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Government Buildings - National Museum of Afrikaans Literature
Bloemfontein, Free State

Richard Carl George Theodor WOCKE: Architect 1875
DEPARTEMENT VAN PUBLIEKE WERKEN - ORANJE-VRIJSTAAT REPUBLIEK: Architect 1895
Johannes Egbertus VIXSEBOXSE: Design Architect 1895
BAKER, MASEY and SLOPER: Architect 1906
Franklin Kaye KENDALL: Supervising Architect 1906
PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT: Architect 1911
Frank TAYLOR: Design Architect 1911

Date:1875 : 1895 : 1906 : 1911
Type:Government Buildings
Status:Extant

 


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Coordinates:
29°06'59.74" S 26°12'58.03" E Alt: 1387m

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The 1911 work has also been ascribed to HAWKE and McKINLAY.

When the corner stone of the new Government offices and Third Raadzaal - which had to replace the humble little building on Market Square - was laid on 31 May 1875 at the top end of Maitland Street, the general complaint was that it was too far out of town; yet after it had been completed two years later, Bloemfontein gradually started expanding in this direction.

The building, one of the many designed in these years by the industrious Richard Wocke, was a simple long single-storey structure behind a verandah, with a high tower in the middle in which a clock was placed. Here the State President and other officials had their offices, while the Volksraad assembled .in the hall behind the tower.

The building however soon proved to be too small for the expanding Free State public service and in 1893 the Volksraad moved to its new building diagonally across President Brand Street. Two years later the Government Buildings were provided with a second storey which improved the dimensions of the building and the tower, and in 1906 an extension at the back was completed, thereby creating a courtyard. The architect Herbert Baker, who later became known for the Union Buildings in Pretoria, was responsible for this design and expressed his satisfaction with his work.

On 28 October 1908 disaster struck the building however when a spectacular fire caused by a short circuit destroyed the greater part of it. Damage amounting to £100 000 (R200 000) was caused and a large quantity of documents and archives were destroyed. This disaster however resulted in unexpected benefit because after it the whole building was rebuilt in the style of Baker's addition and a lighter and more elegant structure of sandstone and brick arose in 1911 with a higher tower, rounded off with a stone crown, all according to the plans of F. Taylor, chief architect of the Department of Public Works.

At present the rebuilt Government offices, saved from demolition at the last moment, are a national monument (proclaimed in 1972) and house the Free State Museum Service and the National Afrikaans Literary Research Centre. The erection of a particularly unattractive modern building immediately behind them unfortunately robbed them of their visual effectiveness at the end of Maitland Street, but they remain a tangible link with Colony and Republic, and a valuable element in the charm of President Brand Street.

(Schoeman 1985:120-22)

(SAAE&S Jnl May 1907:130, 131)

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


Writings about this entry

Greig, Doreen. 1970. Herbert Baker in South Africa. Cape Town: PURNELL. pg 253
Roodt, Leon. 1987. The Architecture of the Orange Free State Republic 1854-1902. Bloemfontein: Unpublished Ph.D. pg 90 ill, 145
Schoeman, Karel. 1980. Bloemfontein: die ontstaan van n stad. Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau. pg 24, 30, 66-67, 91, 112, 192-193, 197, 207 ills 18, 30, 31, 52, 127, 163
Schoeman, Karel. 1985. Boukunsskatte van die Vrystaat / Free State Heritage. Roodepoort: CUM Boeke vir Stigting NALM. pg 120-122
Van Schoor, MCE. 1988. President Brand Street. Bloemfontein: Die Stad Bloemfontein. pg 14 ill, 15 ill, 17