The romance (and responsibility) of owning a heritage home

For those who love the style and romance of bygone eras, there can be no greater find than a heritage home to call one’s own. 

The unique character of high ceilings, large rooms, historic architectural styles and original features such as fireplaces or wooden floors, can hold immense appeal for buyers with a love of history and design, and can also ensure such properties command top prices in their area.  Yet the purchase of such properties does not come without certain responsibilities, says Pam Golding Properties’ MD for the Western Cape metro region, Laurie Wener.

Pam Golding Properties recently sold this heritage home “Wembley House” in Oranjezicht for R14.45 million. The five-bedroomed home, dating back to 1923, occupies an erf of over 1350sqm.

“The style and atmosphere of heritage homes is hard to match,” says Wener, “and they often occupy prime locations in their particular suburb or town, close to amenities or attractive natural features. Many of them boast ample space including multiple bedrooms and grand-scale reception rooms. They also tend to be well-built structures, with thick walls, old-school attention to detail and craftsmanship, and sometimes irreplaceable features such as rare wood finishes. Yet buyers who dream of renovating or modernising such properties should be aware that they cannot just move in and start building – whilst such projects can be rewarding and achieve outstanding results, the work is carefully controlled by heritage authorities.”

This home on the border of Rondebosch and Newlands dates back to 1883, and occupies an erf of over 3300sqm. The four-bedroomed home, known as Mount Pleasant, is on the market through Pam Golding Properties at R18 million. 

Architect and member of the Association of Professional Heritage Practitioners, Mark Bell, says a heritage home is not simply one which is very old – there are multiple other factors which are considered in determining heritage value, including cultural, aesthetic or geographical significance, the authenticity of its current condition, and historic, social or spiritual associations with the property. “These may be tangible or intangible factors, but all play a part in the determination of the heritage value or significance of a resource,” he says.
A three-tier Grading System is in place to identify the significance of heritage buildings in South Africa, with Grade One resources being sites of exceptional significance, such as Robben Island, which require protection by national heritage authorities. A Grade Two building would be considered to have special significance within a province or region – such as Groot Constantia or the Cape Flats Nature Reserve – while a Grade Three building would be one considered outstanding or important in its local context.

This early Victorian-era home in Darling is thought to date back to the mid-1800’s. The four-bedroomed home occupies over 6600sqm of land, and is in well-preserved condition. It is on the market though Pam Golding Properties, priced at R6.2 million.
In Cape Town, heritage resources are essentially protected by both the National Heritage Resources Act and the city’s local Zoning Scheme Regulations, which identify certain Heritage Protection Overlay Zones. These are entire areas demarcated as being of broader heritage value, for example Wynberg Village, Sea Point, Observatory, Little Mowbray, St James or the city centre. Anyone wishing to make alterations to a property in these areas must submit an application to the council, which will assess the potential impact of the proposed renovations on the area’s greater heritage character. “Certain negligible activities are exempt from having to obtain Council’s approval,” says Bell, “such as day to day gardening or minor maintenance like re-painting.”

This historic homestead in Upper Kenilworth is on the market through Pam Golding Properties at R35 million.  The six-bedroomed home, known as The Mangerton, dates back to 1860, and occupies an erf of over 7000sqm.
Even outside of these areas, any building which is older than 60 years is automatically protected under the National Heritage Resources Act, no. 25 of 1999 from unchecked development, meaning that permits must be obtained from the provincial heritage resources authority, in order to alter or demolish any part of the structure.  “Most of Cape Town’s suburbs contain buildings which are older than sixty years, says Bell.  “Some have high significance, if for example they were designed by Sir Herbert Baker. Some have medium significance, and many have relatively low significance. Demolition and or alteration and additions to these buildings needs consideration in context of that significance, and proper processes need to be followed.”
“It is advisable that buyers, developers, architects, or anyone else involved in such a project should discuss their plans with the relevant officials at an early stage,” Bell continues, “in order to establish significance, grading, no-go areas and the potential for success of their proposed ideas or designs. The City’s Heritage Resource Section is represented in all the City districts and areas, and can provide pertinent information on the different processes involved.”

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