Woodstock’s historical buildings adapt with the times

The Roodebloem Manor as it stands today – a beautiful example of the magnificent architecture of a time gone by.

Remarkable heritage property, Roodebloem Manor, situated in Cape Town’s vibrant suburb of Woodstock, which has been revived as the gracious headquarters of leading accounting firm, Moore Stephens, reflects the rapid upgrading of this quaint area as the demand for commercial and residential property close to the city intensifies.

Increasingly, the historical properties in Woodstock, which date back to early settlement in Cape Town, are undergoing renovation and recycling, to accommodate trendy offices, restaurants and living spaces.

The fascinating and colourful history of Roodebloem Manor begins back in 1666, when a gentleman by the name of Hendrik Laeirs received a colonial grant known as ‘de Roodebloem’.

In 1877 Mr A. van der Byl, a prominent Capetonian, developed this grant as a successful dairy farm and it was during this time that the Roodebloem Manor was built as the family home, set in farmlands that reached down to the foreshore.

The way of life established by the van der Byl family continued until 1903 when the property was sold to Mr Charles Boyd and soon after that the manor house became a hotel named after Lord Milner, the governor of the Cape at the time. Lord Milner stayed at the hotel soon after it opened.

The Lord Milner Hotel became known as a first class residential hotel and was a very successful business that changed hands in 1916, 1920 and again in 1930 and was repeatedly visited by celebrities of the time.

In 1988 Gray Security Services bought the building for office use and changed the name back to Roodebloem Manor.

Moore Stephens chartered accountants bought the property in 2005, and undertook major building work to restore the building to its former glory and to adapt the structure to accommodate a modern financial practice.

“The Roodebloem Manor was purchased by Moore Stephens as we felt that its character and charm would not easily be found again and it was more in keeping with the image that we reflect as a firm, as opposed to a glossy, clinical, newly built high rise building,” says Julian van der Westhuizen, chairman of Moore Stephens South Africa.

“We were also excited by the challenge of seeing what we could do with the building and the fact that we could build and renovate to our exact requirements.”

“It is a gracious building of great quality which retains many of its original features. There is also an old fig tree in the garden that is believed to be over 200 years old. Because of its age and importance, the tree has been listed as a national monument.”

“When we purchased Roodebloem Manor we needed to make several changes to the building and these were undertaken in three phases,” explains van der Westhuizen.

“Phase one involved the conversion and refurbishment of the existing building into a suitable environment for our corporate headquarters, with parking facilities for 60 vehicles. We also added a fully indigenous, landscaped garden to the property during this phase.”

“During phase two, we embarked on the addition of a two storey office wing extension with the ground floor being made up primarily of glass partitioned offices and the upper level mostly open plan in order to maximise light and ventilation.”

“Additionally, during this phase we made essential allowances for Moore Stephens’ continued growth and future expansion through the design and development of a mezzanine level which effectively allows for three interconnected floor space areas within the two-storey height restriction imposed by the zoning scheme requirements of the Woodstock conservation area.”

Finally, phase three has just been completed in the form of a two-storey filing and archiving facility of 100 square metres – resulting in an overall build area of about 2150 square metres.

Van der Westhuizen explains that the new additions, although of a contemporary nature, respect the typology of the existing historic building – continuing the façade treatment, regularly punctuated by large sash windows and horizontally scaled by plaster moulded cornices.

“Roodebloem Manor is now ideally suited to accommodate our significantly expanded accounting and auditing practice, and our clients really enjoy the character of the environment,” says van der Westhuizen.

Van der Westhuizen believes that Woodstock is a relatively undiscovered gem in terms of its close proximity to the CBD and its vibrant community atmosphere.

The area has had a bumpy ride, from being a lively and progressive area, which attracted much industry and development, to a period of slow decline in the mid 1980’s when the major retailers relocated out of the area.

Sustained efforts by residents and businesses in the suburb, resulted in The Cape Town City Council forming the Woodstock Improvement District which has attracted business and development.

“The suburb is shrugging off the neglect, unravelling magnificent architecture under layers of grime,” concludes van der Westhuizen.

“There's no doubt that Cape Town's property boom, and the trend towards inner city living, has resulted in Woodstock’s renaissance.”

Article from: www.moorestephens.co.za