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KÖHLER, William Henry

Born: fl. 1852
Died: 1866


Also spelt KOHLER

Came from England to Cape Town in 1852 where he practised first as an architect but turned to speculative building shortly after his arrival, the venture ending in bankruptcy in 1854. He submitted a design for the Congregational Church, Caledon Square in Cape Town in 1854, this was accepted after some deliberation (PENKETH's proposal being the alternative) but was finally thrown out in favour of a further submission by Penketh (Radford 1979:44-5). During this period he was also employed as a draughtsman in the Colonial Engineer's Department in Cape Town from 1852 until 1857 and it is to Köhler that Radford (1979:225) attributes the design of Roeland Street Gaol (1855-1859) on the basis of his working in the Department at the time and because of similarities between the design of the entrance blocks of both the gaol and the South African library and museum building. Köhler won the competition for the latter building in 1857 with a 'Grecian design' (Radford 1979:227). Köhler resigned from his post as draughtsman in August 1859 before completion of the South African library and museum building (which was completed by G WALLIS). His resignation may have been owing, Radford suggests (1979:227), to the strong criticism concerning the rising costs of the job. In 1858 he submitted a design for the new Somerset hospital under the pseudonym 'Cavalry Officer', it was chosen by the committee appointed but dismissed by the assistant Civil Engineer (Radford 1979:274). After his resignation, Köhler became a travelling clerk of works, employed on the Stellenbosch, Paarl and Malmesbury gaols from September 1859 until December 1861. The years between 1861 and 1866 are obscure; no buildings by him appear to be recorded. He finally left for America in 1866, where he later died, but his family remained in South Africa. His son, Charles William Henry Köhler, a founder of the KWV in the Cape and much better known than his father, wrote of him: 'my father, an architect and engineer came to South Africa from England as a grown man ... photographs in my possession, however, show him as a handsome man of fine physique wearing an enormous beard. I have been told by those who knew him that he was brilliant and charming but that his dilatory, happy-go-lucky disposition caused him to take life too easily to make a success of it' (Köhler 1946:10).

(Köhler 1946; Quarterly Bull SA Libr vol XII 1957-8; Radford 1979; SAWW 1909 (see CWH Köhler); SESA: 6: 429) Calvinia: Plan for Government offices (Köhler 1946:12) 1862

These notes were last edited on 2019 11 29

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

Bedford Villa: 1858. Rondebosch, Cape Town, Western Cape - Architect
Building for J Long: c1855. Cape Town, Western Cape - Architect
Congregational Church: 1857. Cape Town, Western Cape - Architect
Gaol - Now Western Cape Archives: 1855-59 : 1999. Cape Town, Western Cape - Design Architect
House: 1853. Cape Town, Western Cape - Architect
House Attwell: c1858. Rondebosch, Cape Town, Western Cape - Architect
House Sir George Grey - Zorgvliet: n.d.. Oranjezicht, Cape Town, Western Cape - Architect
National Library of South Africa, Cape Town Campus: 1857 - 1864. Cape Town, Western Cape - Architect
Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk: 1861 : 1865 : 1879. Oudtshoorn, Western Cape - Architect
Pair semi-detached houses: 1854. Cape Town, Western Cape - Architect
Warehouse: 1853. Central, Cape Town, Western Cape - Architect

Books citing KÖHLER

Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1989. Historical Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: Struikhof Publishers. pp 16, 17

Potgieter, DJ (Editor-in-chief). 1972. Standard Encyclopaedia of South Africa [SESA] Volume 6 Hun-Lit. Cape Town: Nasou. pp 429

Walker, Michael. 2012. Early architects of Cape Town and their buildings (1820 - 1926) with postcard illustrations, The. St James: Michael Walker. pp 16-17