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accommodation in the Garden Route, South Africa

History

The grounds on which Fairview stands was first registered in 1864 in the names of Messrs. Swemmer and Meyer, directors of the first bank in George. When these two gentlemen found themselves in financial difficulty in 1894, they sold the farm to Koos and Miems Stander.

The Standers had sold their farm at Victoria Heights and bought Fairview so that their 8 children could go to school from home. In those days it was a big apple and cattle farm on the outskirts of George.

Two sons became attorneys, one son qualified in Scotland as a dentist and all 5 daughters qualified as teachers. To get to Wellington Teachers College the girls traveled by horse-drawn cart to Mossel Bay, from there by ship to Cape Town and then by train to Wellington! Koos Stander was Mayor of George from 1926 to 1932 and the house stayed in the Stander family from 1894 to 1974.

In those days it was a big apple and cattle farm on the outskirts of George; today it is centrally situated in the suburb of Bergsig and the grounds measure 3800m².

aerial photo 1933

In 1994 we moved back to South Africa after a 13 year stay in Namibia. We bought Fairview and took up the challenge to restore this historic George landmark – always bearing in mind that the challenge in restoring and maintaining any old building remains staying true to the authenticity of the structure. We therefore removed a garage that altered the square Georgian shape of the original building. Eight windows had to be replaced and were meticulously duplicated using the old frames as templates. The time consuming restoration was contracted out to a specialist team and took nine months to complete. Waterproofing of the clay walls proved to be a major challenge, as was the stripping of the many layers of paint to expose the lovely wood again. All the plumbing and electric wiring had to be redone, the 4 chimneys and fireplaces needed radical repairs, and most of the light fittings were removed and had to be replaced with antique ones again.

Below are two very old photo’s showing that the house originally had a pitch roof on the front section. There is no record of when the facade was changed to that of the typical flat-roofed Cape Georgian style. As not even the 82 year old Stander granddaughter could remember this pitched roof, it was decided not to replace during  the 1996 restoration.

In 2013 we embarked on yet another phase, this time renovation more than restoration. New garages were built for private use at the Smith Street entrance, a spiral staircase was added to the inner courtyard to give access to two upstairs guest rooms, the little storeroom below the swimming pool was restored and turned into a small guest room and 4 of the bedrooms were renovated and re-decorated.

The house is now fully restored to its long lost splendor and elegance and is listed with the National Monument’s Council as well as the local George Heritage Trust.

Desmond is passionate about his garden – work on the garden is an ongoing labour of love. The front garden is more formal in structure – in keeping with the formal Cape Georgian style of the house. The flowerbeds on the Eastern side of the house is more informal. At the back of the house we have fruit trees, a herb garden, vegetable garden  and a small orchard. We also keep our own chickens to keep the kitchen in supply of fresh eggs.

 

In March 2008 we had as guest the granddaughter of one of the Stander daughters She sent me a poem written by her grandmother. On weekends the daughters would stroll down to the Kat River and obviously the young Maria met a young man from the other side of the river whom her parents did not approve of.

Remembrance
Twixt bracken banks and shady woods
The streamlet ripples gently west
Where oft in childhood’s happy days
I watched the wood-finch build it’s nest;
Where oft in happier days we wove
The golden threads of love’s young dream
To warbles sweet and twillering tones –
Sweet music from the rippling stream!

But when in after days those banks
Recorded sorrow’s doleful theme,
I heeded not the linnet’s song,
Not heard the rippling of the stream!
When skies are blue and fields are green,
And all the world seems bright and fair,
All veiled to us the distant scene
With what it harbours over there!

Too soon we learned life’s sad refrain:
“Sunshine and sorrow ever meet!”
Had we but met to part again,
Our hopes be shattered by defeat!
For him his queen was never to wear
A bridal blossom in her hair,
For him, no bridal veil to hide
The crimson of his blushing bride!

How oft I dreamt that at his side,
In all the world the happiest bride,
Entranced I stood in ecstasy –
My dark-eyed prince, a king to me!
Alas that love is but a dream
And mournful we awake to find
As we retrace our steps again,
Our loved ones’ foot-prints left behind!

Those foot-prints on the sands of time
Are treasures thine, oh memory,
To cherish in the starless night
When sorrow bids us fly to thee!
Remembrance, aye, this God’s great gift
Which through this dismal vale of ours,
Recalls in accents soft and sweet,
Sweet memories of bygone years!

M.C. Retief.