The future meets the past in historical house, Villa Sans Souci

2012-11-14 00:00

VILLA Sans Souci was built in 1884 by my great-grandfather John Harwin, whose family has a long history in KwaZulu-Natal. John’s uncle, Richard Harwin, had come ashore at Durban with his mother in 1842 at the age of 16 after his father, a marine surveyor, died at sea while charting the South African coast for the British government. Richard set up the department store in Durban, which was later to become the well-known Greenacres and Harvey. He was to return to England in 1861.

No expense was spared. He commissioned an architect from Germany, Albert Halder, who employed craftsmen from Italy and France to do the building. The house covers 1 000 square metres, and the main passage was designed wide enough to drive an ox wagon down it. The veranda, which encircles the house, would ensure that there was always one part of it sunny enough or cool enough to use. Intricate iron railings were imported from Scotland, and pressed steel ceilings and stained-glass windows of the finest quality were installed. Originally, all the water for the house was rolled in barrels from the uMsunduzi River several kilometres away, but when this became “too impure for human consumption” (even then!), he and a neighbour laid cast-iron pipes from the Dorpspruit. The house took four years to build and was completed in 1884.

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