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HORSTMANSHOF, Hendrik

Born: 1886 09 15
Died: 1974 04 08

Architect


He was Born in Alkmaar, Netherlands on 15 September 1886, and died on 8 April 1974 in Dieprivier, Cape, South Africa. He was trained as an artist painter in the Koninklike Akademie (Royal Academy) of Amsterdam, but did not complete his studies since his father died after he had barely completed a year, and he, as eldest son, was expected to continue the family business, although this he did with great reluctance. His father ran a firm doing decorative plasterwork or stuccadoor, but under Hendrik’s direction the firm all but folded, since in between he continued with his painting, exhibiting in 1911, and neglecting the running of its day to day affairs.

He was also given to eccentricities. He constructed a concrete hulled boat, then something unheard of. When it was launched the inquisitive onlookers predicted its immediate sinking, but it floated and became his first nuptial home.

He had a restless spirit. The First World War (then the Great War, 1914-1918) saw a time of straightened circumstances, and when peace was declared he decided in 1921 to emigrate to "sunny" South Africa. He was in fact headed to Bloemfontein, but while sailing out he was told to rather go to Pretoria which was home to many other Hollanders.

On his arrival he decided to prove himself as builder and architect. His wife and two children followed in 1922. He practiced as carpenter and plasterer and at the time the family resided in the then undeveloped suburb of Capital Park. By 1923 he had saved enough money to construct his first home in Jorrison Street, Sunnyside. This was devastated by the notorious hailstorm of that year, smashing all the tiles and windows. He had to start again.

All the while he honed his architectural skills from books which he read until midnight, and all the small hours of the morning. He tried his hand at the competition for the new Pretoria Town Hall.

After the house was completed, he sold it and built another in the same street, following the same procedure and selling, and building yet another in the same street. He gained a reputation as contractor, and built houses in Arcadia, introducing features such as coloured leaded glass at the entrance doors, and Delft tiled surrounds of the fireplaces. He even took to furniture design and in situ ciment fondue features.

In 1928 he built 700 Park Street with a novel malthoid tiled roof. At this time he branched out into larger speculative developments. In 1929 he, with a partner bought a large portion of ground in Church Street and built the Trianon Building, today known a Tiny Town. It was done in the Garden City mould, with pergolas, fish ponds, and paving in Pelindaba slate. It had a central coal-fuelled combustor for hot water supply to all the homes. The Horstmanshof themselves took residence in the first single storeyed home on the eastern side of the development and stayed there from about 1930 until 1934.

After this followed the Orange Court development nearby in Vermeulen Street (intact and extant), But with this development came financial hardship as the economic depression took hold. What added to the financial strain was a requirement that contractors take on apprentices if they wished to take on government contracts, which he was obliged to do. He tendered and was awarded contracts in Church Street West, but the contract bankrupted him and he was obliged to liquidate his assets and start again from scratch.

With an eye on the founding of Iscor, he developed a complex similar to Orange Court, Mitchell’s Court, in Mitchell Street (1935-1937, demolished). He followed this with the construction of the Metro Hotel in 1937 but this once more bankrupted him. He built a house in Marine Drive down in Uvongo Beach, Natal (1939-1940), which he sold. Thereafter he occupied himself with his art, travelling in a caravan he had built for himself as far afield as South West Africa (Namibia) and Mozambique, finally settling in the Cape. He is buried in the Plumstead cemetery.

Books citing HORSTMANSHOF

Ploeger, Jan. 1994. Nederlanders in die Transvaal 1850-1950. Pretoria: Van Schaik. pp 74