Sunday, 15 April 2012

Week 4 & 5: Brickwork & Paul Kruger’s Dutch connections

During the past two weeks there has been a lot of activity on site. The Contractor (GDK) had to carefully demolish the parapets on the existing eastern and western gables.

In the initial construction of the Kruger House, local clay bricks were used. These bricks have an orange-red colour and since the house received a plaster finish, sun baked bricks where used. At the time kiln baked bricks where available but were more expensive. These are better suited for structures that are exposed to the elements. Examples of these types of bricks can be found at other buildings that were erected at the time of the Kruger House. The Old Synagogue in Paul Kruger Street and the Staats Model School in Van der Walt Street are examples.

Samples of brick and mortar from the Kruger Museum

The Kruger Museum’s bricks are very porous and soft with a soft lime mortar. The quality of the wall fabric proves a waterproofing problem. Sheet metal flashings pull away from the parapet walls allowing water to run down the interior of the gable walls. The water is either absorbed by bricks or, in extreme cases, causes damage to the ceilings. Roel Jansen, the conservation specialist on our team, advised us to replace the top course of the gables with harder more durable bricks, to prevent further damage.

Photo of the roof space indicating the ageing of the bricks and also damage caused by rain water.

Photo indicates the old brickwork against the ‘newer’ brickwork on the gables.
In order to do further research on the Kruger Museum, we went to have a look at the two other buildings constructed at the time:

In photos of the Staats Model School, the red kiln dried bricks are clearly visible. The building is an example of Victorian style architecture in Pretoria at the late 1800’s. We noticed that not only the bricks where similar, but also elements like the ventilation grills where identical to those used on the Kruger Museum.

Ventilation grill at Staats Model School

Ventilation grill at Kruger Museum

The Staats Model School plays an interesting part in Pretoria’s history. During the second Anglo-Boer war, the school was used as a prison for British Officers captured by Boer commanders. One of the prisoners was Sir Winston Churchill. He came from England to South Africa as a reporter, but later escaped from the school which was a prison at the time.

View of Staats Model School from Skinner Street

At the Old Synagogue in Paul Kruger Street the red clay bricks are also visible on parts of the facade were the cream coloured paint is flaking. These bricks were donated by Sammy Marks, a prominent Jewish businessman from Pretoria. Evidence suggests that the bricks, used in the construction of the buildings, came from the same brick factory owned by Sammy Marks. Records indicate that there was a brick factory directly west of the present day Central Prison in Potgieter Street, Pretoria.

View of the Old Synagogue from Paul Kruger Street

Similar to Staats Model School, the Old Jewish Synagogue has great historical significance in Pretoria. For a period of time during the Apartheid era the synagogue as converted into the Pretoria Supreme Court. During this time both the Steve Biko inquest and Nelson Mandela trial were held here.

Example of red bricks used at the Old Synagogue

Thus the histories of the Paul Kruger House along with the history of Pretoria are intertwined, revealing more of the city and also of the man Kruger.

For any further information on the Staats Model School or Old Synagogue please visit the website ABLEWIKI.

Paul Kruger in the Netherlands

The following piece is written by a friend and fellow Paul Kruger enthusiast Ronald van Heeringen.

In the time of the second Boer War the Dutch were concerned with Transvaal’s president Paul Kruger’s resistance against Holland’s former rival Great-Britain. They had a strong interest in the war, as they cherished the thought that the Boer South African and the Dutch shared common ancestors.

The at that time the very young queen of the Netherlands (Wilhelmina, 18 years old) sent the Dutch battleship “Gelderland” to the coast of Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique) in October 1900, in order to save president Paul Kruger from the British troops that became more and more successful in their conquest of the Transvaal.

Kruger arrived and disembarked in Marseille in November 1900, where he lived in France until he moved to the Netherlands in 1901. He lived in hotel “De Nederlanden” (nowadays hotel “Les Pays Bas”) in central Utrecht for two months. Kruger moved to villa “Casa Cara” in the city of Hilversum in April 1901, where he stayed until December 1901. Meanwhile Kruger’s second wife Gezina du Plessis, who he had left in Pretoria because she was too ill to travel to Europe, died in July 1901.

Kruger moved back to Utrecht, in December 1901 because he suffered from a severe eye disease. His eyes were treated by professor Snellen of Utrecht University. Kruger lived in “Villa Oranjelust” located on the broad and majestic Maliebaan in Utrecht. After Transvaal signed the “Treaty of Vereeniging”, the three Boer Generals Botha, De la Rey and De Wet visited Kruger in Utrecht in 1902. In October of that year Kruger left the Netherlands for a short stay in Menton on the French Mediterranean coast.

In May 1903 Kruger moved back to Hilversum in the Netherlands, where he lived in “Villa Djemnah”. After the summer of 1903, Paul Kruger moved to Clarens in Switzerland for the sake of his health. He spent the last six months of his life in Clarens en died there on the 14th of July 1904.

