Today, Sept 24th is a public holiday here in South Africa called Heritage Day. This holiday was created in order to celebrate the varied cultures and traditions across the nation. It has also more recently come to be known as National Braai Day (BBQ) but for purposes of this blog post, I am going to stick with the more traditional meaning.
This past weekend the Heritage Portal of Johannesburg organized a series of tours and walks to various heritage sites across the city. This was a great chance to explore some places that are not ordinarily open to the public. Everything sounded really interesting so it was a difficult decision but we decided to do the Villa Arcadia tour on Saturday afternoon.
Villa Arcadia is located in Parktown, high up on a ridge. It was built in 1898 and was originally a Swiss Chalet. It was bought in 1906 by Lionel Phillips and his wife Florence. The chalet was then transformed into the present structure which was designed by Herbert Baker, who was also the architect of the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
Drive up to Villa Arcadia – in a few weeks these Jacaranda trees will be in full bloom.
Peacock displaying for us. He was so kind to do several 360° turns so everyone could get a nice photo.
Villa Arcadia Door
The current owner of Villa Arcadia is Hollard Insurance (bought in 2003). While much work has been done to restore the villa, Hollard has also added a more modern touch with the artwork that has been chosen to be displayed inside. At first it seemed a bit out of place to me but I quickly found myself enjoying this style.
Stunning entryway with curved ceilings and Ionic columns
View from inside the Villa of a more modern hospital
In 1923, the Villa was sold and became a Jewish Orphanage which was in operation for nearly 8 decades. Many children were brought over from Eastern Europe to be cared for here.
Our lovely and fascinating guide Janet and the view from the front of the Villa
Courtyard view of the not so picturesque hospital
The grandiose veranda running the length of the Villa
Diningroom-it is said that the dark wood is calming and helps with digestion
Memoirs of a Tourist
Sunken Bathtub-quite unusual
View from Balcony
Believed to be a washing machine
View of Villa Arcadia from higher up on the ridge
Before last Saturday, I had never even heard of the Villa Arcadia and I was really glad to have had a chance to discover this fascinating bit of Joburg history thanks to the Heritage Portal. The Portal organises many different events throughout the year so check their website for all their up-to-date information. Happy Heritage Day everyone!