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MEISCHKE, Mattheus Carel August

Born: 1859 12 02
Died: 1935 04 30


He was born in Soest, the Netherlands, the third of the four children of Johan Coenraad Meischke (*2.3.1828) and his wife, Anna Maria van Zoelen (*25.8.1829). Meischke's surname points to German ancestry, although both his parents were born in the Netherlands. He was persuaded to come to South Africa by his brother’s brother-in-law, JE VIXSEBOXSE and he emigrated to the Transvaal Republic in 1889 when he was twenty-nine. He sailed in the Dunbar Castle making friends with other emigrants such as the architect JB WIJERS, and Hendrik SEMMELINK, a builder like himself, who was on his way to Johannesburg. The latter subsequently worked with him and acted as his manager from time to time.

One of Meischke's first undertakings as an independent builder in the Transvaal Republic was the erection of the Leydsdorp Post Office and other government structures there in 1891.

Of the other projects done for the ZAR DPW are the the well-known Rissik Street Post Office in Johannesburg (1896-98) where his name is engraved in the foundation stone, and the Johannesburg Landdrost's Building (which after its demolition in 1948 was replaced by the Vanderbijl Square). In November 1897 he obtained a contract to build the post-offices at Braamfontein, Fordsburg, and Jeppe. In 1898, the same year they were started, the buildings were complete.

He was contractor to various buildings for the NZASM including stations on the Delagoa Bay (Eastern) line, the Krugersdorp Railway Station and proximate double 'C' type cottage (1896-97), the Middelburg Station, the Park Street Station, Johannesburg (ascribed), many buildings in Waterval Boven including the NZASM Headquarters Building of the Eastern Line (1895). In 1895 he successfully tendered for the earthworks and masonry on the first section of the South-Western NZASM Line through Krugersdorp to Potchefstroom, where in 1899 he built the station and probably the associated double cottages.

Meischke's activities were interrupted by the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) in which he took part as a volunteer. Uys (2011) cites from a memoir of BOURSSE that, as member of the Heidelberg-Klip River Field Cornetcy, he served with Mattheus MEISCHKE and Hendrik Simmelink [SEMMELINK] amongst others in the South African War. He was seriously wounded during the battle of Spioenkop on 1900 01 24. After he had recovered sufficiently he returned to the Netherlands, where he remained until peace was declared (31 May 1902) before returning to the Transvaal Colony. Although at first it was not easy for a 'Kruger-Hollander', his knowledge, experience and perseverance enabled him to obtain new commissions such as the luxury Cullinan Building (1905-06), which was pulled down in 1966; in 1906 the equally impressive Transvaalsche Bank en Handelsvereeniging (the later 'Security House' which was demolished in 1974) and three power stations on the East Rand during 1907-08. After this he had the lion's share in erecting the two wings of the impressive Union Buildings (1910-13) with the spires and Atlas figures on top. In Johannesburg he was responsible for the Training College in Braamfontein, the massive Johannesburg City Hall, the foundation stone bearing his name engraved, and the Johannesburg Municipal Offices (1912-20), as well as for his own Meischke Building at 42 Harrison Street, on the corner of Market Street. Although he settled in the Netherlands once more in 1927 he paid several visits to the Transvaal after that. When his wife died in December 1931 he was living at Bennekom.

He was a member and president of the Transvaal Master Builders' Association, as well as belonging to the Rand Pioneer Association established on 1903 07 08.

Meischke was held in high esteem, being an artisan and businessman in whom people had great confidence. He made a substantial contribution to the development of the building industry in the Transvaal. He was a man of high standing, known for his generosity, although the assistance he rendered, considerable as it was, was given without ostentation.

Meischke remained a bachelor almost to the end of his career as an active builder and it was only on 1916 08 16 that he was married in London to Louise Anna Dedlow (nee Bruus). They had no children. In the will of Meischke's wife, drawn up in 1926, two sons of her previous marriage, as well as her mother, who lived in Altona on the Elbe in Germany, are mentioned among the heirs. Meischke died in London, England.

There are portraits of Meischke in the Gedenkboek Nederlandsche Vereeniging, Johannesburg 1892-1932 and in Africana Notes and News.

(Transvaal Arch., Pta.: R.K. 126: arch. pap. of the Red Cross; N.135: Annual reports of the Postmaster General 1885-98; N. 141: Annual reports of Public Works, Z.A.R. 1890-99; Estates no. 78001/1931 and 88730/1935; - The Star, 26.1.1897, 30.6.1898, 7.4.1915 and 2.5.1935;- Rand Pioneers, Annual Reports, 1904 and 1905; - The South African Architect and Builder, 1905 and 1906; - South African Building News and Contractors' Journal, 1906, 1907; - De Volkstem, 11,25 and 29.11.1910; Die Volkstem, 6.5.1935, 20.5.1949; - j SEMMELINK. 'Bouer M.C.A. Meischke 1859-1935', A.N.N., Sept. 1975; - Private information: Mr A.H. Blom, Jbg.; Bevolkingsregister, Soest, Neth.)

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.

List of projects

With photographs
With notes

City Hall: 1915 : 1937. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Contractor
Cullinan Building: 1906. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Contractor
General Post Office: 1897 : 1905. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Contractor
Landdrost's Building: c1898. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Contractor
Meischke's Building: c1920. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Contractor
Municipal Offices: 1920. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Contractor
NZASM Eastern Line Headquarters Building: 1895. Emgwenya (Waterval Boven), Mpumalanga - Contractor
NZASM Eastern Line Railway Station: 1896. Middelburg, Mpumalanga - Contractor
NZASM Rand Tram Railway Station: 1896. Krugersdorp, Gauteng - Contractor
NZASM South-Western Line Railway Station: 1897. Potchefstroom, North West - Contractor
Post Office: 1898. Jeppestown, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Contractor
Post Office: 1898. Braamfontein, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Contractor
Post Office: 1898. Fordsburg, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Contractor
Post Office: 1891. Leydsdorp, Limpopo - Contractor
Training College: c1910. Braamfontein, Johannesburg, Gauteng - Contractor
Transvaalsche Bank en Handelsvereeniging (later Security House): 1906. Johannesburg, Gauteng - Contractor
ZAR Road Bridge over the Spekboom River (Steenkamp Bridge): 1897. Mashishing (Lydenburg), Mpumalanga - Contractor

Books citing MEISCHKE

De Jong, RC, Van der Waal, GM. 1988. NZASM 100 : 1887-1899, the buildings, steam engines and structures of the Netherlands South African Railway Company. Pretoria: C. Van Rensburg Publications on behalf of the Human Sciences Research Council. pp 95, 101, 123, 127, 140, 202, 205, 209

HSRC. 1981. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume IV. Pretoria: Butterworth & Co (SA) for Human Sciences Research Council. pp 356-357

Ploeger, Jan. 1994. Nederlanders in die Transvaal 1850-1950. Pretoria: Van Schaik. pp 91-92

Uys, Ian. 1981. Heidelbergers of the Boer War. Knysna: Forest Books. pp

van der Waal, Gerhard-Mark. 1987. From Mining Camp to Metropolis - The buildings of Johannesburg 1886-1940. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council. pp 103

Walker, Michael. 2013. The pioneer architects of Johannesburg and their buildings (1886 - 1899) with postcard illustrations. St James: The Kalk Bay Historical Association. pp 20, 49