Paul Kruger lived in three different houses during his time in the Netherlands. Casa Cara was bombed by the English during World War II. Villa Oranjelust and Villa Djemnah still exist, but are currently in use as offices for commercial companies. Paul Kruger was extremely popular among the Dutch while living in the Netherlands. However, nowadays there are hardly any traces of his presence in the Dutch Kruger houses left.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Week 3 - Gutter design & damaged chimney stack

This is the third week on site already and every week brings along with it new challenges. Water, proved again to be the main culprit and also the chimney stack needed some attention. In addition to this we have expanded our research on the origins of the water furrow and its relevance at the time Oom Paul lived in Pretoria.

This week we came closer to understanding the extent of the water damage and how to remedy it. Close inspection revealed the failure of the ‘modern’ gutter fittings. The 'modern' fittings referred to were presumably fitted in the last renovation of the museum (1950’s). These didn’t have any historic reference to the authentic gutters fitted to the house.

The gutters have pulled away from the timber bargeboard, allowing rainwater to flow between the gutter and the wall. This resulted in decay of the timber and the exposed porous plaster absorbed unnecessary water. A second problem became obvious: the gutters didn’t have adequate fall, allowing water to dam in the gutters. These tiny dams became fertile ground for weeds to grow in, further preventing the free runoff of rain water.

Damming of water in ‘modern’ gutter. Visible damage to timber.

Accumulation of water turns gutters into weed gardens and occasional bird baths.

It was thus decided to remove the ‘modern’ gutters. They will be replaced by new gutters that closely resemble the original gutter design. Reference to the original gutter profiles and fixtures, were derived from selected photographs from the Ditsong archive.

Photo of Kruger House in 1953 

  Photo of Kruger House 1894 depicting 3 ZARP guards and horse.

We incorporated an extra feature to prevent the damaging of rain water: a 50├śmm galvanised steel pipe, fixed at regular intervals with an opening to the bottom of the gutter. This allows excess water to escape should a blockage occur. The gutters will be of 0.8mm sheet metal and produced in lengths of 1.8m (6ft). These specifications closely resemble those of the original gutter. A purpose made gutter bracket, or holder bat, will be manufactured to secure the gutters to the structure.

Drawings of new gutters. – Aphane WIEW Architects + Urban Designers

I will keep everyone up-to-date as the gutters get fitted by the main contractor GDK Construction.

The second item/issue this week is the damaged chimney stack.

The museum has four open hearth fire places which served to keep the house warm during the cold Highveld winters. The flues of the fire places join together in two separate chimney stacks in the roof space. We noticed that one of the stacks is severely damaged. It is unclear what has caused the damage. It could have been anything from weathering through time or being hit by lighting in a storm.

Damaged chimney stack, northern face.

The stack will be demolished down to the roof finish. It will then be rebuilt and the new plaster finish will replicate the original decorative plaster finish.

Interestingly, we discovered a steel ring bolt or bracket on the northern face of the damaged stack. The exact use of the bolt is not clear. We presume it was there to fix a pendant from. Once the stack has been taken down, we hope to get a better idea as to the function of the ring.

Our intention is to place the ring back in its original place on the reconstructed chimney.

Steel ring found on chimney stack.

The story of the water furrow continues from our blog entry on week 2.

A colleague of mine, Ahmed Alkayyali, did research of his own on the origins of Pretoria’s water furrows. He came across some interesting artifacts, more specifically, drawings in the national archive.

The drawings date from 1889 and depict the water system of Pretoria at that time.

Drawing dating from 1889 indicating the water system at the time. – National Archive.

Ahmed’s research led to a graphical representation of a time line connected to the evolution of Pretoria’s water supply. From the drawing one notices the water being channelled from the south at the Fountains Valley,bottom of the drawing, to Church Square depicted by the plus sign in the middle of the drawing. From Church Square the water was channelled through town by connecting furrows. On the right of the drawing the Apies River forms the eastern edge of the central business district (CBD).

Graphical time line of water supply in Pretoria. – Ahmed Alkayyali

To  see more of Ahmed work just follow the link.

Be sure to visit the blog next week to find out what has been happening on site.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Week 2 : Reconstruction of old water furrow and stripping off old layers

Week 2.

           It is the second week on site and the team has faced some interesting challenges. Thanks to our restoration expert Roel Jansen of Sandstone Contractors, we have identified and are busy remedying these challenges. It is exciting to see some of the layers coming off, as each layer tells a story of the museums’ past.

Old water furrow.

From the outset it was clear that water/damp would turn out to be the common enemy to the preservation of the museum. We identified a leaking water pipe, found underground in the south west corner of the site. As the leak was repaired a discussion started on how the original design made provision for storm water to run off from the site.

            Through our research we concluded that at the southern boundary parallel with Church Street (as was prevalent through most of Pretoria in the 1860’s) water furrows where constructed to channel excess surface water. The furrow also guided water from its origin at Fountains Valley and is still in use today. This formed part of an extensive water network running through the city in the early 1900’s. Subsequently the furrow has been closed and then covered up.

1900 Pres. Kruger expresses a word of gratitude to the American Volunteers Corps.
The furrow is clearly seen on both sides of where Oom Paul is standing.

