A journey through time

26 November 2019 | Supplements

Take time to appreciate Swakopmund’s rich history by taking a stroll through town this festive season.

A leisurely walk along its charming streets and avenues reveals treasures that are easily overlooked otherwise.

The town has a distinctly quirky style that managed to survive even with its growth over the years.

The Altes Amptsgericht or magistrate's court was erected in 1908. It was originally built as a school. When money ran out for its construction Swakopmunder’s were not prepared to finance it any further. The state completed construction and used it as a magistrate's offices.

The old municipal building was built in 1907 as a post office, telephone exchange and living quarters for personnel. It was alter used by the magistrate and administration until 1961, when it was given to the municipality. It has since been sold and is privately owned.

Kaiserliches Bezirksgericht is currently known as the Swakopmund State House. It was constructed in phases from 1901 to 1905 as a seat of justice from which certain local and district affairs could be conducted. Since 1918 it was used as the summer residence of government officials and as the president’s summer residence after independence.

The Kabelmesse was built during 1901 for the Eastern and South African Telegraph Company as the headquarters for its employees who installed the undersea cable from Europe to Cape Town. It serves as the directorate of education, arts and culture headquarters in the Erongo Region.

Haus Cordes was named after Swakopmund's first town clerk. It is one of the last remaining turn-of-the-century wooden residences and currently accommodates a coffee shop.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church and Parsonage buildings were designed in neu-Barrock style. Both were completed in 1911 and were declared national monuments in 1978.

The Woermann Haus and Tower situated in Bismarck Street was erected in 1894. During 1903/04 the Woermann Haus was extended and extravagant wood panelled offices were added. The Damara Tower served as a water tower, landmark and navigation point for the ships of the Woermann line. In 1921 the South West Africa Administration bought the Woermann Haus and converted it into a school hostel. It was later restored and transformed into the public library and art centre it is today.

The Swakopmund museum started as the scientific collection of Dr Alfons Weber in 1951 and was transferred to the present site in 1960. Special exhibits include panoramas of the desert and sea life, a collection of semi-precious stones, and extensive historical collections, a modern technical exhibit of the largest open pit uranium mine in the world, Rössing Mine. The building was originally the customs building but was destroyed by a fire on 24 September 1914, when Swakopmund was bombarded by the auxiliary cruiser 'Kinfaus Cattle' during World War 1. It was only renovated about forty years later.

The Lighthouse was constructed in 1903 after the first lighthouse that was built on the western end of the Mole, was swept away by a huge wave. The present lighthouse is 11 meters high and is constructed higher above sea level.

The Mole is a well-known landmark in Swakopmund and situated is at the spot where Swakopmund was founded by Hauptman Curt von Francois, the commander of the German armed forces, the Schutztruppe, on 4 August 1892. The Germans attempted to establish landing facilities for ships but failed because the currents continuously deposited sand in the Mole.

The German government decided to build a steel jetty in 1911. The structure was 640 metres long and equipped with two 5 ton and two 3 ton cranes, as well as a railway line. A third of the pier was completed by 1914 when the First World War put a stop to further construction. In 1919 the northern end was covered by planks for pedestrians and anglers. Two drill heads used for drilling into the sea bed during construction can be seen at the entrance to the jetty.

In order to save the jetty from possible collapse, renovations were undertaken in 1986 at a cost of over N$300 000 of which more than two thirds was donated by the public. The jetty was again closed for the public in 2003 out of fear that it would collapse. In 2003 work started again on the jetty and it was restored and rebuilt and opened to the public at the end of 2006.