Residents of Saldanha Bay will soon have to say goodbye to the famous Vingerhoedhuisie on the corner of Camp and Manitoka Streets.
This historic landmark in the town is expected to be demolished sooner rather than later to make way for a modern apartment block after the Western Cape division of the South African Heritage Resources Agency this week approved the demolition of the well-known structure.
This after Saldanha Bayers such as Edwin Dwyer, an environmentalist and tour guide, fought tooth and nail for the preservation of the historic house that is more than 100 years old.
However, residents of the town only recently heard about the planned demolition and noted that they can submit comments about it. Nine comments were nevertheless received within the legal requirement of 30 days, which expired on 16 June 2023.
The Vingerhoedhuisie with its distinctive thatched roof is believed to have been built in the early 1900s by one Duncan family before the Saldanha Bay Harbor and Railway Company acquired the site in 1914.
Some residents remember that the house was at one stage a dairy with two dairy cows on the property. And in the 1960s, Uncle Daantjie Binneman cut hair in the Vingerhoedhuisie.
The house is currently vacant.
Dwyer says teachers on Saldanha, however, had plans to transform the Fingerhuedhuisie into a learning center in the town to keep the children off the streets.
Some Saldanha Bayers also hoped that the cottage could be protected in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act. This law states that a structure or any part of a structure that is over 60 years old must be considered worthy of preservation.
But according to the heritage impact report carried out in preparation for the development of the apartment block, so many structural changes have been made to the so-called Thimble House over the years that it is no longer worthy of preservation.
Dwyer wants to differ from that report.
He says that only normal maintenance work has been done over the years. The original thatched roof was replaced at some stage and the house’s walls were repainted. A boundary wall and burglar bars were also forced to be installed after miscreants broke into the house.
Some changes have also been made to the interior decoration, such as new tiles and kitchen cabinets.
“But jeez, over the years a floor runs through moss. It must be replaced at some stage.”
Dwyer maintains that no changes have been made to the home’s structure. “It still stands as it was built that day. That house is over 100 years old.”
He says the local municipality was of little help when he hurriedly knocked on the door in an attempt to stop the planned demolition. “They also say the house is not worth preserving.
“That house is the only one of its kind in this country. Believe me, there is no other house that looks like this.”
Concerns about development
The villagers are not only sad that the house will not be preserved, but are also now worried about the problems that will arise after it is demolished and replaced with an apartment building.
Dwyer says there have been attempts to build an apartment block before, but Saldanha has an enormous amount of underground limestone. Large excavations were done for an underground car park and pillars were erected. However, the construction work was suddenly stopped after a few months because the ground was apparently unstable.
It is more than a year later and the building site has since become an eyesore on the town, says Dwyer. He says there is also a sewage problem in the area. “The Thimble House is across the sea where there are sewer pipes. The drains often overflow and raw sewage then flows into the sea.
“I also don’t know if the town’s current pipeline will be able to handle the sewage, because it was installed when the town was very small and few people lived here. Another apartment block will only put more pressure on the system.”