Oldest house in Johannesburg in Bezuidenhout Valley Park

The Oldest House in Johannesburg

A few weeks ago I visited the oldest existing house in Johannesburg.

I’m a little confused as to exactly how old the house is. The house standing beside the oldest house was built in 1852. At least that’s what the historical plaque on the house says; this article by the City of Joburg says it was built in 1863.

This second house (not the oldest one, but the one standing beside it) is referred to as the Bezuidenhout Farmhouse. It was built by the Viljoen family and later taken over by the Bezuidenhout family when a Viljoen married a Bezuidenhout.

Bez Valley FarmhouseThe Bezuidenhout Farmhouse, built in 1852 (I think) and currently used as a Rotary Club office.

Blue plaque on Bezuidenhout FarmhouseBlue plaque on the Bezuidenhout Farmhouse.

But the actual oldest house, which the Viljoens presumably lived in before building the larger house next door, doesn’t have a plaque. Isabella Pingle, the heritage activist who showed the houses to my friend Marie-Lais and me, says it was built around 1850 — more than 35 years before Johannesburg itself became a city.

Oldest house in Johannesburg in Bezuidenhout Valley ParkThe oldest house in Johannesburg, built sometime around 1850. 

The most interesting thing about this house, to me at least, is that there are a bunch of regular people living there. The house is obviously a significant historical site, but no one really knows or cares about that. For the people who stay there, this is just the house where they live.

The two houses are inside Bezuidenhout Park, a Joburg City park, and I got the impression that at least some of the the people living here are staff of the parks department.

When I visited the house, there were a bunch of kids outside playing with a shopping cart. I asked them if I could go in. I met a beautiful woman named Thandi, wearing a beautiful red coat, and she showed me her room.

Thandi in her room in Bed Valley ParkThandi in her room. The blue jacket hanging behind her is a Joburg City Parks jacket; she told me it belongs to her father.

After checking out the houses, Marie-Lais, Isabella and I walked over to the old cemetery a few hundred yards away. It was the Bezuidenhout family cemetery for several generations.

Bezuidenhout family cemeteryThe cemetery.

Cemetery statueMy favorite statue in the cemetery.

There is a lot more to be said here — about the city’s oldest house, when and why it was built, what has happened to it over the past 160-something years, and the people who live there now.

But like lots of stories in Joburg, most of this story is still a mystery to me. I hope you enjoyed this small piece of it.

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  • Reply dizzylexa August 3, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    This was our playground as kids. There was a tearoom,pool and a miniature train in the park which were huge attractions over weekends. The cemetery had a fence around it with a gate at the stone arch, we often sat on the graves and shared ghost stories. When we got a lot older we would come to the park at night and have parties at the fire pit which was quiet close to the pool. Oh so many memories.

    • Reply 2summers August 3, 2018 at 7:03 pm

      Those sound like nice memories. Do you remember what the houses looked like then?

      • Reply dizzylexa August 4, 2018 at 9:14 am

        Unfortunately not, wish I could. There were no fences around the park in those days so we would access it closest to where we stayed. I don’t think we ever used the main entrance. As kids it was over the stream on the east side and then when we were older and not living close by it was through the caravan park. Incidentally the caravan park is still there with people living there.

    • Reply Lesley Clark March 6, 2019 at 10:10 am

      Hi Heather, I am so excited to tell you that, due to your example of adventurous exploring, I too, visited Bezuidenhout Park, a month ago. I have similar photos of the cemetery angel. Did you know that the wide open space behind the house used to be a very beautiful caravan park? I hope you got to see the veggie garden below the cemetery?

      • Reply 2summers March 6, 2019 at 10:12 am

        Hi Lesley, oh I’m so excited to hear that! I didn’t know about the caravan park. And no, I didn’t make it to the garden that day but it’s been on my list for AGES.

      • Reply dizzylexa March 7, 2019 at 7:48 am

        Hi Lesley, the caravan park is still there and occupied by more permanent residents as opposed to holiday makers. It is up towards the West side of the park with it’s own entrance from 3rd Avenue, Bez Valley.

  • Reply Andy M August 3, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    Nice! I hope to visit it.

  • Reply Lani August 7, 2018 at 5:22 am

    I’m continuously amazed by how much people around the world are the same. In Thandi’s room for instance, I can see the tubs or buckets, the thick blankets in their plastic bags – and the nice things like the jackets and purse. She could be in Asia.

    I felt this way when I was in Ecuador. I could see the parallels or similarities in the outdoor markets and even the people’s faces.

    • Reply 2summers August 7, 2018 at 6:14 am

      Yes, we’re all just people, after all. Living inside a John Lennon song 🙂

      • Reply Lani August 7, 2018 at 7:17 am

        😀 Ha! So poetic.

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