RESTORATION OF THE HOUSE AT KLERKS VLY

RESTORATION OF THE HOUSE AT KLERKS VLY

Architect
MNI Architects and Project Managers
Location
Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa
Project Year
2005
Category
Housing

RESTORATION OF THE HOUSE AT KLERKS VLY

MNI Architects and Project Managers as Architects

A BRIEF HISTORY: The house at “Klerks Vly” is a sandstone structure which took four years to build. The stone was quarried locally while the yellow wood beams, ceiling and floor boards were transported by wagon up from Pietermaritzburg. The inscriptions “1884 S J RAATH” and “KLERKS VLY” appear respectively above each of the two front entrance doors, while the inscriptions “S.J.A.Raath “ and “S.E.J.Odendaal” (Raath’s second wife’s maiden name) appear above the fireplace. According to (Packenham, 1979), the Boer War treaty between Genl. Prinsloo and the British Forces was signed on the front verandah of the house. It was this event which gave this house its historical significance. Although most farm houses had been burnt down during the war, Klerks Vly survived allegedly due to a portrait of Queen Victoria being found hanging on the wall. The family Crowther purchased the property in 1927, only to have a cyclone damage the structure on the 12th October 1943. The storm collapsed the gable walls of the residence along with the destruction of the “waenhuis”. The gables were re-built in their ornate fashion by Italian POW’S in 1944; along with the application of internal stucco plaster and some modification of windows. The “waenhuis” was never re-built. Exploration of the land in the early 1980’s for inclusion in the Government’s Land Reform Plan for QwaQwa; quickly led to the house falling into a state of disrepair.


