SA's Only Antiques, Collectables And Decorative Arts Magazine
South Africa's Heritage Gems

gemsOnce upon a time, stately homes & buildings were the exclusive privilege of royalty and landed gentry. Today some are used by corporates, rented out for commercial use and some are still lived in by the original owners – each with a unique mix of history, architecture and modern-day glamour. Heritage properties represent a masterpiece of human creative genius. Focusing on Cape Town, Durban & Gauteng you’re spoilt for choice to visit these landmarks, study the architecture or simply to admire their grandeur.

CAPE TOWN: As the oldest city in South Africa, Cape Town boasts a number of important historical buildings, many of which are still in use today and open to visitors. The city’s architecture is a testament to the many and varied influences on South Africa’s unique history and a dream for any architecture enthusiasts! Here is our list of favourites – enjoy!

HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT Architectural style: NEO CLASSICAL ELEMENTS. Type of site: Government Current use: Parliament.

The Parliament building itself, which also houses the Library of Parliament, is beautiful, with a central dome flanked by Corinthian porticos and pavilions.

Henry Greaves, who oversaw the building until its completion in 1885, supplanted the original designer, Charles Freeman. The new House of Assembly was designed by Sir Herbert Baker, who also designed the Union Buildings in Pretoria and Rhodes Memorial, among many others.

71 ROELAND STREET Architectural style: EDWARDIAN. Type of site: Commercial Current use: Commercial.

This two facades of the 3 story building is a National monument housing some great businesses in its 100-year-old building before reaching Buitenkant Street.

TUYNHUYS, STALPLEIN Architectural style: CAPE DUTCH. Type of site: Government House

Tuynhuys is the official office of the President of South Africa, and as such, is closed to the public. Located in the scenic avenues of the Company Gardens, the historic building was originally constructed in 1700 – some say, to serve as a tool shed for the vegetable garden established by Jan van Riebeeck.

From a design perspective, the building, incorporating both Louis XVI-style, Neo-classicism and Baroque elements, was influenced by 18th Century Dutch and Dutch East Indies architecture of the time. Similar facades, windows, doors and fanlights can be seen in Colonial buildings built in the same period in places such as Amsterdam and Batavia (modern-day Indonesia).

CITY HALL Type of site: City Hall. Current use: City Hall.

The building was designed as the result of a public competition, the winning architects being Messrs Harry Austin Reid and Frederick George Green, with the contractors being Messrs T. Howard and F. G. Scott. Much of the building material, including fixtures and fittings was imported from Europe. It is depicted in Italian Renaissance style.

City Hall is one of the last Victorian-style sandstone structures in the Mother City. Despite showing its age, Cape Town’s iconic City Hall continues to be sought out by urban explorers.

It was from the balcony of the City Hall that Nelson Mandela addressed the world, after spending 27 years in prison. On that day in 1990, 250 000 people streamed to the Grand Parade to celebrate the release of the country’s future president.

CLOCK TOWER - TABLE BAY HARBOUR Architectural style: Victorian with Gothic characteristics. Type of site: Clock Tower.

This red & white building, erected in 1883 is instantly recognizable by its Victorian Gothic-style architecture and has always been iconic of the old docks. Inside the Clock Tower is the original Port Captain’s office, spectacular views of the various floors each built with their own purpose. The original clock’s mechanisms can also be seen from inside.

C H PEARNE BUILDING, 25 ADDERLEY STREET Architectural style: Edwardian influences. Type of site: Commercial.

This stunning building was designed by architects MacGillivray & Grant and completed in 1903. The building is now part of the Adderley Hotel.

COOWATOOL ISLAM MOSQUE, 214 LOOP STREET Architectural style: CLASSICAL MIHRAB. Type of site: Mosque Current use: Mosque.

OLD TOWN HOUSE, GREENMARKET SQUARE Architectural style: 18th Century. Type of site: Town Hall

The increased activities of local authorities necessitated a proper headquarters for the Burgher Councilors & the Burgher Watch. A vacant erf facing Greenmarket Square was acquired in the early 18th century & the house was built on this site round about 1716.

The front elevation is particularly striking. An arched entrance reached by steps of Batavian bricks & surmounted by an ornamental balustrade, with four large vases gave access to the building. The building was restored under the guidance of architect JM Solomon, and on 8 May 1917 it became the home of the Michaelis Art Collection. It was declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on24 February 1939.

