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Muizenberg, Western Cape

BLACK and FAGG: Architect
Charles McCARTHY: Contractor



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34°06'24.33" S 18°28'01.93" E Alt: 20m

"Of these projects [by BLACK & FAGG] the most outstanding one was the design of the Muizenberg Synagogue. William BLACK was well respected by the Muizenberg-Kalk Bay Hebrew community and particularly by their President, Mr Nathan Emdin. In September 1920 he had designed a new mortuary for the Jewish Cemetery in Margate Road (Cape Town Municipality Plan No 7239), and was more than likely involved in the early sketch plans of the synagogue before his untimely death in 1922. His brother Herbert and William FAGG completed the plans in 1923. Charles McCARTHY completed the construction of the synagogue at the end of 1925, and the ceremonial key to mark the official opening was presented to Advocate Mr M. Alexander K.C.; M.L.A. on 17 January 1926 to great acclaim by one and all.

The entrance of the synagogue with its four columns and wide steps is imposing but the design of the frontage with the buttress-like double-storey projections on either side of the entrance with symmetrical and classical proportions, and which incorporate relief panels, is most impressive.

The synagogue has remained the same with little alteration since the Rev. A. P. Bender, on laying the foundation stone on 14 February 1924, rejoiced with Mr Nathan Emdin, President of the Muizenberg-Kalk Bay Hebrew Congregation, that at last the Jewish fraternity and the countless Jewish holiday-makers to Muizenberg had a place of worship (S.A. Jewish Chronicle, February 1924).

The wait for the start of the construction of the synagogue had been almost five years. The Trustees of the Muizenberg-Kalk Bay Hebrew Congregation had bought the property on 29 March 1919 (Deed of Transfer. No. 2553) for the price of 1 450 pounds. The property had been put up for auction as Lots 14 and 15, Block A of Erf 8644, in the insolvent estate of Professor James Gill. It was administered by the Colonial Orphan Chamber and Trust Company. A small bungalow which lay on the property was originally envisaged to be moved to the back of the synagogue (Architect: Cameron SMITH) and then to be used as a temporary Hebrew school Room (Cape Town Municipality Plan No 14667; January 1928), but this plan was abandoned and the bungalow demolished. In 1955 a succah, for the celebration of the harvest and other festivities, was added. Architect Louis KAROL drew these plans."

Transcribed from:

Walker, M. A Statement in Stone – The early buildings and their architects - Muizenberg – St James - Kalk Bay 1897-1927. Michael Walker, 2010.

[Submitted by William MARTINSON, February 2011]

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.