Paarl Heritage Trail

Paarl is the third oldest settlement in South Africa. First established as a farming community in 1687 when 20 farmers were given land along the Berg River. The Valley was named after a Dutch commissioner who visited the Cape in 1685 – Hendrik Adriaan van Reede tot Drakenstein, Lord of Mijdrecht. Also the mountains towering over the Drakenstein Valley bear his name –Klein Drakenstein in the East and Groot Drakenstein in the South.

Abraham Gabbema, on a DEIC expedition in 1657, named the 2 largest Boulders on Paarl Mountain “den Diamant ende Peerlbergh” – the Diamond and the Pearl – from which the town later took the name Paarl.

This WALKING TOUR takes you along one of the best preserved 19thC streets in South Africa with a rich legacy of beautiful old buildings.

***Content provided courtesy of Cathy Raymond, Drakenstein Heritage Foundation.


Wynand Louw: the first Afrikaans speaking architect in South Africa designed several of the most prominent buildings in Cape Town at the time. Heavily influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement as well as the later Art Deco styles, Wynand Louw designed many important buildings in Cape Town during the 1st half of the 20thC.

Antonie de Wit: came to SA at the request of Pres Burgers of the Transvaal republic in the late 19thC. His Dutch renaissance style dominated many buildings around the turn of the century especially the Lennon’s Chemists. Trademark little Dutch gables and intricate plaster decorations – medallions, etc.

Herbert Baker: a British architect who restored the Groote Schuur Estate in Cape Town for Cecil John Rhodes. His work on old Cape Dutch houses re-kindled interest in the style and for the next 30 years the Cape Dutch Revival style remained popular.

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Styles & Estimated Periods in Architecture

Romanesque Style

From the 6th century

A style of medieval Europe characterized by semi-circular arches. It developed in the 12th century into the Gothic style, marked by pointed arches. Combining features of ancient Roman and Byzantine buildings and other traditions, known by its massive quality, thick walls, round arches, sturdy pillars, groin vaults, large towers and decorative arcading.

Neo Gothic


Gothic Revival draws features from the original Gothic style, including decrotive patterns, finals, scalloping, lancet windows, hood mouldings, and label stops.

Cape Dutch

1750 – 1820+

Simple thatch-roof cottages in the late 17th century to the larger T-, U-, and H- shape with gables reflecting the styles and wealth of the periods up to the middle of the 19thC. The facades were symmetrical with small-paned windows on either side of a “stable” style front door. Houses wew white-washed with green joinery.

Vernacular Style

1750 – 1850

Vernacular Style or known as Traditional Architecture of the period is traditional architecture passed down from person to person, generation to generation, particularly orally, but at any level of society.

Neo-Classical Style


Brought to the Cape by the French architect Louis Michel Thibault who was trained in the classical styles of Rome & Greece, it is characterized by symmetry, triangular pediments, urns and fluted pilasters and style dominated the town houses and country gables of the period.

Cape Georgian Style

1800 – 1840

The 2nd British occupation brought about a change in building laws, materials and fashions. Houses were often flat-roofed double-storeys, with large sash windows and 8-panelled double front doors leading into a passage.

Victorian Style

1850 – 1910

An architecture style that developed during the reign of Queen Victoria. The industrial Revolution resulted in many new machine-made materials becoming available and in the Cape this was characterized by corrugated iron roofs, verandahs with decorative “brookie-lace” pillares, turrets, and fancy plasterwork on the walls.

Cape Dutch Renaissance

1850 – 1930+

Is an all-encompassing designation that covers many 19th century architectural revival styles which were neither Grecian nor Gothic but which instead drew inspiration from a wide range of classicizing Italian modes.

Edwardian Style

1910 – 1930+

Edwardian architecture is an architecture style popular during the reign of King Edward VII of the UK. Edwardian architecture is generally less ornate tha high or late Victorian architecture.

Art Deco Style


Art Deco features geometric shapes, clear and precise lines, and decoration which is attached to the structure, often in the form of metal or ceramic sculptures. Art Deco’main characteristics are derived from the various painting styles of the early twentieth century, ranging from Cubism to Italian Futurism

Buildings of the Paarl Heritage Trail

Het Gesticht Church


Built in 1813 as a school, church and meeting house for slaves by people of Paarl who supported missionary societies. It was handed over to the Paarl Missionary Society in 1817 and remained in use until a larger church was built 1841. It is built in the characteristic neo-gothic style deemed suitable for churches in the 19thC. The pediment narrow front has an excellent 8-paneled teak door topped by a fine gothic style fanlight. The original bell-tower stands to the side.

