History

Walking underneath the legendary oak-trees, one is left with a sense of Potchefstroom rich historical and academic legacy. well worth a visit, Potchefstroom exudes the charm of it's early years, yet bustles with the energy of a burgeoning city.

Potchefstroom is an academic city hosting the Potchefstroom campus of the North-West University (previously known as Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education), situated on the banks of the Mooirivier (Afrikaans for 'Pretty (or Beautiful) River') the town is roughly 120km West-Southwest of Johannesburg and 45km East-Northeast of Klerksdorp in the North West province of South Africa.

There are various origins that are claimed for the origin of the name Potchefstroom. Firstly it is said to be: 'Potgieter'+'Chef'+'Stroom'. Which attributes the name to the Voortrekker leader and town father Andries Potgieter, 'Chef' and indication of leader of the emigrants and the 'Stroom' referring to the Mooi River. Others however, attribute the name as having come from the word 'Potscherf', meaning broken pot, due to the cracks that appear in the soil of the Mooi River valley during drought resembling a broken pot". M.L Fick thirdly suggests that Potchefstroom developed from the abbreviation of "Potgieterstroom" to "Potgerstroom" which in time became "potchefstroom". however, this doesn't account for the use of "Potjestroom" which is found as inscription on many documents and photographs.

In 1838 Potchefstroom were founded by the pioneer (voortrekker) leader Andries Hendrik Potgieter. The primary founding of the town took place some eleven km to the north of the present town. In these three years very little was probably done with regard to the surveying and establishment of the town plan. The “new” Potchefstroom was surveyed and laid out in December 1841 by the first magistrate J.H Grobler.

The type of building constructed during the years gave expression to the young community’s need to worship and to protect their interests and their possessions.

The first church building with seating for about 400 people was consecrated on the 19 May 1851.

By 1854 the church had been supplied with a fortress wall and embrasures and sentry boxes, so that the centrally located church could also serve as a bastion.

On the old market square, where the buildings of the reformed church were later build, a jail was built shortly after the founding of the town. All these buildings, like the first uncomplicated residences, have disappeared in the course of years. What has remained from these years is the street layout, although the large streets, alleys, circles and dead ends.

A start was made with the building of a new church; because of the civil war it was only completed by 1866. Today it is the oldest existing church building in Potchefstroom, the church of the Rev. Dirk van der Hoff, the first Dutch/Afrikaans minister in the Transvaal.

Because of it being situated on the border of the republic, Potchefstroom quickly became a commercial centre. Trade was mainly in the hand of foreigners, and by the 1860 they had begun to erect imposing shops around the church and market Squares. Although these buildings have already been demolished, in April 1863 the well-known cartographer Fred Jeppe made drawings of them at the top of a town map witch he had drawn. Potchefstroom also became the gateway to the north for big game hunters and an out span for travelers. By 1860 the Royal Oak Hotel was built in Church Street, a popular watering hole for the mail coach. For visitors and inhabitants there were 7 other bars and inns where refreshments could be had.

Shortly before and directly after the war large erven (burgerregerwe) were researched and new areas of the town were established. In the meantime the central town section had also undergone a dramatic change. New business complexes with typical Victorian tracery replaced the older buildings, amongst others the Peter & Richett Building (known as the Willows) and the ornate Garlick Building, which both arose in church street (called King Edward Street after the war)

One of the most striking new buildings was the king’s hotel, opened in 1902, and known since 1907, when the golf course was laid out, as the nineteenth hole. In 1907-1909 Opposite the hotel and in front of the Hervormde Church building the town hall was build, at present the second oldest existing Town Hall in the Transvaal.

During the first 75 years of its existence Potchefstroom grew from a rural Boer village to the status of a town with a municipality, building regulations, extended land area and public services, an increasing number of spectacular buildings and institutions which made the lifestyle and expectations of the residents change considerably. Not that the years around 1913 were carefree.

POPULATION

The Potchefstroom municipality, which encompasses several neighboring settlements, has a population of 128,357, according to the 2001 Census. Of these, 70.5% were African, 22.7% White, 6.4% Coloured and 0.4% Asian. The white population is likely to have been under counted, a general problem with the 2001 Census figures.

POTCHEFSTROOM MUSEUM

The complete history of human experience and interaction in the area is covered by this museum. National Monuments.
The city has many buildings and other structures that have been declared national monuments, such as: The Old Gunpowder House, Old Police Station Building, Kruger Kraal Opstal, Heimat Building, Magistrate's Office.

