27 March 2005

Helderberg Hotel closes

The historic Helderberg Hotel in Somerset West, which was built in 1908, has been sold to a foreign national, possibly to be turned into offices. The last owner, George Gardiner, sold the nine-bedroomed property for about R1,8-million. Gardiner bought the hotel in 1991 at an auction, which had resulted from the collapse of Masterbond. There's little historical information about the hotel, bar some faded pictures. It is believed that the hotel was the reason for the first bank being established in Somerset West. Standard Bank employees used to travel from Stellenbosch and offer banking services for a day. The bank eventually refused to establish a permanent branch in the town unless there was a place for its employees to stay. The hotel boomed in the days of sales representatives, who became regulars not only at the Helderberg, but also at the many country hotels across the country as they plied their trade. Other hotels that have long gone include the Metropole, Da Gama and Majestic hotels, which were all situated in Strand, and Alexandra Hotel in Somerset West.

Surfing museums

The new Surfing Museum in Jeffrey's Bay was set up by Rupert Chadwick, who has lived in the surfing town for more than 30 years. The museum is in the Quiksilver building and offers free entry to the public. There is also a surf museum in Durban. The history of surfing in the Border (East London) region has been well documented by members of the Border Surfing Association.

More name changes

Queenstown could soon become Komani and failing that Queen Nonesi Town, while Whittlesea could become Hewu, according to the Eastern Cape Geographical Names Committee. Four out of 10 constituencies comprising political parties, civil organisations, churches and ward committees had supported the name Komani. Komani had been the name of one of the sons of King Qhwesha of the Ndungane tribe who lived in the Queenstown area. Queenstown had always been called Komani by Xhosa- speakers. The river in the area had also been named the Komani River after the king's son. Queen Nonesi Town was inspired by Queen Nonesi who lived in the area until she was driven out by British troops to Libode. Hewu referred to the mountainous landscape in Whittlesea was situated.

Port Elizabeth’s architectural heritage

Port Elizabeth's much-loved Margaret Harradine, former Africana librarian, has embarked on her post-retirement career by launching a book that should be treasured by all who love Port Elizabeth’s architectural heritage. Her Chronology, published a few years back, is a useful historical record full of photographs of Port Elizabeth. The new book, Hills Covered With Cottages: Port Elizabeth’s Lost Streetscapes, is another important historical record. It records, street by street, road by road, lost scenes of Port Elizabeth, covering 200 years. During her work as Africana librarian, Margaret made a computer compilation of every photograph of the town, showing streets, businesses, homes, institutions and the scenes which have now ceased to exist or which have been transformed through modernisation, city growth and demolition. The book was sponsored by the Port Elizabeth Historical Society, which will run off copies on the demand. The cost is R300.

26 March 2005

No. 7 Castle Hill Museum, Port Elizabeth

The No. 7 Castle Hill Museum has a new curator who has a passion for history. Grizel Hart (54) started her new job in February. She was born in Grahamstown and has lived in the Eastern Cape for 30 years. Her husband, Hugh, was a farmer near Cathcart for many years. Grizel became involved in the town’s C.M. van Coller Museum and went on to head Stormburg Tourism, which covers the region from Hogsback to Sterkstroom, Molteno, Cathcart and Queenstown.
Grizel was a Copeland, descended from the British family who had ceramic factories in Stoke-on-Trent, and whose descendants co-founded Birch’s clothing stores in Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth. Hugh is a 6th generation descendant of Robert Hart, who went to the Eastern Cape prior to the 1820 British Settlers.
The Harts have spent the last four and a half years in Thornhill and then Jeffreys Bay, before moving to Port Elizabeth for Grizel's job. They live in a 1920s house in the historic suburb of Richmond Hill.

Another history fan is Jenny Bennie (58), who besides being responsible for the Port Elizabeth Museum’s cultural history collection, also curates Bayworld’s temporary and permanent exhibitions and oversees the running of both No. 7 Castle Hill and the Prince Alfred Guard Museum.
After moving from East London in 1974, Jenny joined the Port Elizabeth Historical Society committee and was invited to sit on the Advisory Committee of No 7. She took up her position at the Port Elizabeth Museum 6 years later, after being widowed with two small children. Her first love is the Maritime History collection. She is one of only three South Africans with a masters degree in maritime archeology.

15 March 2005

Renaming in Durban

In the first phase of renaming major streets in Durban, nine new names will soon be on display. The first municipal building to be renamed is the Martin West Building, which will be known as Florence Mkhize Building, after a former councillor recognised for her charity work. New street names include Masabalala Yengwa, who was a provincial secretary of the African National Congress at the time when Luthuli was president. His name will replace NMR Avenue. Alice Street will be named after Johannes Nkosi, who died in that street in 1930 while leading an anti-dompas campaign. Stanger Street will be known as Stalwart Simelane Street. Simelane was a treasurer of the ANC in the 1950s. The M4 southern freeway will be named after Luthuli. Margaret Mncadi, the first president of the ANC Women's League in Natal, has been recommended for the Victoria Embankment. Grey/Broad Street will be renamed Yusuf Daddoo. Commercial Road will become Bram Fischer Road, and the M4 northern freeway will be named after Ruth First. The process of removing Durban's colonial street names, statues and council buildings is now at an advanced stage.

