In the 1800s Plein Street was one of the grandest streets in Stellenbosch, with rows of Victorian double story houses. But since it was part of Stellenbosch’s CBD, the street’s older buildings soon gave way to development.
Today there are only a few remnants of its early history.
Have you ever noticed that there is a small entrance gate next to specsavers (close to Anna Basson properties)? This entrance with its gabled ornamentation is one of the oldest pieces of construction left in Plein Street today (it dates from before 1800). Today it is a national heritage site.
2. The ‘De Witt house’ next to the town hall
This quaint house (photograph below) situated between the Absa building and the town hall is the only house left on the Northern side of Plein Street. It has since been extended and now seems part of the library and town hall complex.
3. De Wet square and De Wet building
Did you know that the name De Wet Square commemorates two renowned businessmen in Stellenbosch – the De Wet brothers? Koos and Jan de Wet were orphans adopted by the Van Coller family in the 1800s. Both started working in the family’s shop on the corner of Bird Street and Church street, and grew up to be hardworking and with a knack for business. When their foster father died in 1897 (this is the date on the building below), the brothers acquired some money to buy the company. With time the “Gebroeders De Wet” became known all over South Africa. As far as I know the De Wet family owned and operated the business for three generations.
Other legendary Stellenbosch businesses include Joerning’s Pharmacy, Mr Samie Voldsteedt’s general dealer in Dorp Street, and Mr Du Toit’s shoe and shoe repair shop.
To read about the four oldest streets in Stellenbosch, click here.
Ydi 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 enjoys researching Stellenbosch, its heritage and its people.
Article and Photos: Y Coetsee 2017
Sources: Stellenbosch Drie Eeue (1979)
Stellenbosch ons oudste dorp – Stellenbosch 300 aksie