DURBAN: Durban’s rich heritage is presented at many unique sites located with in the city. Some of these sites and collections are managed by private institutions while others are administered by various government departments and educational institutions.

It remains a cultural goldmine as well, with heritage sites scattered in all parts of this explorers’ paradise.


The Town Hall, Durban, was designed by Philip Dudgeon in the neo-classical Baroque style. The foundation stone was laid in February 1883.

Aside from the city’s municipal chambers, the building houses a public library, auditorium, the Durban Art Gallery and the Natural Science Museum behind its gracious façade.

In keeping with its imposing exterior, the building’s interior décor features wooden flooring, stained-glass windows, wrought-iron balustrades, marble pillars and classic arches.

“One of the finest buildings in South Africa,” was how mayor J Ellis Brown described the future Durban City Hall in September 1904, about six months before construction started on the new seat of power for governance in the city.

Five years and £300 000 later, the new city hall, with its colonial Edwardian exterior, was opened on April 12, 1910 – and since then it has stood as a central, essentially unchanging landmark as Durban has grown.

The Francis Farewell Gardens in front of the Town Hall were laid out on the site of the first White settlement. This area also contains the war memorial between the City Hall and Gard. The Durban City Hall, together with the Francis Farewell Gardens, forms an important cultural and history.


Main building has an arched entrance flanked by a pair of gable fronts with well proportioned windows.

Erected in 1894 by designer William Street Wilson, the railway building acquired two more storeys in 1904. The buildings played a very important part in the development of the port of Durban. This Victorian railway station dates from the eighteen-nineties when the Natal Government Railways experienced a boom. The wrought-iron verandah and the brick and ochre plaster mouldings on the façade are of special interest.

From the dolphn motif in the carved stone balustrades to the first-floor verandah, it would appear that, even in early times, Drubanites were conscious of their association with the sea & marine life.

It was declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on 10 August 1979. Current use: offices.

SUPREME COURT, 151 VICTORIA EMBANKMENT, DURBAN Double-storeyed building of rectangular form; rusticated plasters with cartouche windows & lancet windows.

This building, designed by the architect Stanley Hudson, was erected in 1911. The land had previously been the site of the Bayside Hospital (Natal Government Hospital) from 1861 until it moved in 1879 and changed its name to Addington Hospital.

Then in 1880 the land became home to the Durban High School. The latter had been founded in 1866 but had two different sites in town (Smith St and Cato Street), before moving to a wood and iron shed on the site. The School remained there until 1894, when it moved to its current site in St Thomas Rd.

The lane was originally named Masonic Grove due to the Masonic Temple of Port Natal Lodge EC which was built on the corner of Smith St in 1871. This was destroyed by fire in 1892, but rebuilt and used for Masonic purposes until 1949.

Thereafter it was replaced by the multi-storey office block known as Sangro House.

From 1894 to 1902 Mahatma Gandhi, of worldwide fame, practiced law from chambers in the vicinity of the present open parking lot behind Salmon Grove Chambers.

Type of site: Courthouse Current use: supreme court. Situated on north side of Victoria Embankment.


This mosque was erected by the celebrated Hajee Soofie, who immigrated to South Africa in 1895. He was responsible for the construction of 11 other mosques, the establishment of 13 madresas and the laying out of a large number of cemeteries.

The construction of the beautiful entrance to the Darbar, known as the Buland Darwaza and reminiscent of the Moghul architecture in India, began in the early 1920’s and was completed in the 1930’s with the help of the community especially one Baseerun, wife of Busawan Mia of Sea Cow Lake.

In 1979 the Mosque/Mazaar complex was declared a National Monument. Thereafter the following renovations, extensions and constructions were made:- 1980 - Mosque was renovated and extended 1985 - Mazaar Shareef was renovated and the Dome was constructed and installed 1986 - Further renovations and extensions to the Mosque 1992 - Building to house Archives, Library and Museum constructed 1994 - A hall for Madressa and a residence constructed 1995 - An adjoining land bought and the car park extended. 1999 - Addition of extra floor and alterations to Mosque.


The original portion of Queen’s Tavern, built in 1894, consisted of a foyer with a pressed steel ceiling, a billiard room, a smoking room, a staff room and several out buildings.