            Concurrently with the excavations, preparing the southern boundary wall for water proofing, we searched for the remains of the old water furrow. At a depth of 800mm below ground level we discovered an orange plastic sleeve running parallel to the boundary wall. An electrical cable was also exposed, running perpendicular to the street and into the museum property. We presume that the orange sleeve forms part of a network of fibre optic cabling installed by a communications company. If this is indeed the case, they would have removed/demolished any evidence of the furrow whist trenching with a machine.
Preparation done for the waterproofing of the southern boundary wall          

            Currently we are busy designing a replica of the original water furrow using as example the furrow on display on Church Street east between the Sammy Marks building and the Sate Theatre. We intend to include the construction of the furrow replica in this conservation contract. The practical implementations include consent from the Local Authorities...

Existing water furrow on Church Street

Removing of paint layers.

             We were confronted with another challenge that arouse as we started to strip away old paint from the exterior walls. We noticed that the actual paint coatings consisted of approximately eight layers of paint. Enamels, a ‘Kentex’ layer, PVA’s and limewash. It was a challenge to remove all these paints. Three methods of removing the paint were implemented.

·         Using a paint scraper was unsuccessful and only removed loose and flaking paint.

·         Sandpaper only roughened the surface without any significant effect.

·         A LPG blow torch held 100mm away from the surface for 3-5 seconds made the paint blister. Whilst still hot, we used the scraper which effetely removed the majority of paint. Minor scraping and sanding then removed the last remnants.

                     With most of the paint removed, the mouldings in the plaster stand proud.

             Fortunately the presence of the ‘Kentex’ allows for the blistering when exposed to heat and made the removal process much easier. Kentex is a waterproof synthetic elastomer – polyester plasticised resin. As we studied the chips of removed paint we noticed that several colours of paint where used in previous coatings. One of the first coats of paint on the plastered area is a light green colour and at a later stage a dark chocolate brown colour was used. This proved to be quite a revelation since most of the old photographs of the museum are in black & white. I’m sure there is going to be quite a debate in the office on what exact colour should be used for the new coating on the museum.

Layers of paint stripped of the plinth on the east facade, expose  a dark, almost black coat of emulsion paint, covering a rich, ochre yellow colour.

A blow torch was used and consequently a weak area in the plastered surface was exposed: the plaster seem to be saturated with moisture and presents a powdery substance.

            At the end of week 2 we got to know more of the story of the Kruger Museum by peeling away some of the layers. We travelled back in time not only to discover some of the museum’s history but also that of Pretoria.

             I received some feedback on the origins of the Kruger Museum I felt it appropriate to include a short history lesson below. Be sure to check in next week on more updates on the restoration process.
While Kruger visited Europe in 1883-1884 the Kimberley architect Tom Claridge was asked to design the Kruger house. The brief came from Alois Nellmapius, one of the significant entrepreneurs and businessmen in Pretoria at the time. The brief stated that the dwelling had to be designed in the ‘cottage style’ and had to contain Renaissance characteristics. From this brief, it was clear that the dwelling would differ completely from any other dwelling owned and erected by Paul Kruger on his properties in Rustenburg and Pretoria. Rex is of the opinion that this brief also implied that the dwelling would differ from any other dwelling in the entire ‘village’ of Pretoria at the time. Rex noted that the design of the new dwelling marked the start of a new era in the evolution of dwelling design in Pretoria.[1][1]  

[1][1] Rex, 1962: page not numbered.
The history lesson is from am extract of an unpublished article written by  
Talita Fourie
Deputy director DITSONG: Kruger Museum

1899 Pers. Kruger sits in front of the Presidential House now the Kruger Museum.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Renovation of the Kruger Museum: week 1
This blog is the account of Francois v/d Walt of Aphane WIEW Architects, as a member of the team completing renovations to the Kruger Museum. Ditsong Museums of South Africa have appointed Aphane WIEW Architects to specify work relating to the conservation of external finishes on Kruger Museum. You are invited to participate in this interesting journey in time.
Week one: The Renovations Begin.
The story begins way back with President Paul Kruger himself, or as Pretorians affectionately would like to call him Oom Paul. What is considered The Kruger Museum was actually the house Oom Paul and his family lived in during the last year of the 19th century. It also comprises of two display halls & President Kruger’s state railway coach.

Author and date of drawing – unknown

The house has been refurbished to look almost as it did during the time Oom Paul lived there. At that time it was not an official residence but a modest private home. The Kruger Museum was opened in 1934 & declared a national monument in 1937.
The Kruger Museum’s history run’s parallel with that of Pretoria & Tshwane.

After the short history lesson we are back to the present time and the establishment & handover of the site to the contractor.

Site establishment started on the 16th of February 2012

The renovation period will last for approximately 10 weeks, where we will update you on a weekly basis. We invite you to participate in this project and share our affection & passion for Oom Paul & his house as we restore it back to some of its original glory.

Throughout the renovation period we will address construction issues like
·         Sandblasting of the stone work,
·         Excavating and treatment of existing foundation.
·         Replacing existing pedestals and column bases.
·         Determining and repainting the museum, to original paint work.
·         Refurbishment of roof structure.
We will also address any unforeseen issues as the project progresses.