I regularly exercise in the Union Buildings gardens and since 2017 I have been advising the Department of Public Works of water leaks and other maintenance issues, most of which were dealt with promptly by Bennitto Motitswe, but since his transfer, things have gotten much worse. I sent a comprehensive list of issues to the Department in May 2019, along with photos. Apart from a water leak repair and a significant improvement in the maintenance of the gardens themselves, none of the other more serious issues I raised have been dealt with.
The following is an extract from a paper by Art Historian Professor Alexander Duffey in which he explores the many artists who contributed in one way or another to establish the Union Buildings as an important icon, not only of Pretoria, but also South Africa. These artists can be grouped into two distinct categories: those who contributed directly to the embellishment of the buildings and their surroundings and those who made representations of the buildings and their surroundings.
The remains of the largest fortification built by the British during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) is still to be seen today on Strubenkop in Lynnwood, Pretoria. The site today is a nature reserve managed by the City of Tshwane but apart from the remains of the fort nothing much is left on the hill. It is therefore believed that the reserve was proclaimed to preserve what was left of the building.
The American Government was assembling a site in Arcadia, Pretoria. They wanted the entire suburban block so they could build the largest embassy in Africa. One property stood between them and the full realisation of their plan, an old home called Arkleton belonging to Dr van Bergen. The Americans appointed an independent valuer to determine the market value of the property.
On 14 March 2020, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, Professor Tawana Kupe officially unveiled the Pierre van Ryneveld memorial stone in its third location at the university’s Hillcrest Experimental Farm Campus
The last tram journey in Pretoria took place during 1939 - eighty years ago. Therefore, today it may only be citizens born prior to around 1933, who resided in Pretoria at the time, who may recall the tram activity or may even have travelled on a Pretoria tram as a child.
Dikgang Moseneke's (judge and a former deputy Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court) schooling fate was preordained. At the beginning of 1961, just after he had turned thirteen, he stepped up to the plate to be the third generation of family devotees to attend school at Kilnerton Training Institution. How could it be otherwise? Going to Kilnerton had been an immutable feature of the Moseneke family's heritage.
During the early commercially embryonic era of photography, photographers from all over the world attempted to generate an income from this new art form. Many aspirational photographers arrived and settled in South Africa from countries such as Ireland, England, Australia, Switzerland, Holland, Latvia and Germany, to mention but a few.
During Pretoria’s first 20 years of existence it had no public parks. The only spaces accessible to the public at the time were the Church and Market squares.
As early as 1874, the space where Burgers Park is located today, was allocated to become Pretoria’s first botanical garden.
Today a declared heritage site, the park was only officially named Burgers Park during 1894.
The first 10 years (1874 to 1884)
Rudolf Gottfried Steger was born in Germany on 11 March 1871. He left his country of birth aged 10 to attend school in Switzerland and then went on to complete four years of religious studies in Rome. Whilst in Switzerland, he also trained as a medical assistant at the Red Cross in Geneva – a skill that would later come in handy.
Steger arrived in South Africa during 1894 and became a naturalised burger (citizen) whilst based in Paarl during 1896. He established his first studio in Pretoria during 1898 aged 27.
During the restoration of the Pretoria Railway Station in the early 2000s, a swastika was found in the plasterwork above the clocktower. In the article below, originally published on the Brand South Africa website on 19 March 2002, Lucille Davie unpacks some of the theories behind the Swastika. She also takes an in depth look at the restoration process. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
Historians, researchers and collectors often come across situations of surviving family members having thrown away or having destroyed historical family documents and photographs as they may either have no sentimental interest or simply cannot relate to their relative’s historical past. Sadly, in these instances, no thought is given to donating such documentation / items to charity organisations where researchers and collectors in turn can “scratch” out relevant material to record potential significant historical information that may be contained therein.
In the wonderful article below, Raymond Smith takes the reader on a journey to six iconic sites in Pretoria: the Union Buildings, Church Square, Unisa, Freedom Park, //hapo Museum and Marabastad. He describes the experience as a 'peripatetic walk contemplating diversity, dislocation, overlap and cohesion within an urban environment strained under its conflicting past, yet bravely attempting to respond to contemporary demands with varying degrees of success'.
In 2014 The Heritage Portal Team visited Irene and were taken on an emotional tour of the Concentration Camp Cemetery. Below are a few historical details of the camp courtesy of the Centurion Heritage Society.
The Irene concentration camp was opened on 2 November 1900. The population of the camp increased rapidly and refugees were housed in tents under extremely poor conditions.
A coalition of Tshwane organisations* has written to the Provincial Heritage Resources Authority Gauteng (PHRAG) objecting to the current reconstruction of the perimeter wall at the Pretoria Indian High Commission (Arkleton). The coalition argues that all work should be halted immediately until ‘historically accurate design documentation and specifications are provided, scrutinised and approved’.
In the article below, Graham Dominy highlights a number of heritage battles currently raging across Tshwane. The battles reveal many of the issues that continue to plague the heritage sector. Thank you to the editors of the Arcadian for giving us permission to republish.
The Anglo-Boer (1900-1902) Vereeniging Peace Agreement document ending the war between the Boers and the British was signed at Pretoria’s gracious Melrose House on 31 May 1902 and formally announced on 2 June 1902 in front of the Raadzaal, Pretoria. This again put the whole country under the British rule. Alfred Milner, the High Commissioner for South Africa and Governor of Transvaal and Orange River Colony was responsible for the design and execution of the policy of South Africa until 1905.
In the early 2000s Intersite Property Management Services published the newspaper 'Pretoria Station Update'. The purpose of the paper was to publicise plans for the precinct and to track the restoration project which followed the tragic 2001 fire. The December 2001 issue carried a fascinating story unpacking the mystery and debate of a swastika found on the famous clock tower.