I work in the outskirts of Cape Town, in a hospital campus between Bellville and Parow. I live a bit further out, though, in a suburb called Durbanville. It is named after governor Benjamin D’Urban rather than the city of Durban on the east coast. Today’s post will feature some of the sites that are at the heart of this town.
The town started around a Dutch Reformed church constructed in 1825 to serve a group of farmers in the Tygerberg area. That original church has been overhauled a few times since then, including an expansion in 1891, but the Durbanville Gemeente is still in operation today. It was named a National Monument in 1975. I had thought that a Sunday afternoon would be a fine time to visit, but the gates were padlocked when I arrived. In South Africa, even the churches have walls!
One might assume that an historic church might imply a more conservative congregation. A translation of their events calendar shows that tonight’s services will include the “Same Sex Relationships Discussion Series.” The constitution of South Africa prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The vision statement included on the website and the sign greeting people to the church is “Disciples of Jesus, together in the service of God’s kingdom.” To reach the church, one need only head south on Church Street!
If you head north on Church Street, you reach a rather different historic building.
The police station was built in 1919, during a revival of the classic “Cape Dutch” architecture. The large, ornate, rounded gables are a good sign you are looking at a Cape Dutch building. Though the building is fairly old, you should not make the mistake of thinking it is merely ornamental. When I walked by the entrance, I saw that the line of people seeking to talk with the police stretched out the front door!
Not very far from the police station, one can see a few other buildings from the Edwardian period (the first ten years of the 20th century). This house, for example, has enough room for rows of rocking chairs on its two floors of veranda!
Sadly, what most people see of Durbanville is the main highway running through town. The R302 Regional Route runs 54km from Bellville to Malmesbury, so it is a prime route for commuters to head north from the N1 highway. Happily, it was not very busy on a Sunday afternoon. I snapped a photo of my grocery store from the pavement on the opposite side of the road.
Just a couple of blocks behind the shopping area, though, one can find the city hall and the library. This afternoon the buildings largely seemed to provide shade for people who had no particular place to be.
I really like the colors of the playground adjoining the library. I’d like to see more libraries with a play area next door!
The map below shows where each of the photos for today was taken. My dream is that some day the online maps for South Africa will be as detailed as the ones I am accustomed to in the States!