Around the times of pirates and pillaging, the property was known as Stonehenge, so named for a clump of large stones resembling the ancient Druid structure in England withing view of the house in the sea. The house was renovated around 1930 to become the Italianate villa of tremendous proportions that it is today.
Many celebrities, royal, political, and glamorous, have lived in the villa over its fascinating history. From British Admiralty to the Greek Royal Family during World War II; diamond magnates to Jan Smuts, founder of the League of Nations, state president of the United Party prior to the apartheid years and friend and advisor to Sir Winston Churchill.
St James is one of Cape Town’s smaller suburbs, yet it has a rich history. Thanks to a publication put together by St James historian, Michael Walker, the history of some of the original homesteads built between Muizenberg and St James in 1883 has been recorded.
From St James towards Muizenberg, a number of gracious stone houses still remain as testament to a wealthy colonial past when the main road was commonly known as “Millionaire’s Mile”.
During the late 19th century, homes were constructed from stone, plaster and limestone, and sported thatched roofs. Some of these homes have been handed down from generation to generation and still exist today, giving visitors a glimpse of what St James looked like in its heyday. One such structure is St James Cottage, built in 1853.
According to historical accounts, the owner, Abraham Auret, hid prisoners of war in the loft during the Anglo-Boer War, and helped to stage their escape across the bay.
These properties, located between Muizenberg and St James, are the only remaining concentration of early 20th century Edwardian beach houses in South Africa, and face onto the old False Bay coastal road, regarded by many as one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the peninsula.
The initial proclamation, made on 30 May 1985, involved Braeside House, Greystones and Schoonzicht, but this was extended on 7 March 1986 when an additional seven properties were added to the group. To this was added Sea Fever, a picturesque thatched dwelling presumed to date from the late 18th century located at 82 Main Road, St James, and declared on 23 December 1983, Stonehenge, a double-storey beach house dating from the 1920s and built in a predominantly Italian style with art deco features, located at 36 Main Road, St James, declared on 17 March 1989; Villa Capri, declared on 23 March 1979, and No 18 Main Road, declared on 27 December 1985. Long Cottage, 248 Main Road, Muizenberg.
The history of Stonehenge is interesting and involved a number of architects. It was built by Mrs. Isabella Hoole, a widow, in 1901. Dr C.P Smuts bought the house from her deceased estate in April 1904. It was set back from the Main Road. The architect, Francis Freeman, did alternations to the downstairs rooms as well as designing a new kitchen in May 1904. Later architects Jones & Draiby did further alterations in 1911, as well as adding a garage. Hilda Haroof bought the house in 1917 and additional work followed in November 1919 when architect Douglas Hoets did extensive alternations, which included two verandahs, a bedroom en suite, a linen room and servants’ quarters. In March 1923 architect J.A Smith designed a storeroom and enlarged the servants quarters.
Design of Architect Douglas Hoetes of the original Stonehenge home (March 1919)
In 1930, the house was demolished at the request of Mrs. Hilda Ansaldi (formally Harof) and a new house nearer the Main Road was designed by Grant (Builder C.J Smith).
Then in 1931 Grant did further extensive alterations and additions for Mrs. Ansaldi which added much beauty to this attractive home (builder: L Forster). The union Government under Prime Minister General J.C Smuts rented this home in 1940 from the trustees of the estate of Hilda Ansaldi who was declared of unsound mind by order of the Supreme Court of SA, 21 February 1939.
Here Smuts gave refuge to the Greek royal family who had fled the Nazi occupation of Greece. A close relationship developed with General Smuts assuming the position of Godfather to her Royal Highness Princess Irene.
At the christening of Princess Irene in Cape Town with General Smuts holding his Godchild Princess Irene (1942)
The Cape Odyssey – No 76 Volume 8 Issues 6 - December 2008 – Page
A Statement in Stone