Slavery in the Cape
Between 1658 and 1808, 63,000 slaves from different parts of the world were Imported into the Cape Colony. This lead to the establishment of a truly unique slave population. Slaves came from Gambia, Nigeria, (26.5% East Africa) Angola, Mozambique, Madagascar (25.1%) India (25%) Ceylon, Indonesia, Batavia and the Spice Islands (22,7%) Slave labour changed the Cape from a small refreshment station into an important agricultural colony.
The British government colonized the Cape in 1806 and freed the slaves in 1834.



A classic Cape Georgian house built in the mid 19thC, it still has the original teak 8-panelled front door and arched geometric fanlight flanked by elegant sliding sash windows.  The Georgian elegance is accentuated by the fluted pilasters on either side of the doors and the fine glazing bars in the windows. I.P de Villiers acquired the property in 1823 and probably converted an existing thatched cottage to this very fashionable home.

One of the unique features of Paarl’s historic Main Street is the large number of farms still existing along the road.  Notice the lovely vista over the valley and of the Klein Drakenstein mountains behind the plum farm on your right.
Across the road: No 124 A charming Victorian cottage, one of many found throughout town.
It has attractive plasterwork on the façade and corners, louvered sash windows and an attractive timber veranda.
Further along at no 132 is a magnificent 7-bay Victorian double story town house C 1860, with plaster surrounds and pediments above the elegant sash windows. It has the original 8-panelled doors in teak. Few such elegant 19thC houses still exist.

(3) No 128-132

The solid line of builings incorporates an early Cape Dutch H-shaped house on the left which has been altered and joined to the neighbors over the years. The attractive arched entrance to the back is original.

The last house in hte row (No 132) was also altered from an earlier Cape Dutch building with clear traces remaining in the places of the front door and two narrow side windows that made up the 18th Century entrance hall. It is now a magnificent seven-bay late 19th Century Victorian double storey house with origginal eight-paneled teak doors flanked by large 4 x 3 paned windows.

The upper storey is a lateer addition with smaller sashes. The attractive plaster surrounds of the windows nad heavy pediments supported on scrolls above the ground floor openings lend stature to this handsome building.


Originally a much larger space for the faithful to park their wagons when coming to church. There are 2 charming homes, no 7 and 9 still intact and dating from the early 19thC at the bottom of the square.


The church represents the vernacular style of the period with its simple cross design and gracious gables. It was designed by a German military engineer Major Georg Conrad Kuchler. The austere interior reflects the Calvinistic ethic of the Dutch Reformed church. The neo-classical bell tower dates from 1811.

The Huguenots started arriving at the Cape in 1688 and at first held their church services, initially in French, in a barn on the farm Babylonstoren.  A proper church was built on this site in 1717 and remained in use until its poor construction forced the congregation to build the “new” church in 1805 which is still in use today.

The gable reflects the text “Sol Justitiae Illustra Nos” meaning “The sun of Righteousness shines upon us”. The Strooidak was the only church serving the Drakenstein Valley until, first Wellington 1840, and then Franschhoek 1845, started their own congregations.

The situation of this church contributed to the growth of the predominantly farming settlement into a thriving town.


Opposite the church, situated in a magnificent setting of trees and vineyards against the granite backdrop of Paarl Mountain, is the parsonage of the Strooidak Church. This Cape Dutch Revival building was built in 1955 in place of an earlier Victorian building that was demolished. The original parsonage of this church currently houses the Paarl Museum.

Nos 165 & 167: two charming small Victorian cottages with original broekie-lace verandas and attractive plaster rustications on the walls. The curved veranda roof and slender sashes with external shutters accentuate the small proportions of the cottages.

No 169: The corner is rounded off by a large Edwardian house with a wrap-around veranda in which there are now a number of interesting little shops.

Cross the road towards the attractive square on the left hand side.


Named after Dr Johannes Rudolph Zeederberg, who in 1848 was appointed Paarl’s first District Surgeon, a post which he held until 1881. This dynamic man also served on the Town Council, was a Justice of the Peace, a property speculator, an insurance broker, and the Chairman of the Western Province Bank. His house, no 1 Zeederberg Square, dates from the mid 1840’s and is an excellent example of an early Cape Georgian Town House. It is a house of beautiful proportions perfectly reflecting the “Age of Elegance”.
All the original external features are still intact i.e. the 8-panelled front door, framed by fluted architraves and with an elegant geometric fanlight, the double glass doors with deep, fine-edged glazing bars and flush panels and louvered shutters are features that make this one of the finest houses of its time and type.
The plaster work on the front wall resembles bricks and is meant to be painted red with a white edge around each brick (see No 189) Note the stars and swathes moulded in plaster along the straight parapet. This is one of Paarl’s most gracious homes.