In 1903 a committee room and kitchen were added and the billiard room enlarged.

The facade of the building is a heavily ornamented example of late- Victorian classicism. The ground floor has two heavily rusticated windows flanking a centrally placed door. The windows have half-round caps which are also outlined in plaster with centrally placed keystone. Above at first floor level the building has elaborate balustrading and a well detailed dakkamer a most unusual feature in South African Victorian architecture..

The Queen’s Tavern which originally operated as a gentlemen’s club, is, as far as can be ascertained the oldest licensed premises in Durban as the licence dates back to 1894.

The building was restored in 1973 and turned into a restaurant aimed to reviving the gracious days of Colonial Natal.

Legend has it that Durban’s famous bunny chow was once created by a chef working at the Queens Tavern.

Type of site: commercial Previous use: restaurant.


The exceptional railway station building at Heidelberg, with its Dutch stepped gable on the street side and decorative gable on the platform side, was festively opened on 10 October 1896.

The museum is housed in the (renovated) old railway station. The curator of the museum now occupies the stationmaster’s living quarters. The General Waiting Room, Ticket Office and Baggage Rooms have been refurbished as exhibition rooms and the Ladies’ Waiting Room serves as the administrative offices.

The museum has a fascinating collection of old modes of transport such as penny-farthing cycles and “boneshakers”. Included in the collection are an eighteenth century sedan chair, a field ambulance, a horse-drawn fire-engine and several veteran and vintage cars. More modern exhibits include the Formula 1 machines raced by the Scheckter brothers of South Africa.


Designed for Sir Charles Llewellyn Andersson by the firm J. A. Cope and Christie and was completed in 1906. Probably one of Johannesburg’s most well-known mansions with its fairytale look obtained from a mix of architectural styles.

Baker was originally commissioned to build this house for Sir Charles Llewellyn Andersson but

Andersson rejected his designs and employed Cope Christie to build his fairytale home. The exterior of the house combines various styles including a strong Victorian influence with lots of iron work, art nouveau stained glass window panes and a fairytale domed turret with a weather cock. Andersson must have been a cautious man as the house was one of the first in Johannesburg to have a burglar alarm system installed in 1904, when the house was built.

There must have been some serious entertaining going on in its large dining room as the house has four pantries.

The house still belongs to the original family with Andersson’s great great grandchildren residing there now. The interior is said to be decorated with hunting trophies, Animal heads and period furniture, however public entry is not permitted.


This historical building Windybrow is one of the last remaining mansions in Doornfontein.

Windybrow was designed by William Leck and built in 1896 on several acres of steep rocky ground at the end of Pietersen Street and the north end of Nugget Street. It was the second home for South African industrialist Theodore ‘Teddy’ Reunert and named after the poet Robert Southey’s home in the English Lake district.

Windybrow had one of the first open air swimming pools in Johannesburg, a tennis court and a view of the Heidelburg Hills some 40kms away. The decor was Anglo-Moorish with ingle fireplaces, carved woodwork and lustre tiles. It boasted a billiards room and a drawing room with an oregon pine dance floor laid on rubber washers.

The family lived in the house for 25 years. It has subsequently been used as a British Officer’s mess, a boarding house, a museum and is now a theatre. It was declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on 4 July 1975.


In the suburb of Brooklyn, more or less in the middle of the premises occupied by the University of Pretoria, stands the old Arts Building which looks very much like a cloister.

The origin of the University of Pretoria goes back to the foundation of the TUC. The Old Arts Building is architecturally noteworthy and is symbolic of the origin of the University of Pretoria.

The beautiful sandstone building with its clock tower, Oregon pine floors and slate staircases was the first building to be completed on the campus. The foundation stone was laid on 3 August 1910. At the opening in August 1911, General Jan Smuts expressed the hope that the TUC would one day be to this country what Oxford was to England.

Today, the staircase still features an exquisite stained glass window of the original TUC coat of arms. Designed by a student of Sir Herbert Baker, Percy Eagle, the building boasts different styles including elements of Cape Dutch and Neo-Romanesque.

In recognition of its beautiful architectural style, the building was proclaimed a National Monument in 1968. The fountain in front of the building was redesigned in 1990 with two red lechwes (antelopes) sculpted by Coert Steynberg and sponsored by Dr Anton Rupert and his wife. Initially the building housed almost the entire University. Today it accommodates the UP Archives, Department of UP Arts, Mapungubwe Museum and the Van Tilburg collection.


