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DAMSTRA, Mello Gerardus

Born: 1873 11 ?
Died: 1945

Architect


Year registered: 1927

Fellow CIA; CPIA (1927); ISAA (1927).

Was born in Leeuwaarden, Friesland in the Netherlands, the son of a well-known Dutch architect who was in turn the son of one of the most famous builders and designers in Friesland. He studied at the 'French college, Oudenbosch ... (and was) a particularly graceful figure on the stretches of ice' in winter (Sport and Sportsmen of SA and Rhod:210). By 1895 Damstra was working in Cradock in the Cape where he saw the construction of several houses, and was employed as an inspector of public works. At the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War, Damstra left for Holland via Durban. He went to New York shortly afterwards and, having travelled though the United States and Canada, worked as a journeyman architect in Sacramento, California where he won a prize for his design of a log cabin. He was then employed as a draughtsman by a San Franciscan architect Newton J. Tharp. A chance meeting with some South African friends drew him back to South Africa where he settled in Stellenbosch where he 'built most of the residences of the professors university ... his taste and skill became known far and wide' (Sport and Sportsmen of SA and Rhod:212.) In 1909 he went to live in Cape Town: Oranjezicht contained 'many a magnificent specimen as testimony of his almost matchless taste' (Sport and Sportsmen of SA and Rhod:212.) He entered into partnership with JJ INGBER (cf DAMSTRA & INGBER) in Cape Town in about 1933. In 1904 Damstra married Miss Annie Gird of Stellenbosch. His daughter, Minna DAMSTRA, later trained as an architect at the University of Cape Town.

(ISAA mem list; Sport and Sportsmen of SA and Rhod 1929)

All truncated references not fully cited in 'References' are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

Books citing DAMSTRA

ISAA. 1927. Register of Members the Institute of South African Architects. Johannesburg: ISAA (Unpublished Record). pp D2

Walker, Michael. 2010. A Statement In Stone. Cape Town: Privately published by Michael Walker. pp 36-38

Walker, Michael. 2012. Early architects of Cape Town and their buildings (1820 - 1926) with postcard illustrations, The. St James: Michael Walker. pp 51-52