The attractive row of houses (no’s 2 – 5) on the square are much earlier than No 1 with some featuring later additions. The elegant lace-like cast iron and wooden verandas were very popular after 1860, and many Cape Dutch homes were altered to utilize the more practical, decorative and functional corrugated iron – such a strong feature of British colonial towns all over the world at that time. On the Southern side of the square stand an early 18thC Warehouse, once a familiar sight in commercial centres.

Zion Church


Built in 1841 when the Rev George Barker found the Het Gesticht Mission Church too small for the congregation of ex-slaves. The Ladies’ Working Societies in Cape Town and in London raised money for the construction of this simple neo-Gothic church.
One wing was added later. Named the Zion Church, it remained in service until the congregation, which was largely from the Cape Coloured community, was forcibly moved out of the area in the early 1960’s due to the Group Areas Act. This left the church without a
congregation for many years. It is currently used by the Hervormde Kerk.

Bank of the Western Province


Established as the WP Bank in 1847 this sedate, imposing building with its gracious pillared portico and heavily moulded pediment in the classical style was considered very grand at that time. The magnificent decorative balustrades all along the balconies and the imposing pediment first floor door add stature to the building. The WP Bank was the leading bank in Paarl, even issuing its own bank notes, until 1891. Most of its success was due to the discovery of diamonds and gold in the North and the development of the wagon making industry in Paarl. The balcony was added in 1895. The Standard Bank used the building until 1935.

(10) STREETSCAPE: PRESS BUILDING no’s 187 – no 189

A unique feature of Paarl, these complete rows of gracious buildings representing 200 years of styles popular at the Cape, are treasured monuments. The Press Building is described as a Dutch Renaissance Revival building and was designed by A. de Wit – a Dutch architect
brought out to the Transvaal by Pres Burgers in the 1880’s. The intricate details and plaster rustications feature splendidly against the backdrop of the plaster imitating red bricks. The house is characteristic of the Dutch architect Antoni de Witt’s eclectic asymmetry.
Typical pattern book embellishments abound i.e. the balconies, turrets, spheres, decorative pillar, etc.
The name Glassberg refers to a well-known photographer of that time. It is currently owned by the Press family.


Is an early Cape Dutch H-shaped House built for C.C. Bernhardi in 1795. It has hipped gable ends, its stately simplicity emphasized by the convex concave (holbol), pediment gable and its perfect proportions.
Small casement windows and a simple “stable” front door were typical of Cape Dutch houses of the time. The interior has yellowwood floors and ceilings. The early Victorian double- storey shop attached to the house was built c 1850 and the name “van der Spuy Bros. Steam Mill” appeared on its parapet. This referred to a mill at the back of the complex and the building served as a shop where flour and bread was sold.


(12) No 193: ZOMERLUST

Originally built in 1740, all that remains of the original Cape Dutch house are the cellars and the old coach house.
Over the years, the wealthy owners changed the house – in the mid 19thC to a fashionable Cape Georgian double storey and then later further additions including the 20t C portico. The 5 bay façade has elegant louvered sash windows. The house belonged to a prominent brandy making family who owned the Paarl Wine and Brandy Co in the early 20th C.
The brandy warehouse stood opposite the house and popular myth has it that Mr de Villiers had a pipe running under the Main Road into his cellar directly from a choice brandy barrel. Hence the name of the pub in Zomerlust “Die Kraan” which translates as “The Tap”.

Nos 203 and 205 are 2 elegantly simple buildings of the early 20thC.

Across the road…
There is a plaque on the newly renovated façade of the motor dealership commemorating the grand old warehouse of the Paarl Wine & Brandy Co. (established 1856) which was demolished in1955.

Huis Vergenoegd


Another beautiful row of buildings representing a Century’s tastes; Cape Georgian c 1850 (no 172), Late Victorian c 1899 (no 186) and Cape Dutch c 1800 (no 188) styles.

No 172: the elegant 7-bay double storey of this Cape Georgian style house consists of large double sliding sash windows and 8-paneled double front doors with fine geometric fanlights.
The Magistrate’s Court was housed here until late in the 20th C.

