By Rob Colesky
|Interior of Engelburg House|
|Location of Engelburg House|
There is a short street leading off Hamilton Street, just after Edmond Street, that stretches a short way up the western side of the Union Buildings grounds, called Ziervogel Street. It’s a rather non-descript little street with a government building on the corner with Hamilton street, the Zambian Embassy dominating the middle of the block and the art museum, Engelenburg House, bordering up against the grounds of the Union buildings on the higher, Northern side of the street. There are two rather ordinary and somewhat rundown blocks of flats on the lower, Southern side.
|Entrance to Ziervogel Street|
As a short street, on the “wrong” side of the Union Buildings for me, there is very little reason to use this street but, by chance the other day, Hamilton Street was blocked with traffic and the opportunity to drive up Ziervogel Street presented itself as an opportunity to bypass the congestion. Surprised to find an Art Museum at the top of the street, the unusual name of the street and the suspicion that the street appears to have been an afterthought by the city planners I started wondering who this “Ziervogel” was and what the Art Museum entailed?
It was this curiosity which led me to the trusty internet and I was surprised to find that there is a reasonable amount of information available on both the Ziervogel family and Engelenburg House Museum.
Jeremias Frederik Ziervogel, was the patriarch of this branch of the Ziervogel family. Born 26 April 1802, in Cape Town, his parents died when he was still very young and he was raised by his aunt (his Mother’s sister) and uncle (coincidentally his Father’s brother) who also adopted his older brother, Carel Benedictus, and older sister, Christina Johanna. Jeremias Frederik Ziervogel’s father was originally from Sweden, emigrating to the Cape of Good Hope from Stockholm, in 1779.
On 1 March 1824, at the age of 21 years he married the 15 year old Anna Susanna Mar and together they had 7 children. He was a Bank Manager by profession and a prominent citizen of Graaf Reinet whom he later represented in The Cape Parliament from 1854-73. Retiring from Parliament, if not active politics, in 1873 Jeremias Frederik Ziervogel moved to Pretoria in order to establish a branch of the Cape Commercial Bank. His sons Carl Frederick (1825-1896), Jakobus Philipus (1827 -?) and his namesake Jeremias Frederick (1834 – 1905), the younger by now a medical doctor, accompanied him to Pretoria together with the younger members of the family.
In Pretoria the Ziervogel family lobbied the Transvaal government extensively, and successfully, for official appointments and soon became well-known in the South African Republic. The family at one time owned the farm Meintjieskop, having bought the farm from Edward Meintjies, son of the original owner of Meintjeskop, Stephanus Meintjes. It is ownership of the farm and the selling of the estate for the building of the Union Buildings which no doubt led to the street naming honour.
Interestingly, in 1875 Jeremias Frederik Ziervogel’s eldest son, Carl Frederik, bought the farm Leeuwpoort (in what is today Boksburg). He paid £75 for 300 morgen of barren, rocky veld. In September 1886, a young Afrikaans prospector, Pieter Killian discovered quartz reefs on Leeuwpoort.
Samples of the quartz were sent to Pretoria for assaying, which confirmed the presence of gold. The result was the proclamation, on the 10th March 1887, of the farm as public diggings. Carl Frederik, who had coincidentally been trying to sell Leeuwpoort till then, now opened the first gold mine on the East Rand, the Ziervogel Gold Mining Company. It is not known
exactly where on Leeuwpoort gold-bearing ore was discovered, but it is believed that it was somewhere along the stream that now flows from Boksburg Lake. Conglomerate rocks, some with visible rock drill holes, are still visible next to this stream today. Unfortunately heavy expenditure was necessary for development and, as the Directors were unable to finance this, the mine closed down. Mr Abe Bailey of the Barnato Group, which owned the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company (JCI), bought the farm Leeuwpoort in 1894 for £100,000 and established E.R.P.M. Ltd, which continues to mine the area some 117 years later.
Carl Frederick Ziervogel appears to have returned to Pretoria during the 1890’s, as did some other members of the Ziervogel family. He died in 1896 and is buried in the Church Street cemetery. Other members of the Ziervogel family appear to have remained in Boksburg where many of them successfully sought official positions in local Government. A later generation Ziervogel was also destined to become Major of Boksburg.
In 1903 a 39 year old Hollander Dr. Frans Vredenrijk Engelenburg bought the property (which stretched all the way down to Hamilton Street in those days) and on which the Art Museum, Engelenburg House, now stands from the widow Anna Christina Elizabeth Ziervogel. It was built in the Herbert Baker style but it is unknown if Sir Herbert Baker designed the building. It is well known that Baker and Engelenburg had immense mutual respect for each other. Engelenburg, a lawyer who had studied at the renowned University of Leiden in Holland, emigrated from Arnhem, Holland, in 1889, and was made Editor-in-chief of the Transvaal newspaper, De Volksstem, shortly after his arrival in the Transvaal. He was an acknowledged art expert and collector, a speaker of 6 foreign languages and known for his exquisite taste while Baker was a much admired and an acknowledged master architect. Th e gabled house Engelenburg built stood alone, in what was then, on the outskirts of town in Arcadia and was quickly named “Engelenburg’s Folly” by the locals. Only much later did the house become known as “Het Witte Huis” (The White House).
Today it is known as the Engelenburg House (Engelenburghuis). The varied and valuable art collection that is housed in Engelenburg House reflects Engelenburg’s artistic and cosmopolitan character. Part of the collection consists of heirlooms that were shipped to South Africa and transported to the interior. Most of the pieces were acquired by Engelenburg in his travels abroad while a number of pieces were also acquired at auctions. The collection consists, amongst others, of porcelain, glassware, paintings, silver, furniture, tapestries and several sculptures. This collection is currently on display in the museum, in his house where the windows are now closed with block-out blinds to protect the valuable collections from the harmful northern sun.
Engelenburg died in 1938 and bequeathed the house and land on which it stood to the Union of South Africa out of gratitude for the what the country had meant to him. A grant from Governor General EG Jansen of 2000 Pounds enabled the state to purchase a number of Dr Engelenburgs treasured art possesions from his estate and convert the house into a museum. Later the state donated the house to the ‘SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns’. In 1948 the Akademie took over the running of the house and Museum and the art collection in the house has remained largely unchanged.
The South western corner of the house was embellished with a memorial arch designed by Gerard Moerdijk in 1953.
The Engelenburg house Museum can be visited on appointment, Monday to Friday.
Contact Linda Brink on (012) 3285082.
Contact Linda Brink on (012) 3285082.
A street in Groenkloof, Pretoria has been named after Dr Engelenburg.Sources: http://able.wiki.up.ac.za http://boksburghistorical.com
This article was written by Rob Colesky and originally published in the ARRA newsletter of June 2012