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For several years the historic 1906 Driefontein Farmhouse (or more specifically the Wilhelmi House) in Parkmore/Riverclub has been waiting for a new use (click here for some history). The old Sandton Historical Association used to use the house for meetings and functions but this ceased when the organisation shut its doors in the 1990s. I am very happy to report that the historic landmark is set to serve the local community once again. In recent weeks, the Johannesburg Property Company entered into a nine year lease with the Parkmore Residents Association (PRA) signalling a new chapter for the heritage site. The City must be applauded for restoring the property a few years ago to make it more attractive to prospective tenants.
On Saturday morning I had a fascinating discussion with Kate Wardle from the PRA and she shared a few details of the association's vision for the property. These details (and more) will in turn be shared with members of the community at a meeting on 2 September 2017 (click here for details). The PRA will be looking for ideas and partners to ensure that the site has a sustainable future.
Kate Wardle explaining her vision for the heritage site (The Heritage Portal)
Many readers will be happy to hear that the PRA intends to commemorate the history of the area throughout the house. The main reception room will be of particular importance with old photos, maps and drawings of the area's personalities, structures and landscapes welcoming visitors. Local enthusiasts will assist where they can and residents are encouraged to dig in their attics and cellars to see if they can find any significant documents and artefacts.
A current view of the reception room (The Heritage Portal)
The PRA intends to use one of the rooms as its office and then to create hot desking and meeting facilities in the remaining rooms. There appears to a strong need in the area for these services. The rooms could also be used to host talks and other suitable community functions. A wonderful touch is the idea to name the various rooms after members of the Wilhelmi family.
At the moment the toilets and kitchen are located in a separate building but, over time, the plan is to incorporate these facilities into the main house.
A portion of one of the other rooms
The outside block containing a kitchen and toilets (The Heritage Portal)
As soon as resources become available the PRA intends to upgrade the gardens. Plans include the creation of a memorial garden around the existing Wilhelmi graves on the property. This will be a peaceful place for visitors to pay their respects and for general reflection. Another proposal is to identify and mark the older trees on the property to enhance the visitor experience.
A memorial garden will be created around the Wilhelmi graves (The Heritage Portal)
Older trees will be identified (The Heritage Portal)
Over the years, vandals have ruined the outside signage so this will need to be addressed. The PRA intends to create a brand identity for the farmhouse so an attractive logo might welcome visitors in the years ahead instead of people seeing graffiti and stolen brass lettering.
Graffiti and Stolen Lettering (The Heritage Portal)
The PRA aspires to work with the local heritage community and professionals to ensure that its plans align with heritage processes. It appears as though the overall vision is a fluid one that will evolve through engagement with various stakeholders. I look forward to watching the journey unfold.