In October 1993 Christopher Sparks (Müller & Neumeister Architects-Harrismith) approached the “National Monuments Council” to obtain all necessary approvals for restoration of the residence upon request of Piet Krause (QwaQwa Tourism) and Robert Crowther (Former resident). All necessary approvals were obtained and permits issued by 22nd November 1994. No funding was however forthcoming. Funding became available by way of the “Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality” on 12th February 2003. The project fell under the jurisdiction of the appointed cluster manager of the region Johan Steyn (MVD Xariep Consulting Engineers-Bethlehem). Robert Crowther now Councillor in the district, and driving force behind the project, decided on the concept of a living farm museum. Christopher Sparks (MNI Architects and Principal Agent) then approached the “National Cultural History Museum” in the persons of Etta Judson, Mauritz Naude and Annemarie Carelsen to do research by way of further on site investigation and interviews with locals; to compile a farmstead reconstruction guideline. The “Willem Prinsloo Museum” near Cullinan was visited; drawings were amended and submitted to SAHRA for approval and issuing of a permit from the Free State Heritage Permit Committee. Tenders were called for and the award for Phase 1 (restoration of the residence back to 1884) was made to the contractor John Majozi (Mnguni Business Enterprises-QwaQwa) and his appointed site agent Adriaan van Sandwyk. Restoration of the house started on 16th February 2005 and Practical Completion was attained on 17th October 2005. Construction on Phase 2 (reconstruction of the farmyard and other buildings) will commence as soon as further funding becomes available. METHODOLOGY: An attempt has been made to re-construct the structure in draft form in order to eventually restore it to its former glory. Reference has been made to historical documentation without much success, due to most accounts describing events in and around the house, rather than offering reference to architectural detail. Old family photographs have proven to be of great value in the research. The most valuable and accurate information undoubtedly obtained, was from on-site discoveries, revealing truss spacing, dimensions and much original detailing. Dwg No H94/6/01 refers to the house in its present state, while No. H94/6/02 refers to the intended restoration. ROOF CONSTRUCTION * Roof Only the gable wings had been replaced, leaving the main roof over the lounge and dining room untouched. The trusses found were normal collar trusses made up by half –jointing and nailing the following members together: 145 x 22mm ridge purlin, 110 x 75mm rafters, 90 x 65mm collar. These in turn were fixed onto 240 x 75mm ceiling joists, while 50 x 75mm purlins were used. A photo of the house taken in 1927 revealed that all ridges ran at the same height. The existing roof trusses provided a means of determining the true profile of the gable wing trusses, while an original jack truss reveals a rafter of 95 x 65mm, thus giving the size. As each truss occurs above a ceiling joist, and all ceiling joists are intact, it is easy to determine the number of, and position of the missing trusses. Although the existing corrugated roof sheeting is original, it would not be enough to complete the restoration. The original gutters, rainwater heads and down pipes, although depicted on photographs, no longer exists. The original timber finials are simple and thus easy to re-construct from photographs. The sizes of the gable window openings have been determined. The composition of original gable windows is as yet unknown to us. Discussions with those elderly people, who may remember the house, are underway. * Ceiling Although the ceilings in three of the rooms are not original, fortunately the ceiling joists are. 240 x 75mm Ceiling joists occur over the lounge and dining room with 275 x 22mm T & G ceiling boards, while 165 x 75mm ceiling joists occur over the rest of the house with 150 x 22mm ceiling boards. Very few of the ceiling boards appear to be in disrepair. Their exact fixing method has yet, not been established. SUPERSTRUCTURE The external walls are from locally acquired sandstone. No additions have been made to the bulk of the building. SUBSTRUCTURE * Floors The timber floors all appear to be original. All rooms have timber floors with the exception of the kitchen and present day bathroom. As wash–stands were originally provided in each bedroom, the bathroom was obviously a later conversion. One may assume that this room had a timber floor until the introduction of running water, when it is converted into a bathroom with a concrete floor. The intention is to keep this room as a bathroom (a reality of modern living). Due to the presence of hearth and fire in the kitchen, one may assume that it never had a timber floor. The intention is to keep concrete floors with “Quarry-type” tiles in both the bathroom and kitchen. * Foundations Very little is known about the foundations as no excavations have been done to date. No work on the foundations is however foreseen. * Entrance steps The original steps have been moved to their present. The former position of these steps has been determined through photographic evidence and the intention is to return them to their former position. INTERNAL FINISHES * General Walls: - Plaster and paint (samples to be analysed) Floors: - Timber floors (will be re-sprung if necessary) Ceilings: - Exposed timber joists with the ceiling boards (lacquered) * Stonework The stonework in the northern façade has been worked to a smooth finish. That on the eastern façade has been started with, while that on the southern and western facades is totally rough. The smoothing-off of stone was started in 1944 by the Italian POW’s along with the re-building of the gables. The War ended, the prisoners were released, and this work remained unfinished. The intention is to leave this finish as record of history. * Pointing Original pointing was discovered under a wall-mounted flower-box. A sample of this pointing will be sent to a laboratory for the analysis of the mix. Pointing is to be carried out as per original. * Stucco work Archways with stucco plaster picture rails and mouldings were added by the Italians in 1944. The stucco work although not original, is an asset to the interior space and should possibly be maintained. The omission of the passage will necessitate slight modification of the stucco work. According to Robert Crowther, a second arch existed between the Lounge and Dining room identical to the one that can be found. A double door at present occupies the space of the second arch. The intention is to re-construct the second arch on the existing one. DECISIONS TAKEN DURING CONSTRUCTION During construction we made certain on-site discoveries which would necessitate deviating from our original strategy. We immediately requested an on-site meeting with the “Free State Heritage Permit Committee” to discuss these discoveries. Following much discussion; decisions were taken as follows: * Work done in 1944 The pressed metal ceiling found in the lounge; along with the stucco plaster, large veranda window and doorway into the dining room all complimented each other and dated from the 1944 re-construction. Removing the passage in the lounge would destroy the stucco plaster in that room. To touch any of this; would wipe from history any evidence of the Italian POW’s having ever worked on the building. The smooth sandstone work was further evidence of their presence. The smoothing of the sandstone stopped suddenly at one point; belying the fact that World War 2 had ended. This evidence was retained. * Southern Façade No photos were ever found of the southern façade. Upon removal of the veranda screed, we found a well worn threshold below the middle window of the veranda façade. The measurement of the opening tied exactly in with the dimensions of both double doors on the northern veranda. The decision was taken to provide a double door as per those existing; with a window where the passage door had been. This made sense and fell in with the symmetry of the overall design of the building. * The Hearth No evidence was ever found which proved the existence of a hearth in the kitchen; so no hearth was provided. Cooking may have actually been done outside; with the kitchen merely being used to dish-up.


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