Iziko Museum - Koopmans de Wet House
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One of the Iziko Museum buildings.
The land on which Koopmans-De Wet House stands was granted by Willem Adriaan van der Stel to Reyner Smedinga, goldsmith and joint assayer to the Company. He imported building materials from the Netherlands and his fine house was completed in 1701, when Strand Street, being near the seashore, was the most fashionable area of the town.
The property changed hands several times, the house being altered by each subsequent owner, until late in the 18th century a second storey was added and the facade was remodeled by THIBAULT. This he did in the then fashionable Louis XVI style, with ANREITH carrying out the sculptured decorations. At the rear of the house remained the slave quarters and courtyard where to this day an ancient vine bears fruit. The beautiful proportions of the exterior are carried through to the interior, with its large rooms elaborately decorated with trompe l'oeil paintings of pilasters, swags, medallions and friezes.
Early in the 19th century the house was acquired by the de Wet family, remaining in their tenure throughout the century, until Marie de Wet married Johan Christoffel Koopmans. After her husband's death Marie lived on in the house with her unmarried sister and together they made the fine collection of furniture that forms the nucleus of the museum today. They were also pioneers in matters of conservation, and it is largely due to their efforts that part of the Castle was not demolished to make way for railway lines; and also that the Kruithuis in Stellenbosch did not suffer a similar fate.
The house became a focal point for both social and political gatherings, such diverse personalities as RHODES and Kruger passing through its doorways. After the deaths of the two sisters the building was purchased in 1913, together with its valuable contents, to form a museum, and so remains a living tribute to its past owners.
Lady Florence Phillips was instrumental in having the building bought, restored and furnished.
[Extracted and edited from Picton-Seymour Désirée, 1989. Historical Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: Struikhof Publishers. p, 26.]
The house came under the auspices of the (then) SA Cultural History Museum, Cape Town in 1964, and is now part of Iziko Museums. See their website.
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