Stellenbosch is well know for its beautiful historic buildings (ranging from the cape dutch through to the victorian town houses). what i find unbelievable is how many of them were torn down in the sixties & seventies to build flats, office blocks and the like. here’s a small retrospective of some of the bad (and some not so bad) before and afters.

my dad is an urban designer based in Stellenbosch, my home town. these photos are from his office’s archives.

Corner Bird & Church Street

corner of bird & church streets (luckily there’s a Vida here now, instead of a Mr. Video)

Corner of Andringa & Bird Street

corner of andringa & plein streets

Cluver Markotter building

corner of mill/bird/church streets – the entire block to the right of the present building (above) was torn down (and subsequently replaced by a supermarket). i’m having trouble finding pictures of the original buildings that were in this area, but i know that it was known as Mill Square.

Corner Church & Ryneveld Street

this is a bit more difficult to see, but the right hand corner of the original photo is where the new building stands today

Corner Plein & Bird Street (Joernings)

in the before, the victorian building on the right was torn down & replaced with the brownish building 2nd from the corner (the original corner building is not visible in the before picture)

Corner Plein & Ryneveld Street

1901 vs now

Corner Plein & Ryneveld Street (ABSA bank)

on the right hand side of the corner of ryneveld & plein streets is the ABSA building as it stands today. the original building was torn down in the fourties (second picture), then on top of that they built a men’s res for the university sometimes in the sixties (third picture). that was subsequently torn down  and a new building was built in 1995 – emulating the original facade.

Herte Street

Herte Street has always been one of the prettiest streets in stellenbosch (for me) – except that someone decided it was a good idea to replace one of the the original cape dutch buildings with this block of flats that now sits inbetween a victorian town house & the cape dutch slave cottages that run down to the corner.

Corner Market & Dorp Street

the original building was torn down in the seventies because the town council & someengineers decided it was a good idea to widen Market street in order to help with traffic congestion. luckily they stopped with the street widening about 800 metres down the road, just before they were supposed to tear into some more historical buildings (you can still see where the street immediately becomes narrower again, next to the Stumble Inn Backpackers). unfortunately the original old building was a victim, and now they’re using the site for a builder’s warehouse.

Plein Street Church / Anglo African building

probably the saddest example, the little church they tore down to build that huge office block (in plein street).

sometimes progress isn’t progress at all.

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  1. stunning pics – exactly what is happening all over the city (Werdmuller Center, Cape Town Station, UCT Sports Hall etc etc). One thing money can’t buy is a sense of style, eh?

  2. wow, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen a photo of the original building on Market St corner… i’ve always wondered what it looked like. beautiful (ai…)

  3. This is awesome, I have always wondered what Stellenbosch used to look like! Where did you find the old photos?

    • my dad received some of the old photos as a gift, not sure who from. others have just been collected along the way, from books and so on :)

  4. Wow how weird to see the same spot looking so completely different. Even with the modern monstrosities built it’s still the prettiest town. I heart Stellenbosch!

  5. awesome post. buildings from the seventies (in south africa) were almost always terrible.

  6. Johan Bronkhorst Reply


    Fascinating article! I was wondering whether your dad might have any old photographs of Merriman Street in his possession?

    Kind Regards
    Johan Bronkhorst

  7. Thank you – these are wonderful. I grew up in Stellenbosch in the fifties, and experienced the blatant destruction of irreplaceable architectural gems by cultural ignoramuses. Why don’t you publish these and other Before and After photos in a book?

  8. Arthur van Litsenborgh Reply

    My daughter sent this on to me after a visit to S.A.
    I was at STB university between 1961 and 1965 – lived P.S.O. in a house in Van Riebeeck Street, run by ‘Tannie Wiese’ and family. I’ve tried to pick up some scraps of memories from the pics but can’t be too sure of anything… sad. (Will have to consult a bigger town plan for street names.) Have live in France since 1967. Thanks for sharing…

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