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Het Posthuys
Muizenberg, Western Cape



Style:Cape Dutch
Street:Main Road

Also called De Posthuys.

This building was originally erected in February 1673 by the Dutch east India Company as a military observation post. The SAHRA Property Register lists the historical importance as being:

Het Posthuijs is claimed to be one of the first buildings erected in the country. It was presumably built as a three-roomed signal station by the VOC in 1673 - a year before the Castle in Cape Town was occupied.

The Anglo American Corporation, together with historians, archaeologists and City architect Dirk VISSER, undertook a restoration project which commenced in 1979. During archaeological work a two-stuiwer coin, minted in 1680 in Holland and a rare flintlock musket were found, as well as a multitude of other invaluable artefacts.

Het Posthuys is one of the notable structures on the Muizenberg Historical Mile along with structures like Rhodes Cottage and the Labia residence (The Fort) to name but two. This single storeyed stone and thatch dwelling is a restoration based on archaeological investigation to its 17th century appearance. It is believed by many to be the oldest extant building of European settlers in South Africa, but certainly is the oldest in False Bay, built as an outlaying military post to warn the settlement at the Cape of any invasion from False Bay. This came to pass with the Battle of Muizenberg (1795) and the first British occupation of the Cape (1795). Restoration work carried out in the 1980 removed much of the material associated with later accretions to the core structure. All additions were removed; the thatch roof and brandsolder reinstated, shell lime floors relaid, stone steps rebuilt, and new doors, casement windows and shutters installed.

It has since been used as a museum by the Muizenberg Historical Conservations Society.

Declared a national monument by Government Notice 409, as published in Government Gazette 6873, dated 7 March 1980.

Significance as gazetted

Historical and architectural interest:

This building was originally erected in February 1673 by the Dutch east India Company as a military observation post. It was later also used as a civilian dwelling-house and was owned by Sir J.B. Robinson from 1915 to 1929.

Concise history

Evidence exists that the site occupied by De Posthuys was utilised by Khoisan people. During excavations on site (date unknown) a hearth with shells was uncovered below foundation level of the former 18th century kitchen. This site probably provided for good views over the bay while being a sheltered position. It should come as no surprise that in 1662 when, due to the imminent outbreak of war between the Netherlands and England in 1665 the site was chosen for the erection of a watch post to guard False Bay in case of attack. The building, part of a larger barracks complex, was completed in January of 1663.

It is debated whether the structure currently standing is the original structure. A map of 1690 indicates an extant structure on the site.

The buildings on this site remained in military use. During the Battle of Muizenberg in 1795 De Posthuys received a direct hit on its stoep. Adjoining buildings seem to have been destroyed at the same time. The site remained in military use during the First British Occupation as well as during Batavian rule. By 1814 the troops stationed in Muizenberg were removed and De Posthuys occupied by a barracks sergeant in charge of convicts, housed in the adjoining barrack used for road making. By the 1840's a wooden floor was introduced into the building. It seems that the structure was by then let as summer accommodation for holiday makers. By the mid-1880's JA Stegmann of Claremont obtained a lease for the property who upgraded it for use as a holiday home, calling it "Stegmanns Rust".

In 1919 the barracks, by then in ruin, were demolished leaving De Posthuys as the sole remaining survivor of the early military post. This was upgraded in 1922 by the South African Defence Force and used as accommodation until 1929. Some of the alterations carried out at this time (concrete beams in walls) date form this time. In 1929 the structure was sold to a Mr W Leon who made large additions to the structure and in tern sold it to the Anglo American Corporation in 1969. It was let to tenants until restoration commenced in 1979 under guidance of architects MUNNIK VISSER BLACK FISH & PARTNERS.

Further restoration was again carried out in 1990, again by the architects firm MUNNIK VISSER BLACK FISH & PARTNERS under instruction of the National Monuments Council, giving it its current form.

While, in its first 15 years, the surveys of prehistoric art galleries and old Cape homes were in progress the Commission had 126 sites proclaimed as historical monuments, 106 bronze badges, 79 inscribed plaques, 68 warning notices and 56 protective fences erected, and 47 individual surveys completed.

The Commission achieved a great part of its aim of preserving South African historical heritage during the 45 years of its existence. At the end of its term the Commission has had some 300 sites and buildings proclaimed, had erected nearly 200 bronze commemorative plaques and put up fences and notice boards or taken other active steps for the preservation of a number of other monuments. Sites attended to by the Commission included geological formations, archaeological and palaeontological sites, caves, examples of prehistoric rock art, early settlements, battlefields, mountains, waterfalls, indigenous flora and even picturesque villages. Buildings included early kraals, trekboer and Voortrekker houses, Cape Dutch and Georgian-style houses and houses of special historical significance, fortifications, public buildings and bridges. By preserving the tangible cultural heritage of the country it also preserved the intangible traditions that gave rise to them.

In 1972 this act was replaced by a National Monuments Act and the Commission replaced by the National Monuments Council. With the advent of universal franchise and attainment of full democracy in 1994 it was necessary that much of the partisan legislation of the apartheid past be revisited and changed. The National Monuments act of 1972 was replaced in 1999 by the South African National Heritage Recourses act 25 of 1999 and the National Monuments Council with a new structure with the South African Heritage Resources Agency at the helm.

Writings about this building

Hartdegen, Paddy. 1988. Our building heritage : an illustrated history. South Africa: Ryll's Pub. Co. on behalf of the National Development Fund for the Building Industry. pg 15
Booysen, B. De Posthuys: in Swart, Marius J (ed). 1989. Afrikanerbakens: pp 24-25

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