Designed by the Dutch architect, Willem de Zwaan the building was opened on 2 December 1897. De Zwaan came from the Netherlands and practiced as an architect in Pretoria for 50 years before he died in September 1948 at the age of 82.

Flemish Renaissance in style, the facade of the building is sandstone and the side walls are red bricks. The joints between the bricks is a tuck joint. The building has crow-stepped gables, which are typical of architecture in Holland. Another big influence was the late 19th century industrial (Allen,1971:56). The cast-iron balustrades and gates were manufactured in Delft in the Netherlands.

The ground floor was used by the Nedelandsche Bank en Crediet Vereeniging while the first floor was occupied by the Zuid-Afrikaansche Fabrieken voor Ontplofbare

Type of site: Bank Current use: Tourism Information.


This historic house is situated at No 275 Jacob Mare Street, opposite Burger’s Park.

Built in 1886 by the prosperous Pretoria businessman George Jesse Heys. It was named after the famous Melrose Abbey in Scotland. British architect WT Vale designed this beauty in 1880. The three-storey, stately Victorian mansion, complete with turrets and Dutch gable is still in pristine condition today. The house still contains most of its original furniture and finishings, including stained glass windows, and exquisite carpets.

Melrose House gained fame during the Second Boer War (1899–1902) when Lord Roberts requisitioned it as the headquarters for the British forces after Pretoria was invaded in June 1900. For more than 18 months, instructions for the British forces in the field were issued from here. The use of the house as a military headquarters ended when the Treaty of Vereeniging, which ended the war, was signed there on 31 May 1902.


The Erasmus House was completed in 1903. Erasmus Castle was built during 1892 and was officially inaugurated in 1903 with a church service. It was the inspiration of Jochemus and Johanna Erasmus. The building was designed by Dutch architect Van Der Benn.

Today still remains one of South Africa’s best preserved Victorian Art Nouveau homes. It only cost £7 500 to build at that time. Van der Benn, builder Monte Bello, made the castle a reality. Erasmus Castle goes against the style of Southern hemisphere buildings where houses face north. The castle faces south which makes it cool in summer and even colder in winter.

The fireplaces and giant front door remains unchanged and shows the immaculate taste of Jochemus Erasmus. The top floor of the castle consists of a music room where church services were held and the nursery. Other rooms in the castle include a men’s smoking room with Jochemus Erasmus’ original roll top desk, a guest room, a ladies drawing room, main dining room, main bedroom and three other bedrooms, a cross passage, a breakfast room and pantry, one bathroom/toilet and a kitchen.


Designed by Sir Herbert Baker in 1908, building began in 1909 and was completed in 1913. It took approximately 1265 artisans, workmen and labourers almost three years to construct, using 14 million bricks for the interior office walls, half a million cubic feet of freestone, 74 000 cubic yards of concrete, 40 000 bags of cement and 20 000 cubic feet of granite.

The building is made from light sandstone and is over 275m long. It is built in a semi-circle design with two wings at either side. The wings represented the union of a formally divided nation i.e. the English and the Afrikaners. On the grounds are the Dellville Wood War Memorials, which pay tribute to South African troops who died during the First World War.

These buildings are considered by many to be the architect’s greatest achievement and a South African architectural masterpiece.

Originally built to house the entire Public Service for the Union of South Africa, it was then the largest building in the country and possible the largest building work undertaken in the Southern Hemisphere at that time.

Several other sites were considered, including Muckleneuk Ridge, on the opposite side of the city and Pretorius Square, in the centre of Pretoria, where the City Hall now stands. However, Herbert Baker was strongly in favour of Meintjeskop, which was within a mile of the centre of Pretoria and reminded him strongly of some of the acropolises of Greece and Asia Minor, where he had studied Mediterranean architecture.

The terraced gardens are magnificently laid exclusively with indigenous plants and boast a 9000 seat amphitheatre. There are various monuments and statues within the spectacular gardens.

The hardest decision you’ll have to make is where to start – have fun in discovering hidden gems right in your back-yard.


Latest Digital Issue

















Digital Back Issues

Buy Digital back issues for $1