregation only became independent in 1873.  Less than a decade later in 1880 the inauguration of the newly enlarged church took place but by 1909 this too had become too small and it was decided that a new building be erected.  Twenty six plans were submitted and in 1910 the old building was demolished and work on the present church began in earnest.

Stone was brought by oxwagon from Swartkop (Vleirivier) and dressed on the building site.  The pulpit, made of yellowwood and stinkwood is from the previous church.  According to tradition it was made in the workshop of A.P. Blignaut's Wagonry.  The organ was erected by G.W. Price and Son of Cape Town.  It was a gift from the three Potgieter brothers of Rietfontein and Buffelskloof which they imported from Hamburg, Germany.  Each brother gave £800 for a total cost of £2,400.  It has 1,495 pipes in seven sets.  A new electric console was installed in the South gallery in 1964.

The pews, shaped like benches, are of solid oak and can seat 2,000 people.  Please note the beautiful steel ceiling.  Acetylene gas lamps were in use up to 1937.  The enormous vestry table (5.2m) had to be made on site.  The clockwork and bells, the latter cast in Germany, cost £425 and were donated by Mr and Mrs J.J. Grundling.  The cast-iron enclose dates from 1899.

Foundation stone laid on 17 December 1910, inauguration April 1912, neo-byzantine with a Marseilles tile roof.  It is a good example of the sandstone architecture of the ostrich-era in the Klein Karoo.  Architect W.H. Louw of Paarl, Building contractor J.P. Strydom, Supervisory architects J.G. Vixseboxse, total building cost £12,790. 

2.  29 Andries Pretorius Street - De Eerste Pastorie.  In December 1858 J.J. Grundling, a member of the church committee responsible for selling church erven for the establishment of a village, bought this stand and had the house built shortly afterwards.

Sixteen years later, in 1874, it was let out temporarily, serving as parsonage for the first DRC preacher Richard Barry.  The second owner, J.C.D. Potgieter, who bought it in 1876 was the son of the first true ostrich farmer, Hermanus L. Potgieter of Rietfontein.  The house has remained in this family ever since.

Note the beautifully balanced proportions and positioning of the different elements in the facade.  (Casement windows have almost disappeared in Calitzdorp).  The shutter, front door and gutters are not original and the loft staircase was removed years ago while the original thatched roof is hidden under a corrugated iron replacement.  The matching wing and garages at the back were added during the 1990's.

3.  27 Andries Pretorius Street - Tristan da Cunha.  The first owner of this endearing cottage was J.J. Stimie who acquired the stand in 1859 and built the house.  At the time he served on the same committee as his next door neighbour, J.J. Grundling.

It is howeve the wife of the third owner, the cobbler John Baldwin, who is generally associated with the house.  Happy Sarah Baldwin was a well-known dressmaker (the mirror used in her trade is to be seen in the museum) and a very active member of the English community, playing an important part in the erection of St Mark's Chapel in in Queen Street.  In 1857, as a six year old, she had arrived in SA with her family, the Millers, from Tristan da Cunha and when the Baldwins bought the property in 1878 it was named after the island.

Happy Sarah's son-in-law George was the son of Gustav Nefdt, the first person ever to have succeeded in climbing Towerkop near Ladismith.  He achived this feat in 1885 while still a schoolboy, oblivious of being one of the initiators of mountaineering as a sport in South Africa!

The house is one of a very few here still with a thatched roof and casement windows.  The exterior is for the most part original except the front door, shutters and lean-to additions at the back.

4.  Church Street - directly behind Tristan da Cunha.  This plot is among those proclaimed in 1859 and the original house might well date from approximately the same period in which case it would have had a thatched roof with parapet gables.

It was planned in the style of early Cape cottages, in other words consisting of three connecting rooms in a row, similar to the original Tristan da Cunha interior.  A few years ago the interior of this cottage was, however, also completely altered.  The exterior is totally unadorned and basic with slightly low eaves.  The tiny sash windows, rain water collector at the top of the down pipe and little loft door showing its cross-shaped construction are very pleasing.  The gutters are new.  According to tradition it was once the home of an herbalist ("bossiedokter").

5.  1 Church Street.  Karel Petrus Fourie, a farmer from the Gamka valley, had this house built as a "church house", most probably in the late 1890's or early 20th century, though the proclamation of the plot dates back to 1875.  The facades of these delightful cottages are in actual fact identical to the symbol for "house" around the world, which is the same as "house" seen through the eyes of a child: a door in the centre with a window on either side.  The high roof, common in this area, is not only aesthetically pleasing  but has the practical function of keeping the house cool during the extremely hot summers.  The same is true of the abundant use of Cape Dutch shutters.  Note the scalloped facia board.  The front door, the side windows and shutters are not original.  It is unfortunately in a poor state of repair.

6.  3 Church Street - Die Hooisolder.  Originally church property and built as a barn with huge doors facing east onto the town's first outspan, it was changed into a dwelling for J.W. Pretorius after he had bought it in 1898.

It had had a single-storey lean-to on the western side which functioned as a stable but this was later built up to the height of the rest of the structure and the top floor used for fodder - the only means of entry being through a window by making use of a rope ladder.  Relatives of the later Cape Town artist, Nico Prins, were tenants of Pretorius who farmed in Groenfontein and used to collect the rent every three months by bicycle.  Much later, during the ownership of L.J.P. Boshoff who had acquired it in 1948, one of Calitzdorp's well-known tailors, Koos Wagenaar, occupied it until his death in the 1960's.  After this it was the joint inheritance of several people before the present owner obtained it.

Although a number of similar buildings are to be found on farms in the area, this is the only one in the village, adding hugely to its pastoral atmosphere.  The date of original construction is about 1860 to 1870.

