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The preservation of our heritage

Throughout my research in the Caledon Museum’s archives, studying the history of Caledon I found one constant that reins true. We, the people of Caledon failed to preserve what we were, what we are/have and will most likely fail to preserve that which we in the interest of development will evolve into.

The town of Caledon owns its establishment and fame vastly to its thermal water’s (hot springs). The tendency to neglect, erase and forget the heritage of Caledon thus starts at its hot springs, from the first bath house built by Ferdinandus Appel in 1710 after he was granted 10.28 hectares of land and permission to erect a house for guests visiting the springs that now only a foundation buried under soil remains, all the way to the bath house of Dr Haezsner built in 1810 that was in such a ruined a state that it’s architectural heritage was of no value to preserve.

The sanatorium and hotel built by the Walsh family in 1897 surely surpassed any glory of the two bath houses before it, elegantly posing on the slopes of the Swartberg (Black mountain) majestically overlooking the breathtaking countryside and renowned as a premier spa resort in South Africa in it’s time. After it was destroyed by a fire in 1946 rather than to rebuilt and improve that which was lost, the heritage of Caledon once more was swept under a rug of soil.

Caledon’s first church, the Dutch Reformed Church built in the shape of a cross in 1812, it’s historical and architectural value in regard to heritage was demolished due to progress. The bigger Dutch Reformed Church built in 1876 in an imposing gothic style was demolished in 1956 due to its structural safety and costs to repair one of Caledon’s historical buildings seemed too high of a price to pay to preserve the heritage of Caledon.

The Caledon fynbos beautifully poised on the slopes of the Swartberg, made way for the establishment of the Horticultural and Wild Flower Society, resulting in the wonder of Caledon’s fauna and flora being paraded on floats through the streets of Caledon on an annual basis. People came from far and wide to marvel at the most beautiful Protea, Heath, gladioli, bluebells and thousands of fynbos species on show, each identified individually, as well as on mass displays now trampled into the history books in the name of progress.

Caledon’s historical site and preservation area the iconic Mill Street which formally formed part of the Old Cape Wagon Road, along which the town’s first 17 houses was built, now silently goes unnoticed and decade by decade the 59 Victorian & Edwardian era houses will surely be subjected to the destruction of the heritage of our kin towards unsustainable development.

Millions of people annually visit Rome not for what it has developed into but for their acknowledgement and the value they place upon the preservation of their heritage. Caledon nor any place else will ever compare to the wonders of Rome, but just like Rome, Caledon too attracted thousands of visitors annually to be swept away by it’s magnificence. The beautiful and one of a kind natural resources and historical wonders of Caledon is just waiting on you to be the guardian of its heritage.

We can never gaze upon the simplistic and elegant beauty of what was, unless we dove into the archives of the Caledon Museum but we can make sure that we do not form part of those without the sense of obligation or the necessary respect towards that which made us who we are today, the Capital of the Overberg.

By: M.R. Sauls – Caledon Museum

Information Source: Our Heritage – A History of Caledon by Joy Edwards

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