The strategic location of Heidelberg played an enormous role to host important personalities. The age old rule of location, location, location is to be implied here. The streets of Heidelberg connected the town previously with the outside world. Voortrekker Street connects with Johannesburg; Church Street (H.F Verwoerd Street) with Vereeniging / Potchefstroom and Maré Street with Standerton/Durban.
The property (Erf 110, 70 HF Verwoerd Street) belonged to a certain Millet in 1874. According to the approved sub-divisions map, dated September 1893, the house from which the Heritage Guest House is now operating, already appears on this map.
This was the era before motor vehicles and horses were the only means of transport. Prof Willem J Pretorius titled his book, “Perre toe”, which he based on the diary entries of the Viljoen brothers during the Anglo Boer War. They were the grandsons of Piet Retief and resided in Heidelberg. “Perre toe” was the awakening call for the Heidelberg Commando to take action.
During August 1880, Christiaan and Piet de Wet made their homes in Heidelberg at Rietfontein. General Christiaan de Wet would become world-famous as a guerrilla fighter and a diehard on his horse, Fleur. His brother continued to farm horses, but did the most unforgiving thing to fight against his own people as a “joiner”. Christiaan refused to forgive him, although he himself later led rebellion forces in 1914 against his own people. As a result Jopie Fourie was shot by a firing squad and general Jan Smuts, the then Minister of Defence, would never be forgiven for this. As a result he was voted out, only a year after the Royal visit in 1947.
At the Heritage Guest House, visitors are introduced to important visitors. Especially those who influenced our history. Here, in the presidential suite, Paul Kruger declared Heidelberg as the capital. There are separate beds to commemorate the legacy of H.F Verwoerd, the only Prime Minister from the Heidelberg constituency. We also are also reminded of the beginning of Umkhonto weSiswe, kangaroo courts and the Rivonia trial.
The sitting room is filled with books full of history. This is where the clever General Jan Smuts would feel at home. You don’t need a “Smuts vinger” to page through the books. He served as the state attorney in the Circuit Court. Even Dr D.F Malan, later premier and Sunday school learner of Jan Smuts, would start his career at the Klipkerk. The third child of the organist and reverend of the Klipkerk, would also becomefamous. Johanna Brand later received international fame with her natural grape cure, which acted as a natural counter for cancer.
More rooms were later added to the house. We relive the passive resistance movement of Mahatma Ghandi. F. W de Klerk’s grandfather stayed in Heidelberg and Madiba received the honorary citizen award in 1996. The theme throughout the guest house is that everybody should convince themselves whether history was good or bad. Candles with the Chinese quote echoes true: “You can either curse the darkness or light up a candle”.