No 186: An Antoni de Witt masterpiece dd 1899. The towering moulded gables rest on a balustrade pediment above the decoratively plastered façade. The front is somewhat spoiled by the display windows on the ground floor which were set back in the 1980’s to accommodate future road widening.
Still one of Paarl’s most imposing buildings. There is an old domed late 18thC well behind the building – the last remaining well in Paarl.

No 188: a thatched Cape Dutch building c 1810 displays some English influence in that it has an entrance hall and a Georgian style front door. It was the home of Paarl’s first Magistrate in 1843. The house was purchased by Historical Homes of SA and restored in 1967. The roof was raised to increase roof space.

Cross Building

(14) No 217: P.M. CROSS BUILDING

Built in 1899 for commercial purposes, this building reflects the latest fashion at the time. The plate-glass display windows are well sheltered from the elements by the cast-iron stoep, inviting customers to enter and shop. Note the encaustic tiling at the entrance and the steel pressed ceilings. It is the last intact double storey commercial building left in Paarl from the Victorian period.

Patriot Building


This once proud building has lost much of its Victorian charm but stands as a reminder of the early days after the recognition of the Afrikaans Language as a new African language in1875. Fervent supporters started producing Afrikaans literature and a printing press, D.F. du Toit &Co, was established here where first Die Patriot and later the Paarl Post newspaper were published.

19th Century Cape Dutch House


No 188 : A thatched Cape Dutch building c 1810 displays some Eglish influence in that it has an entrance hall and a Georgian style front door. It was the home of Paarl’s first Magistrate in 1843. The house was purchased by Historical Homes of SA and restored in 1967. The roof was raised to increase roof space.

De Woning

(17) No 210 DE WONING

This 18th C Cape Dutch house has retained its gracious convex concave gable – dd 1784. Vernacular architecture at its best – simple casement windows and shutters with a bo-en-onder (i.e. stable) door in the centre, this house represents many country homes of the time. The simplicity of the façade adds to its charm. It is an H-shaped plan. It was once owned by S.P. Jordaan, the grandson of Huguenot Jean Jourdan, The Paarl Municipality restored the house in 1982. Currently it houses the town archives, a valuable record of documents and photographs relating to the history of Paarl.
Open: 10 – 12 Mon to Fri.

(18) NO 218 – 220

A beautiful Edwardian double storey commercial building with particularly attractive shop fronts. The heavy pillared balcony and lead light panels date from the 1920’s.

Holy Trinity Church


Neo-classical in style, this Anglican church was consecrated in 1883. It has a beautiful rose window in the gable. The chancel (1920) and the portico (1949) are memorials to the slain in the two great wars.

Blignaut House

(20) NO 228-230 BLIGNAUT HUIS

A most attractive striped veranda hides a perfectly intact Cape Georgian façade with elegant eight panelled teak front door and sash windows c 1855. This house may have been built as a semi-detached building and still has two doors. Note the beautiful decorative plasterwork above.

Paarl Boys High School


Established in 1868 this is one of the oldest Boys’ schools in the country with a long and proud tradition. Berlyn has a particularly attractive late 19C timber and iron veranda and Houses the Boys High School museum.

Across the road, is a lovely triple gabled Cape Dutch Revival building C 1928. originally the Paarl Jail. Continue walking past the car dealerships to Market Street. Down to your right, in the park sits the gracious Cape Dutch Revival building that houses the old Magistrate’s Court.

Magistrates Court


Completed in 1912, this elegant building reflects the Cape Dutch Revival style so popular at that time. After the work done by Herbert Baker on the Groote Schuur Estate, there was renewed interest in Cape Dutch with its gables, geometrical, small paned windows and heavy front doors. Extensively used by government architects, many SA towns retain the post offices, banks and court buildings built in the Cape Dutch Revival style.

Art Deco


Paarl Main Street has some excellent examples of buildings in the Art Deco style. Art Deco represents a combination of influences in Europe in the 1920’s notably of the antique cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia. The geometric lines are clearly seen in no 244 – although rather badly preserved, the façade is an excellent example of Art Deco hidden under plastic white paint. No 248 is an Edwardian commercial building with large display windows and elegant pilasters supporting an imposing gabled portico and veranda.


This imposing building was designed by Wynand Louw and completed in 1928. In the vernacular style it has elements of Cape Dutch and neo-classical architecture. The frieze was designed by Hugo Naude, a prominent SA artist.

(25) No 258

Designed by A.L. Meiring for the Paarl Chamber of Executors in the 1930’s. It is one of the earliest “modern” buildings in Paarl and combines different elements like granite, wood, glass and chrome. It later became the Syfrets Bank and until recently the headquarters of the Canning Fruit Board. Notice the decorative stone frieze with carved animals along the side.

