Heritage Association to focus on positive, for now

Heidelberg Station - Perhaps the best example of what can happen to buildings of historic relevance f they are not taken care of

Heidelberg Heritage Association (HHA) chairman Hendrik Brits indicated that the organisation would not immediately participate in the implementation of ‘black plaques’ at heritage sites that may deserve such a label.

 
The initiative to highlight heritage horrors by erecting temporary black plaques is driven by the newly established Gauteng Heritage Action Group (GAHG).
GAGH’s objective with this campaign is to identify sites that are in desperate need of attention by their respective owners.

 
The organisation also looks to address institutions in both the private and public sector that have, and continue to show disregard for the National Heritage Resources Act.

 
While agreeing with the principle of identifying such sites in Heidelberg, Brits insisted that HHA should rather focus its attention on its role as hosts of the 2017 Heritage Association of South Africa’s Symposium that will take place between October 19 and 22.

 

“We will revisit this initiative at a later stage, but for now our main objective is to host a memorable symposium,” Brits said.

 

Tickets for the various tours, talks and functions that will take place during the symposium went on sale last week. For more information and bookings residents can email [email protected]

 
HERAUT has in the meanwhile identified three local heritage sites that would easily have qualified to receive black plaques as a reminder of what has gone wrong in the past.

 

 

1) The AG Visser House
The stylish house where a renowned medical doctor and poet once lived and practiced, had over the years been subjected to vandalism and neglect – to the point where its original owners – Remgro – had to intervene through a lengthy legal battle to reclaim ownership from its municipal custodians. Visser’s home and life was once celebrated as part of the museum (and later an information centre) but some of the previous tenants had sold off his antique furniture and other items of historical value. The building was later vandalised and although the original owners have started repairing the building, the future of this prime piece of real estate is not yet clear. HASA had also expressed its concern about the building.

 

The AG Visser House

 

 

2) The Old Railway Station
From a venue that once featured a world class collection of vintage vehicles that were moved to Franschhoek by the Rupert family, to a site where the homeless made fires in the historical train carriages; the former transport museum is perhaps the finest example of where a community had failed to take care of one of its most valuable tourist attractions.
Even when the vehicles were moved to a safer, more convenient location, the picturesque Wilhelmiens building was brimfull of photographs and other interesting artefacts. It even featured a rare print of Mahatma Gandhi when he visited the station and many other priceless items were stolen over the years. Under control of the Sedibeng District Municipality studies were conducted more than a decade ago to try and best utilise the venue, but it was only recently that a new use for the vast property was established by businessman Bouwe Wiersma. Wiersma and his business partners intend to open a beer museum at the venue and an application for the refurbishment and compatible re-use for museum purposes has been made to the relevant authorities.

 

3) The Old Jail
While this site has actually became a home away from home for many Heidelberg families, the simple truth of the matter is that procedure was not always followed when much needed restoration work was done at the historical building situated in Jordaan Street. When the MOTHs first decided it would be their base, the place lay in ruins. The building was overgrown with grass and rubble and it was a haven for the homeless. All of this changed over the last two decades and with very limited funds, the MOTHs managed to save a fair amount of the building’s history and character. While trying their best to ensure that the building would not be lost to future generations, the MOTHs are also well aware of the fact that a Johannesburg based architecture firm is involved in talks with Lesedi Local Municipality to turn the building into a boutique hotel. The same firm wanted to redevelop the AG Visser House, so perhaps a red flag may be better and more appropriate at this specific venue.

The Old Jail

  AUTHOR
Michael Mentz
Journalist

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