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.