Alongside is another charming row of buildings reflecting changing tastes during the 19th and 20th C.

(26) No 260 – 266

An Edwardian townhouse c 1910 with attractive plaster rustications decorating the simple well-proportioned façade. And large windows onto an open stoep. Note the attractive barge boards.

Right next door at no 264 is an upright double storey little gem with a late Victorian gable C 1899.

No 264: AM de Villiers building. A large 5-bay, double storey c 1854 with replaced sash windows. It displays the clean lines preferred in the mid 19thC.

Hout Street Gallery

(27) No 270

Most charming is the corner shop with its attractive teak bay windows. It has fine sash windows and a double 8-paneled door along the side in Hout Street. This is a good example of a business cum house and it has been used as such since the late 19thC when it was a dress shop called La Mode.

Protea BioScope


1939 -an Art Deco masterpiece and one of the few remaining
bioscopes (cinemas) built in this style throughout South Africa in the late 1930’s. Motor dealerships and bioscopes were the fashion industries between the wars and they reflected the new Art Deco style. It has a modernized interior and a badly altered corner façade.


This double storey house has a 5 bay façade and reflects the vernacular style of the early Victorian period c 1850. It belonged to Gideon Malherbe when a meeting was held in 1875 where Afrikaans was first acknowledged as a separate language differing markedly from its root language, Dutch. The Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners was established which had as its aim the promotion of the “new” language. Various books including the Bible, translated into Afrikaans, were published, poetry was written and a regular newspaper was printed here. This museum was opened in 1975. The history of these “fathers of the language” is portrayed in detail. Opening times 10 – 5 Mon to Fri.

Church Hall


Completed in 1927 at a cost of 11000 pounds, this charming church hall with its plaster rustications and bowed sides reflects an era when no expense was spared to decorate a building of importance.

Paarl Mountain


This is the largest visible pluton (granite outcrop) in South Africa and was formed 500 million years ago when igneous rock was pushed up from the earth’s mantle. The two largest boulers were named the Pearl and the Diamond in the 17thC – hence the name Paarl for teh town. Indigenous people refered to the mountain as the Tortoise Mountain.



A magnificent neo-Gothic church that dominates the Paarl skyline. The Toringkerk was designed by Sherwood, Davidge & Pitts of Cape Town and cost 22,000 pounds. Completed in 1911. The church can seat 2000 people. The magnificent ceiling has wooden supports carved to represent the Biblical crown of thorns. The organ was supplied by Norman & Beard of London. This church was built as a sister church to the Strooidak Church when the congregation of Paarl became too big for one church.



Built 1858, one of only 3 buildings in the Cape with Egyptian decorations popular in the mid 19th C when the construction of the Suez Canal revived interest in all things Egyptian. Built in the vernacular style it has finely glazed windows and 8-paneled double door with arched fanlight, yet dominating it, is a strange tower reminiscent of Middle Eastern temple styles. The proportions are pleasing and it was one of the most important buildings of its time. The Gymnasium was built as a private school by GWA van der Lingen so that the boys of his congregation could be educated in Dutch, their mother – tongue. This was one of many small private schools established in reaction to the British law that all public schools would use only the medium of English for instruction. Plaster figures of the goddess Hothar, the sun god Ra, sphinxes, scarabs and lotus flowers attest to van der Lingen’s love of Egyptology – rather a strange hobby for a strict Calvinist!

Paarl Museum


The museum is housed in this old Cape Dutch House which is one of the earliest in Paarl. The Dutch Reformed congregation of Drakenstein (Paarl) was established in 1691 at the insistence of the newly arrived Huguenots. Ground for the building of a parsonage was purchased here in 1714 and the first building was probably built in 1715. This Cape Dutch house was built in 1787 in the traditional U-shape and still retains the original fixed-transom windows and most of the internal doors. The gables and front door were changed during major restoration in 1937 when the dilapidated house was purchased for museum purposes. 1938 was the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the Huguenots in SA and the people of Paarl, many of them descendants of the Huguenots, wanted to create a Huguenot Museum in their memory. Many family treasures were donated to the museum at that time. The museum houses one of the best collections of Cape Armoires and a complete Cape Dutch kitchen. The history of local resistance against Apartheid is also displayed.

Opening times:

Mon-Fri: 09h00 – 16h00

Sat:  09h00 – 13h00

Public Holidays: 09h00 – 14h00