31 Jan 2007
An opportunity has arisen to purchase three historic homes, all situated in a row as the centrepiece of Colin Fraser Street in the small Karoo town of Philippolis in the southern Free State - and incorporating the national monument, the Van der Post House. The three homes are on the market for a total price of R2.5 million.
Comments Wayne Rubidge of Pam Golding Properties Karoo: "These three exceptional houses - with fine Karoo architecture and beautiful gardens - sit side by side in this quiet tree-lined avenue. In the centre is No. 7, the Van der Post House, a Victorian home - now a national monument - built around 1872, where the legendary author, Sir Laurens van der Post was born in 1906. This is flanked by two other houses, No. 9, built in 1874, which shares the same architectural features as the Van der Post house.
"On the other side, No 5 - Emily Eagle Cottage - is a classical Karoo house with bay windows, and is named after Emily, the wife of the first doctor in Philippolis, John Nunn Eagle, who lived in the town between 1861 and 1900. Coincidentally, Dr Eagle's seventh child, Millie, married John Ingle who is an ancestor of Mark Ingle who currently resides at No. 5. All three houses have large gardens and orchards, which include 46 olive trees, and which produce an abundance of grapes, apricots, peaches, plums, figs, mulberries, pomegranates and pecan nuts," says Rubidge.
Sir Laurens came from a remarkable family and his father, CWH van der Post, was a notable attorney and statesman during the latter part of the 18th century, who served in the Free State Volksraad, while his mother, Lammie, was a formidable woman who outlived her husband by 40years and who at an advanced age began an independent career as a farmer. At the time when the young Laurens lived in the van der Post house, his father also owned No. 9 next door, using it for his office and billiard room.
The homes at numbers 7 and 9 have Cape Dutch gables, Victorian broekielace, and large rooms with wooden ceilings and wooden floors, as well as pressed steel dados on the walls of the passages and main rooms. In addition, there is a large, historic coach house which straddles numbers 7 and 5, a structure which probably dates from the Griqua period (pre-1860). It may in fact have belonged to Adam Kok, the Griqua chieftain, but unfortunately, due to the devastation wrought by the Boer War, it is almost impossible to obtain pre-War documentation.
The van der Post family continued to inhabit the complex after the death of CWH van der Post in 1914 until about 1922, when the homes were run as boarding houses by a Mrs Wentworth, seemingly on behalf of Mrs van der Post who had gone to live on the family farm, Wolwekop. In the early 1920s, No. 7 was sold to a Mrs Rothbart who converted parts of the wagon house into a synagogue, a shul, and a boarding school for Jewish boys (the boys slept in the loft). In the late 1930s, the house passed into the hands of a Mr Schoeman, ironically a member of the Ossewabrandwag. The loft of the wagon house was then used as a secret meeting place by this organisation.
The present owners (who named No. 7 'The Van der Post House') have been in possession of the house since 1994. In 1996 they acquired No. 9 and the houses were therefore reunited, conceptually if not physically, for the first time in 70 years. These homes have been variously used as a residence and as a guesthouse, and currently house the Karoo Research Institute.
The extensive gardens still yield up old horseshoes, spent bullet cartridges and pieces of pottery. There is documentary evidence that a British soldier is buried somewhere in the backyard and some of sir Laurens's ashes were buried under one of the old trees. Van der Post's literary output has many references to the house, as well as some recognisable descriptions of the property. The house has featured in a number of TV documentaries, as well as special features in several publications. It has also provided the inspiration for settings in one of Afrikaner writer Karel Schoeman's novels, and has featured in academic articles dealing with heritage issues.
Says Rubidge: "These three houses, with their adjoining gardens and colourful heritage, offer major opportunities for a historically-minded investor. They would be suitable as a guest house, boutique hotel, spa, art gallery, restaurant, or meditation centre. The site is steeped in historical ambience, enhanced by the many shady trees and abundant water - with a very effective borehole on site as well as rights to fountain water.
"Philippolis really is an investor's dream. Several guest houses have recently opened their doors, and the town already features an art gallery, bookshop, restaurant, and an antique furniture dealer. Several artists and writers have spent time in the village, and there is much scope for future investments with an arts-and-crafts flavour. The atmosphere in the town is tranquil and the pace is mellow, and crime levels are extremely low. In the vicinity of the town, numerous game farms have been established. Most notable are the two tiger conservation projects, one of which is owned by John Varty of Londolozi. Major plans are afoot to extend the Londolozi tourism enterprise to include the Varty tiger reserve in Philippolis. Philippolis is home to the second largest Saddle Horse Show in South Africa, held annually in November, while April sees the famed Witblitsfees."
Photo 1: A view of the three adjacent historic homes in Colin Fraser Street.
Photo 2: The house at No. 9 Colin Fraser Street was built in 1874.
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