Those who studied at Maties before 1981 will know that the ‘rooiplein’ wasn’t always built on a library. The J.S. Gericke was only created in 1981 when the university’s previous two libraries became too small. The only place where the new library could be built centrally was underground.
Why was the library built under the ‘rooi plein’?
The library’s website explains this thinking process:
In 1926 the CL Marais Library had to be extended and by 1938 it had become clear that an entirely new line of thought was necessary.
As early as 1912 the Scots-American millionaire Andrew Carnegie donated the sum of £6 000 towards the extension and maintenance of the library of the Victoria College. An additional donation of £1 500 from the Carnegie Corporation to the Stellenbosch University in 1938, as well as contributions from alumni enabled the University to build a new library.
In 1938 the Carnegie building was erected on the site of the Pavillion rugby grounds, adjacent to and north of the present Administration building (Block B). This building would become the home of the University Library for the next 50 years. […]
Who was Mr Gericke?
The library’s website explains:
the next and present phase of the University Library, [was] the erection of the JS Gericke Library, named after the Reverend JS (Kosie) Gericke who served as Vice-chancellor of the University from 1952 to 1981.
The construction of the JS Gericke Library building commenced in 1981 and in 1983 the move to the new building took place. This building occupies the unique position of being built underneath the centrally situated Jan Marais Square.
The reason for this unique position is that in planning a new library it was found that, apart from the Jan Marais Square, no centrally situated building sites were available on campus.
However, the historical importance of the Jan Marais Square and the architectural aesthetics of the historic buildings surrounding the square meant that this site could not be defaced with a multi-storeyed building. It was therefore decided to build underground.
Interesting fact The official name of the ‘Rooiplein’ is actually the Jan Marais square. But ‘Red Square’ is also the name of the main city square in Moscow, Russia. Apparently, Maties jokingly called the Administration Building the ‘Kremlin’ because the notice boards (where exam results and class marks were pinned up) would declare their fate as a students.
Here are some photos of the “Rooiplein” in different moments in time. Each caption will explain more about the square’s development.
“‘n Dromer” is a young Stellenbosser who loves writing about the everyday things that go unnoticed. She likes dusty books and seeing how the past isn’t always what it seems. She has written about Stellenbosch, it’s heritage and it’s people almost every week since 2015.
Article: Y Coetsee 2017
Mertens, A. (1966) Stellenbosch. Nasionale Boekhandel Bpk, Kaapstad.
Thom, H.B. (ed). Stellenbosch 1866 – 1966 Honder Jaar Hoër Onderwys. Nasionale Boekhandel Bpk, Kaapstad.
US biblioteek webtuiste. Available: http://library.sun.ac.za/en-za/AboutUs/Pages/history-central.aspx
US argief, Matieland. Available: http://www.sun.ac.za/english/entities/archives/Documents/1957%20Matieland%202.pdf
US webtuiste. Available:http://www.sun.ac.za/english/entities/archives/PublishingImages/Pages/default/JanMaraisplein_1930.jpg
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