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Oliver Tambo House (was Over-Vaal)
Pretoria, Gauteng

Vivian Sydney REES-POOLE: Architect

Type:Official Residence
Street:Dunbarton Rd

(Ploeger 1963:56-7)

Originally called Over-Vaal it was used as the official residence for the Administrator of the former Transvaal Province. Now called Oliver Tambo House it is the Official Residence for the Deputy President (see The Presidency website).

Over-Vaal — An Official Residence

As the years passed Pretoria grew beyond its old boundaries, with particular emphasis eastwards along Church Street.

On 28 February 1889 JR Pritchard bought a portion of Elandspoort No. 193 (Bryn Tirion) for R3 000 from EDA Meintjes, the greater part of the present Bryntirion. He sold it in 1895 to Mrs HS Johnston, who in turn sold it to the Transvaal Government in 1902 for R36 000. By then Pretoria had become an important administrative centre but there were insufficient dwellings for the senior officials. That was why Bryn Tirion was bought, with more land adjoining it, and in 1907 the present Bryntirion appeared on the maps, six official residences being erected after August 1903 and many more later, still recognizable despite all the changes they have undergone.

After 1910 a number of houses were allotted to Cabinet Ministers and other high officials, including the British High Commissioner. In this way the area the old Transvaal Colony had acquired became that in which the Prime Minister, members of the Cabinet, and the Administrator of the Transvaal were to live in residences provided by the state.

In 1934 the government decided to build the Prime Minister's residence, Libertas, at Bryntirion.

As early as 1926 the Administrator, then Mr JH Hofmeyr, had lived at Bryntirion, as did his successors JS Smit and SP Bekker. During the period of office of the last-named it was decided to build Over-Vaal as an official residence in Bryntirion, and in October 1935 six erven on the corner of Church Street and Dumbarton Road were acquired on which to erect a building in the neo-Cape Dutch style.

Mr. V. S. REES-POOLE, who had worked under Sir Herbert BAKER, played an important part in the planning, Rees-Poole probably understanding the style even better than Baker himself. Eventually the building, with a thatched roof that later gave way to slate, was completed, the ground covering 4 800 square feet (445.9 m2), the first floor 6 000 (557.4 m2), and ample stoeps, with a character combining the official residence with the family home.

The garden presented problems because the site was not rectangular; Mr. Rees-Poole adopted a neo-Baroque style in its lay-out. Alterations have since been made.

Mr. Bekker took possession in June 1937, dying the following year, so that he did not see completion of the garden in August 1939.

In choosing the furniture attention was paid to the dual character of the building, which goes for the mural decoration too, which takes the form of a large number of works by South African artists. The colour-schemes and floor coverings also make their contribution, as the objects d’art and antique furniture, giving the whole a warmth of character.

The name Over-Vaal is recent, coming from a competition among school children in the Transvaal, won by Elizabeth de Kock, with official approval being given in 1959.

English summary edited from Lantern December 1963 p. 92

Writings about this entry

Ploeger, J. 1963. Over-Vaal : die geskiedenis van 'n ampswoning. Pretoria: Transvaalse Provinsiale Administrasie. pg 56-57
Potgieter, DJ (Editor-in-chief). 1973. Standard Encyclopaedia of South Africa [SESA] Volume 8 Mus-Pop. Cape Town: Nasou. pg 414
Keath, Michael The Baker School: A Continuing Tradition 1902-1940: in Fisher, RC, Le Roux, SW and Maré, E (Eds). 1998. Architecture of the Transvaal: pp 83