7.  5 Potgieter Street.  Since this is one of the last single-storey flat-roofed houses still remaining in town (recently restored and electricity installed)  it has become a little treasure.  It is in a style familiar throughout the country, originating during the latter half of the 18th century when it became associated with Malay or slave dwellings.  The door, tiny casement windows and solid shutters are original, creating a facade with simple but beautiful proportions and harmony.  In this region such houses are nicknamed "platjies" (flat, as opposed to raised).  The plot was proclaimed in 1875 and the little cottage may well date from more or less that time.

8.  3 Potgieter Street - Andante.  In 1875 when this plot was proclaimed it, together with the adjacent one on the western side, were acquired by F.G. Odendaal and W. Verschuur trading from these premises as F.G. Odendaal & Co.

Years later in 1907 a certain N.L. Fouche, a farmer who had bought the two plots from the wagon builder G.F.J. Koertzen (a member of the town council), sold this specific one to H.W. Olivier who might have constructed the house, although legend has it that it was built by the next owner, Ernst Potgieter.  The price of £155 which Potgieter had paid to the insolvent estate of Olivier in 1918 would have been outrageous for an empty plot since the value of these at the time averaged about £24 unless Potgieter replaced an existing building with Andante.

Potgieter was one of the three brothers who had donated the organ for the present church and was also the owner of the farm Rietfontein as well as the builder of its ostrich palace.  Nevertheless, Andante has modest Edwardian characteristics like the double front door etc, while the beautiful imitation grain-painting of its interior was a typical Victorian practice.  An unexpected feature is the tripartite walls of one of the rooms.  The imitation stone decoration of the exterior plaster finish originally became fashionable during the 1890's.  It is unfortunate that its two roof ventilators were removed since they were an integral part of the overall design.

9.  2 Potgieter Street.  Here we have yet another variation of the Karoo style with a still smaller and lower cottage, a design which tends to create the illusion that the two front windows are oversized.  It seems to be in its original condition except for the gutters.  Note the beauty of the plain parapet gables in contrast to the elaborately gabled garage next door.

This specific variation of this style could well be the most common in Calitzdorp for there are four identical houses nearby, all of them built as "church houses" but unfortunately altered beyond recognition.  The addresses of these are 4 Potgieter Street - directly next door, 1 and 6 Lourens Street and the little garage just opposite 6 Lourens Street.  The plot of 2 Potgieter Street was proclaimed in 1882.

10.  33 Andries Pretorius Street - Oude Huis.  This building probably dates from the 1880's and might be described as a Karoo variation of the Georgian style.  At a certain stage a girls' hostel was housed here, during which time two extensions were added at the back.  Fortunately these were later demolished.  Please note the interesting gable with the double door and small twin windows at the back as well as the unusual shutters.  The building has, according to old photographs, a beautiful parapet which partly hid the roof. The stoep and verandah are later additions while the front door and gutters are modern.

11.  2 Lourens Street.  This is a most charming little building.  Its history can almost be read by looking at the "steps" formed by the parapet as it gradually becomes lower towards the back - the front part with the moulded parapet being the oldest, followed by two later additions.  The square window in the side wall is quite rare.  According to traditions the original part had a cloth ceiling.

In the early 1880's it was the office of the first Calitzdorp agent of law, Ter Brugge.  The back room once housed a blacksmith.  Its outside door has since been closed up.  In later years this tiny building once became a "church house" and even a permanent dwelling.  It is a pity that its condition and environment are in such a shocking state.

12.  25 Voortrekker Street.  One of the town's past builders, Koos Roux, was responsible for several attractive Victorian-style houses including this one which was built in the late 1890's as a "church house" for the farmer Flip Nel of Groenfontein.  When the latter died of the Spanish flu in 1918 it became the property of the tailor, Van Eik, who lived here for many years while his workshop used to be a small "platjie" in Queen Street.  Note the fretted balustrades typical of the Regency-style and other decorative features as well as the charming extension at the back, with its raised parapet.

13.  21 Voortrekker Street - "Antiques, Posh Junk and Restaurant".  This well-preserved cottage built by Koos Roux served as a "church house" for Danie Nel of Groenfontein.  Pay special attention to the Regency-style fretwork, namely the beautiful fan-shaped decorations.  At the back there is a small stone building which was part of the original stable and is, apart from the church, the only remaining stone building in the village.

According to tradition, the major part of this block of the street was in the past a kind of quarry that provided the clay for building and it was surrounded by a boundary wall.  Voortrekker Road, previously known as Bloekomlaan (Blue-gum Avenue), became Calitzdorp's third main road in the 1970's.  At this time many cottages similar to this one were demolished and most of the trees felled in order to widen the road.  This plot was proclaimed in 1891.

14.  37 Andries Pretorius Street.  This particular plot was only proclaimed in 1903.  In 1897 Andries Pretorius Street (formerly known as Barry Street) was extended diagonally in a northern direction and passed right through the place of this future plot.

A certain Jan Potgieter of Buffelskloof obtained the property in the early 1900's and had the existing building altered into a "church house".  Much later it became the dwelling of successive buthchers, one of whom had a nightmarish experience one night in 1990 when the roof collapsed.  The disaster revealed a clay roof (brakdak) underneath the corrugated iron sheeting, thus far the only one of its kind known in the village.  Clay roofs were being replaced with corrugated iron as early as 1875.

The fact that all the windows, shutters and front door were replaced by modern ones in the late 1980's, as well as the pergola added, complicates accurate dating but it remains worthwhile for its interesting parapet with a raised centre-piece.  There used to be a garden and orchard before the butchery was erected next door.

Directions to A stroll round Calitzdorp 1

Start this Calitzdorp walk at the church. 

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