Point Road, Durban

Hindu leaders are angry at the official proposal to rename Durban’s notorious Point Road after Mahatma Gandhi. They say renaming Point Road, which was known as a red light district, after Gandhi was insulting and immoral. President of the South African Hindu Dharma Sabha, Ram Maharaj, said the road is associated with immoral and illegal behaviour which would stigmatise and tarnish the purity of Gandhi’s image. He would prefer to rename Grey Street after Gandhi because that was a place that was dear to the heart of the Indian community. Gandhi’s granddaughter, Ela Gandhi, said she hoped her grandfather’s name would have a positive impact on the area. However, she felt his name should have been associated with one of the bigger highways and not just a small road. According to Durban's Deputy Mayor, Logie Naidoo, the Point was where the first lot of indentured Indian labourers landed and this is the reason why the council felt that it would be appropriate to name the road after Gandhi.

Expensive new name

Pretoria was renamed to Tshwane. According to the government, oral history states that the name Tshwane originated from the first Ndebele ethnic group which had occupied the area under the leadership of Chief Musi. Tshwane, one of his six sons, ruled after his death. A recent government report put the total cost of renaming the city at R1.5-billion. The cost to the National Roads Agency would be R10-million, as there were 30 major routes entering Pretoria, each requiring at least two to three signs at a cost of R150 000 each. The Weather Bureau said it would need a budget of R100 000 to accommodate the change. The report suggested a small business would have to spend R40 000, a medium-sized business R200 000 and a large business R400 000 to facilitate the change.

Diagonal Street revamp

Diagonal Street in downtown Johannesburg, is getting going to be revamped but shop owners, some of whose families and businesses have been there for 80 years, are not too happy. The upgrade is being driven by developers of luxury apartments on the street. A Section 21 company had been set up to oversee the upgrade. The plan is to restore the area to its original state.
Diagonal Street, home of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange for 22 years, was once home to a thriving Indian community. Imtiaz Limbada's book and gift shop has been in his family since his grandfather opened it in 1920.

St Cyprian's Cathedral, Kimberley

St Cyprian's Cathedral in Kimberley will celebrate its centenary in 2007-8. The parish dates back to 1871, but the foundation stone of the current building was laid in March 1907, with the dedication taking place in May 1908.

12 March 2005

Merlot Manor sold

The historic Merlot Manor in Pietermaritzburg has been sold for a rumoured R3,6 million. The Victorian mansion, built in 1894 and situated at 41 Albany Road, Blackridge, was sold to an unidentified local resident, and will become a private residence. The mansion opened its doors to the public in 2003 as Merlot Manor, a guesthouse and restaurant run by Sunell and Denis Kotze. They bought Struan House (as Merlot Manor was originally known) from the previous owner Kerry Landon and her family, who lived in the house for almost a quarter of a century. Merlot Manor was built in 1894 by a well-known Pietermaritzburg family, the Irelands. This family gave its name to Ireland Stores, a prominent retail business in the heart of Pietermaritzburg.

Cape olive oil

The 300-year old Kloovenburg estate is a top-end wine producer and olive grower situated outside Riebeek Kasteel. After only four years in production, the Kloovenburg Estate 2004 Extra Virgin Olive Oil was voted as the best extra virgin olive oil in the Fruttato Intenso category in Italy, placing the estate amongst the top 15 extra virgin olive oil producers in the world.

04 March 2005

Biggest postbox?

Calvinia, in the Northern Cape, claims to have the biggest postbox in the world. The postbox was an old water tank which had been on the Dutch Reformed Church's grounds. The local doctor, Erwin Coetzee, said the area around the water tank was looking messy. His wife, Alta, said that the tank looked like a postbox, and so the local business chamber and residents decided to convert the water tank into a postbox in 1994. The Post Office supplied the paint. Every letter that is posted from the postbox now gets a hand-stamp with a flower as an emblem. Today the giant postbox is the most photographed place in Calvinia.

Name changes

The government is looking at forcing private property owners to change offensive names, according to Vusithemba Ndimo, chief director of language in the Department of Arts and Culture. He said this would enable the state to force the likes of farm owners and shop keepers to change names that were found to be offensive. Ndimo was addressing the committee on the progress made of reducing the backlog of more than 57 000 names nationally that needed to be changed. Most of the names of big towns and rivers have already been changed. The backlog concerns mainly names of monuments, streams and fields. According to the list drawn up by the Provincial Geographical Names Committees, the Free State had 1 920 names to change, KwaZulu-Natal 7 833, Northern Cape 9137, North West 2 386, the Eastern Cape 16 301, Gauteng 431, Mpumalanga 2 438, Limpopo 5 229 and the Western Cape 11 086.

03 March 2005

British training for SA curators

Britain is offering up to 30 training places at some of its museums to help train young South African curators. The British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Museum of London and the Horniman Museum in south London have agreed to provide six-month placements that will help South Africans develop their museum management and specialist curatorial abilities. The scheme, to cost £300 000 for the next three years, is being paid for by the British government under a partnership with the South African department of arts and culture.

The Dorchester Hotel (1937 - 2005), East London

One of East London's oldest surviving hotels, the Dorchester Hotel, famous for its seafood and Chinese restaurant, closed its doors at the end of February 2005. The hotel opened in 1937. The building's new owners, Real People, will transform the rooms into offices. The bar and kitchen will continue running as The Dorch.

Hugh LOTTERING bought the hotel in 1975 from Jack VORSTENBOS, a Dutch citizen who arrived in South Africa in 1952. In 1977, Hugh brought in Chris BURLS as a partner. In February 1989, they sold it to the WHITAKER family who owned the hotel until its closure.

The hotel's 57-year-old receptionist, Lindile "Kaunda" MCEKA, worked and lived at the hotel since October 1968. He started first as a "yard-boy" (one year), then "bar-boy" (eight years), porter (16 years) and later receptionist (12 years). He is moving to his home village near Lady Frere.