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Heritage Building Walk: Main Street

Take a fascinating walk though Knysna’s history…

The Old Post Office  –  1924
(now the Knysna Tourism Office)

The Old Knysna Post Office

This building was built in 1924 and served the community as the Knysna Post Office until 1979. Since then the building has been occupied by the Knysna Publicity Association, founded in 1929, with the then Mayor, Dr J U (Barney) du Preez as Chairman. The Publicity Association is now known as Knysna Tourism who sensitively restored the building during 2007 to resemble the original 1924 structure. Prior to the restoration, the Tourism office was well known for the huge Knysna forest elephant skeleton on display in the large front window.

Hilhursheim  –  1864
(now the Harry B’s building)

Knysna Hillhusheim - Knysna Heritage Walk

This building was one of a pair of similar buildings, the other being a store to the west, which were built by William McPherson in the 1860’s.  This surviving building was the first home of the Thesen’s, a Norwegian family who arrived in Knysna in April 1870, initially leasing the two buildings before subsequently buying them in 1872. They named their new South African home “Hilhursheim”

The Imperial Hotel  –  1916

The Knysna Imperial Hotel

On this site stood a thatched wooden building owned by William Gunn McPherson.  Bought by Henry Morgan  in 1890 it later became  known as the West End Hotel. The present building, designed by Sydney Grosvenor of Great Brak River and built by Arthur George Watton, was completed a year after the West End hotel was demolished in 1915. The Knysna Oyster Club and the Knysna Bowling Club both had their formal beginnings on this site. The Devereux family ran the hotel during 1935 to 1974. In 1986 the hotel was enlarged and came under management control of the Protea Hotels Group. In 2010 the building underwent sensitive restoration by Maponya Developers and is now a member of the Quarters Hotel Group.

First National Bank  –  1870

Knysna First National Bank - Heritage Walk

This present building dates back to around 1870 and served as a private home and shop, bought by the Thesen family in 1876. Barclay’s Bank (later FNB) opened their branch on 1 August 1919, renting the building until purchasing same in 1950. The small entrance door in Main Street led to the manager’s residence upstairs. It has been altered over the years with the upper floor converted into banking offices, with the addition of the corner gable. When the Main Street was widened in 1968, elephant bones were found under the front steps.

Jonker Building  –  1898
(now ‘Die ou fabriek’)

The Jonker Builidng, Knysna

On this site stood the first DR Church Hall building, built on land purchased by the church in 1898, bounded by Grey Street on the west, stretching between Main Street and Fichat Street. It was a corrugated iron structure, also used at one time as a Police Station, and later used by a newsagent, The Knysna Advertiser. This present building was built as a furniture factory for Mr. Jacobus Jonker, a locally trained cabinet maker, who bought the southern portion of the property in 1930 for £1800, with a showroom on the Main Street and the furniture factory behind. Today it houses a collection of small craft shops.The old parsonage (ou Pastorie) stands in Fichat Street to the north.

28 Main Street  –  1877

Old Knysna - 28-On-Main

This Victorian building was erected by Hendrik Stroebel around 1877 and sold to his daughter Cornelia who was married to William Groom a well-known apothecary and photographer. William Groom ran his business here. He was sequestrated in 1872 and the property then changed hands a few times before being bought in 1903 by George Parkes snr., founder of Geo. Parkes & Sons, Knysna and subsequently by his son Stephen in 1916, who raised the height of the second floor. The property changed hands again in 1943 when bought by the lawyer and newspaper correspondent Herbert Tidswell. The family continued to live here until 2002.

Templeman’s Arcade – 1883

Built as a store in 1883 for Mrs Brown’s (later Templeman) shop across the road. Partially used after 1895 by Wehrle Jewellers. In 1913 converted by owner James Templeman into a General Dealers shop, adding the plate glass windows in front, on transferring the business from across the road. Bought by Thesen & Co. and closed on sale of the business to Barlow Rand in the mid 1970’s.

War Memorial  –  1922
Memorial square

The Knysna War Memorial

On instigation in 1921 by Harald Thesen, a veteran of the First World War, a subscription list was opened and £450 was collected towards a war memorial to honour those who had lost their lives in the service of their country. Designed by architect Charles Walgate of Cape Town and built by John Donald of Knysna from stone quarried on the Brenton Hills, the memorial included a two-edged bronze sword and wreath designed by Marion Walgate and a bronze plaque by HG Stevens, listing the names of the fallen. The War Memorial was unveiled on 17 December 1922 by The Reverend Captain Alfred Duthie, M.C., Chaplain to the Forces in Flanders and France during The Great War. Plaques bearing the names of the deceased from the Second World War and the Bush War have been added.

Knysna library  –  1893

Old Knysna - The Knysna Library

Built at a cost of £1250, on land purchased from William Lloyd for £65, this stone building replaced an earlier public reading room of timber construction which stood on the corner of Main (previously called Church Street) and Long Streets, built in 1858 during the tenure of the first magistrate Mr James Fichat. Mayor C W Thesen opened the present library building, with its west wing only, which was built by Cooper & Rogers of Oudtshoorn with roofing erected by local carpenter, Andrew Hepburn of The Knysna Forest Company, on 28 November 1893. The east wing was added in 1936 using matching stone, most of which had been quarried in 1893 and stored for the purpose.More recent extensions were completed in 1987 on the north side of the building, with further extensions planned for 2010.

Standard bank  –  1894
(now ‘bank corner’)

Old Knysna Standard Bank Building

The original Standard Bank was a double storey building owned and built by James H. Templeman in 1894, with the banking hall on the ground floor and manager’s dwelling above. After leasing the building for many years, the bank purchased it in February 1919. After World War II, the upper storey was removed and the ground floor was enlarged. In 2007 the Standard Bank moved its offices to the new Knysna Mall and the Knysna Municipality now occupies the building.

Knysna Trading Company  –  1916

The Old Knysna Trading Company

Designed by architects Simpson & Bridgman of Oudtshoorn and built by Coe & Bolton, also of Oudtshoorn, in 1916 on land once owned by Stuttaford & Co. Cape Town, as a General Dealer’s shop for Olaf Ferdinand Franzsen, who also traded in timber, furniture and wagon parts. Note the circular loft ventilators, dentil moldings and rusticated corners, with a local ironstone plinth. Additions were made to the rear of the building in 2008.

Fyfe’s Pharmacy  –  1923

Old Knysna - Fyfes Pharmacy

The building stands on land originally bought in 1883 by Thomas Horn of the Royal Hotel from the Anglican Church, which was then acquired in 1884 by Hendrik Carolus Stroebel. George W. Brent Steytler, Knysna’s first Town Clerk from 1882 to 1914, lived in the adjacent home, named “Brent House”. In 1921 John F. Y. Stalker bought the property and built the pharmacy shop in 1923, designed by Simpson & Bridgman of Oudtshoorn. In 1924, shortly after completion, chemist P. L. Looch moved in with his business, the “Knysna Pharmacy”. In 1927 Hugh McGregor Fyfe acquired the pharmacy and was proprietor until the late 1940’s. The property was bought by Pieter van Reenen, saw-millers and furniture manufacturers in 1944 and subsequently by Philip Finkelstein in 1958. The pharmacy traded as Fyfe’s into the early 1990’s.

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