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City Centre / Page 1


Cape Town Walkabout Map
Cape Town City Map

The City of Cape Town is nestled at the foot of the massive 1 086 metre sandstone bulk of Table Mountain flanked by Devil's Peak, Lions Head and Signal Hill on the lower slopes of which, and overlooking the city, lies the area known as the City Bowl.

I n f o r m a t i o n :
Cape Town Tourism
{+27 (0) 21 - 4264260} at the The Pinnacle, Corner Castle & Burg Streets, Cape Town.

Cape Town's central city area is small and the many places of interest are closely situated and best explored on foot. A good starting point for your city walk would be the Castle of Good Hope, which has guided tours at the top of the hour, every hour - visitors are not permitted to sightsee on their own. Jan van Riebeeck's fort was Cape Town's first building. After ten years, this fort, made largely from wood and sods, became inadequate and, with the constant threat of war between Holland and Britain, plans were made for the construction of a permanent castle. For effective defence purposes a pentagonal, bastioned structure based on Vauban's system was chosen.

The cornerstone was laid in 1666 by Governor Zacharias Wagenaar and the construction of the Castle was carried out by the engineer Pieter Dombaer; the skilled work being done by soldiers while slave labour was used for the rough work. The Castle was first occupied in 1674, though not completed until five years later. The five bastions were named after the titles of the Prince of Orange - Leerdam, Oranje, Nassau, Buren and Katzenellenbogen. Between the latter two bastions was the original entrance, facing onto the seashore. However, because of constant flooding, and the fear that the sea entrance might present danger in the event of a naval attack, the gates were moved by Simon van der Stel in 1682 to their present position, and were embellished with the carved coat of arms of the six chamber cities of the Dutch East india Company, their Monogram (VOC) and surmounting all, the crest of the United Netherlands. This gateway was given added splendour by the addition of the 'klompie-brick' bell tower, the date cast into the bell being 1697.

It was Commissioner van Reede van Oudtshoorn who was responsible for the building of the Kat, a 12 metre high building cutting right across the open courtyard. It houses the 'William Fehr Collection' of paintings, the highlights of which include old paintings depicting the Cape. The famed Kat Balcony (see photo), with its sculpture by Anton Anreith, is certainly the most beautiful aspect of the Castle. The Governor's residence was on the Mountain side of the Castle together with a large council chamber which, during Lady Anne Barnard's time, became her reception hall.

Flanked by Buitengracht & Darling Streets is Cape Town's Grand Parade, the scene of many a military and political gathering and today occupied by a flea market and a parking area for motor cars. It is overlooked by the imposing Italian-style City Hall, built out of sandstone. Cape Town was without a town hall until 1905. Designed in the Italian Renaissance style, the City Hall was the last major Victorian building to be erected in Cape Town. The mosaic floors and marble staircase leading up past the stained glass window, commemorating King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, are magnificent, as is the organ with 3,165 pipes, especially planned for the hall by Norman Beard, and is one of the finest in the country.

Turning left into Adderley St (Cape Town's main street) is the 'Groote Kerk' (Great Church). A cruciform building had been started as far back as 1678, but it was not until 1700 that Governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel had entirely new foundations laid for a thatched and gabled church. The congregation grew rapidly and in 1789 a magnificent carved pulpit was installed, the work of Anton Anreith and Jan Graaff, the carpenter. Later, the new church was designed and built by Hermann Schutte and dedicated in 1841 - an outstanding feature being the immense vaulted ceiling with plaster rosettes from which hung chandeliers.

Cape Town's Cultural History Museum lies at the entrance to the Company's (Dutch East India Company) Gardens at the top of Adderley Street. It was originally built as a slave lodge by Willem Adriaan van der Stel, to house the slaves working in the gardens. After the second British occupation, the slaves were sold and in 1810 Thibault and Schutte converted the slave lodge into government offices, and finally into a courtroom. In use as a courtroom for over a century, the building was subsequently used for various other quarters of officialdom. Now restored and in use as the Cultural History Museum which contains an interesting collection of early postal stones, and the history of postage and currency in South Africa. There are many examples of furniture, glass ceramics, weapons, musical instruments and toys from the many countries whose people settled in South Africa. The archaeological section has interesting objects of Egyptian, Greek & Roman origin. The reconstructed tombstone of Jan van Riebeeck stands in the courtyard.

The Company's Gardens: Houses of Parliament
: Plans were initially designed by Charles Freeman and incorporated a high central dome, Corinthian porticos and pavilions at the four corners. Statues surmounted the parapets and there were fountains in the gardens. The foundation stone was laid by Governor Sir Henry Barkly in 1875. Later it was found that the foundations were inadequate and Freeman was replaced as resident architect. Henry Greaves drew up an amended set of Freeman's plans and eventually in 1884, the Houses of Parliament were completed. Sir Herbert Baker later designed a new House of Assembly.

On the other side of the entrance to the Company's Gardens is St George's Cathedral. The foundation stone was laid in 1830 by Governor Sir Lowry Cole and at the same time Eerste Berg Dwars Straat was named St George's Street. The existing church was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and Francis Masey. The buttress stone, inscribed with Arts and Crafts lettering, was laid by the Duke of Cornwall and York (later King George V) in 1901.

Tuynhuys
, the Company's Guest House was built in 1700 to accommodate important visitors to the Cape. It was enlarged fifty years later by Governor Tulbagh and further alterations were made in the late 18th century by Governor van de Graaff. The building was later remodelled for use as Government House. A magnificent staircase was installed as well as fireplaces and other essentials thought necessary by the British. Governor Lord Charles Somerset was the builder of the exquisite ballroom and many of the redecorations carried out at Government House can be attributed to him. It was his intent that the house be suitable for the representative of the Monarchy. Tuynhuys is now the office of the State President and is closed to the public.

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