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HAGER, Carl Otto

Born: 1813 10 16
Died: 1898 10 08


Hager acted under the term of 'boumeester' (architect). He is considered by RADFORD to be the main propagator of neo-gothic in South Africa. Hager was born and educated in Dresden, Germany, training as an architect at the Royal Academy of Art in Dresden from 1828 to 1834 and spent a further year there studying art. He also served his practical apprenticeship as an architect in Germany. Hager came to the Cape in December 1838 with a colleague from the Royal Academy, Carl SPARMANN. Entering into partnership in Cape Town (cf SPARMANN & HAGER) in about 1838, their first known commission was the design the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Mary's, Cape Town in 1840. The partnership ended at about the same time. In 1841 Hager moved to Stellenbosch, earning a living as a portrait painter. He moved to Paarl in 1842 to work there. He is known to have visited Worcester in 1843 as well as Swellendam and Port Beaufort. From April 1845 to December 1846 he travelled in Europe returning to South Africa in 1846 and bringing with him his widowed mother. He set up a snuff shop in Cape Town which was unsuccessful but made a reasonable living as a travelling portraitist; his career as an architect did not improve until about 1862. Probably his earliest independent commission as an architect was the Lutheran Church in Dorp Street in Stellenbosch (1852-1854) where he had joined the Lutheran congregation and prepared the plans for a small fee. The church was opened in 1854. In this same year the ship on which Richard CGAT WOCKE had gone to sea was stranded along the Agulhas coast. Wocke made his way to Cape Town where he attached himself to his compatriot, Hager, as an apprentice bricklayer and plasterer. Wocke later in life, as architect, followed the direct and robust style of Hager for his own church designs.

In 1858 he opened a photographic studio in Cape Town in 1858, setting up as a daguerreotypist in portraiture, one of the earliest in the Cape. He returned to Stellenbosch in about 1860, however, where by 1861 he had 'portrait rooms'. In 1863 Hager designed what remains his best known and own favourite building, the Moederkerk for the Dutch Reformed Church in Stellenbosch. Radford (1979:192) points out that it was not in fact the first Gothic Revival Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa but that Hager 'introduced a purer strain of the revival ... although far from correct ... internally the open roof with its Gothic trusses makes its first appearance in Dutch Reform Churches.' Hager's early and consistent use of the Gothic Revival style in the Cape has, however, earned him the reputation of being the father of neo-gothic in South Africa.

It is likely that Hager drew the plans for the Wit Kerk (White Church) in Middelburg in the Transvaal (c1887) according to an article in Restorica (Oct 1983:29). He retained his interest in portraiture throughout his career. A plan of Stellenbosch made in 1859 by Hager is in the collection of the Museum at Stellenbosch.

His son JCM HAGER became an architect.

(Beeld 26 Sep 1981:16, article by SM Hofmeyer; Bull & Denfield 1970; Cape Times 28 Sep 1984:8; DSAB II:289-90; Englebrecht 1979:379-81; NGK archives, Cape Town; Restorica Oct 1983:28-9; SESA 6:516; 9:283, 467; 10:267, 775, 785, 796; Uitenhage P & P 1904)

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 HAGER

Bakker, Karel A, Clarke, Nicholas J. 2014. Eclectic ZA Wilhelmiens : A shared Dutch built heritage in South Africa. Pretoria: Visual Books. pp 194

Fransen, Hans. 2004. The old buildings of the Cape. A survey of extant architecture from before c1910 in the area of Cape Town - Calvinia - Colesberg - Uitenhage. Johannesburg & Cape Town: Jonathan Ball Publishers. pp 63, 158, 171, 173, 175, 179, 190, 263, 346, 357, 405, 480, 491, 496, 497, 506, 507, 522, 541, 573

Fransen, Hans. 1982. Three centuries of South African art : fine art, architecture, applied arts. Johannesburg: AD Donker. pp

Heese, JA. 1966. Die kerk in die wolken : Eeufees-gedenkboek Uniondale 1866-1966. Elsiesrivier: NG Gemeente Uniondale. pp 43-44

Hoevers, Jan. 2005. Van Kerke en Dorpe. Historiese vertellinge oor die oudste kerke en dorpe in Suid-Afrika. Centurion: Publiself Uitgewers. pp 23, 49, 60, 70, 75, 83, 94, 119, 123, 135

Hofmeyer, SM. 1993. Carl Otto Hager van Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch Museum. pp

HSRC. 1972. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume II. Pretoria: Tafelberg for The Human Sciences Research Council. pp 283-284

Kesting, DP. 1978. Afrikaans Protestantse kerkbou : erfenis en uitdaging. Port Elizabeth: Unpublished PhD. pp

Krige, Ode. 2015. Carl Otto Hager : argitek tot eer van God, 1813-1898. Hermanus: Hemel & See Boeke. pp

Menache, Philippe & David, Darryl Earl. 2012. A Platteland Pilgrimage : 102 country churches of South Africa . South Africa: Booktown Richmond Press. pp 12

Oxley, John. 1992. Places of Worship in South Africa. Halfway House: Southern Book Publishers. pp 155

Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1977. Victorian Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: AA Balkema. pp 137, 138 ill, 161, 162 ill, 357, 397

Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1989. Historical Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: Struikhof Publishers. pp 14, 60, 61, 63, 76, 82, 86

Pretorius, Johanna Celestina. 1969. Die aandeel van die Gereformeerde Kerk van Suid-Afrika aan die kerkbou : 'n kultuur-historiese benadering. Pretoria: University of Pretoria (Unpublished MA thesis). pp 43

Radford, D. 1979. The architecture of the Western Cape, 1838 1901. A study of the impact of Victorian aesthetics and technology on South African architecture. Johannesburg: Unpublished Ph.D thesis. Dept of Arch. University of the Witwatersrand. pp

Rennie, John for CPIA. 1978. The Buildings of Central Cape Town 1978. Volume Two : Catalogue. Cape Town: Cape Provincial Institute of Architects. pp 306

Richardson, Deidré. 2001. Historic Sites of South Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers. pp 255

Schoeman, Karel. 1982. Vrystaatse erfenis : Bouwerk en geboue in die 19de eeu. Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau. pp 73, 82 (Naskrif)

Smuts, F, Johnman, CK. 1974. Stellenbosch ons oudste dorp : our oldest village. Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch 300 Aksie. pp

Smuts, Francois. 1979. Stellenbosch drie eeue : amptelike gedenkboek. Stellenbosch: Stadsraad van Stellenbosch. pp 81, 93 ill, 94, 96, 98, 101, 102, 175, 262, 263, 270, 314 ill, 324 ill, 327, 328, 379, 380, 381, 395

Walker, Michael. 2012. Early architects of Cape Town and their buildings (1820 - 1926) with postcard illustrations, The. St James: Michael Walker. pp 14-5

Chapters in books citing HAGER

Hugo, AM. Hager, Carl Otto: in 1972. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume II: pp 283

Brown, E. Die Kweekskool: in 1989. Afrikanerbakens: pp 38