CHURCHES

The country's oldest Reformed Churches and its oldest stone-built Hervormde Church are found in the town. St Mary's Anglican Church, built in 1891, is notable for its magnificent stained glass windows. The Church burnt down in July 2007

BUFFELSVLEI WILD ANIMAL PARK

Buffelsvlei has the following activities available: Game drives with or without guide, hiking, bicycle riding, horse riding, swimming, clay-pigeon shooting, biltong and trophy hunting. There is a volleyball court, a bar with DSTV and a pool table, picnic and braai facilities.

CITY HALL

The City Hall made in Edwardian Classicistic design, inaugurated in 1909 by Colonial Secretary - General Jan Smuts. The oldest existing City Hall north of the Vaal River together with Krugersdorp's City Hall. Manufactured in Netherland the clockwork bell with the Westminster chimes, at the time the cost of the building was 12,000 pounds.

INDUSTRIAL

Potchefstroom is an important industrial growth point of North West Province. Potchindustria houses, inter alia, steel, food and chemical industries which concentrate on delivering locally, nationally an internationally. Increasing interest and investment, even by foreign industrialists, reflect the vitality and potential of this sector. The City Council's marketing program is geared towards paying special attention to each new investor and presenting the best package to suit his needs.

THE HERVORMDE CHURCH

After the moving of Potchefstroom from the initial settlement at Oudedorp to the present location the pioneers (voortrekkers) established the first congregation of the Hervormde Church. This took place in 1842, but the corner stone of their building in church square would only be laid 8 years later.
The first church was not only the cradle of church, state and school it was also the fort. 1854 the building was enclosed and turned into a embrasures and sentry boxes so that it could serve as a fastness for the inhabitants if that should prove to be necessary. Shortly before the consecration of the new church building, which were build next to the old one, the wall was demolished. The old church itself was demolished by 1870.

The existing church building, of which the corner stone was laid on 26 December 1859, was only festively consecrated on the 25 February 1866. Construction were interrupted in 1863-1864 by the civil war during the absence of M.W. Pretorius, formerly (1857-1860) and again later (1864-1871) president of the Z.A.R (Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek) Around the church there was a substantial out span for the ox-wagons and tents needed four times of a year for the communion (nagmaal). The church itself was considerably changed during the nineties.

The original cross shaped (cruciform) church with earth floor and thatched roof (roof made of plant materials eg straw) was supplied with a tin roof with decorative cast iron horsemen and an exceptional pointed spire. With the improvements of 1892 a plank floor, galleries, church pews, ceiling and proper lamps were put in. in the course of the previous year an organ gallery had been built, and a pipe organ imported from London and transported per train and ox wagon overland.
1952 the building was comprehensively revamped and the walls strengthened with concrete, seeing that the clay bricks were showing signs of decay.
The Nederduitsch Hervormed Church building was declared a national monument in 1965.

THE MAGISTRATE’S, POST AND TELEGRAPH OFFICE

Shortly after the start of the town a magistrate’s office were build on the new market square. It was a longstanding straw roof building which was vacated by 1870 when a new building in Greyling street was occupied. In the middle nineties of the previous century the landdrost, post and telegraph office arose next to the old one. In this building Potchefstroom still boasts one of the few government buildings dating from the flourishing period of the Z.A.R.

THE PRESIDENTIAL RESIDENCE

In the presidential residence, with its outbuildings, beautiful situated under huge oak trees, Potchefstroom has one of its most wonderful historical monuments. Not only does this group of buildings remind one of a celebrated period in the history of the town, when it was the main seat of the republic, but also of one of the best known historical figures, who had been head of state of two republics, and who lived in Potchefstroom for the larger portion of his life, Marthinus Wessel Pretorius. (1819-1901).

The house which Pretorius build in 1868 underwent considerable changes in appearance over the years. In 1978 the house and outbuildings were restored. The buildings, in traditional cape style, have white plastered walls and thatched roofs (straw roofs) to the north of the five roomed house there are the stables, coach house and harness room and to the south of the house the heating system. The 3 buildings are placed on one frontal line, a general custom of the time, and create an orderly impression. According to legend, the oak trees were planted by the president himself.

The property was taken over by the town council in 1973 and the house and outbuildings were restored by the architect Johan de Ridder. Today it is a house museum and a tangible memory of President Pretorius.

 

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