Old Granary building revamp complete

The revamp of the Old Granary building, another grand old dame that graces the Cape Town urban landscape, has been completed.

The major refurbishment work that started in 2016 was part of the City of Cape Town’s commitment to restore one of Cape Town’s oldest and most significant buildings.

The external façade was restored, and internal spaces rehabilitated with consideration for its heritage significance.

The building has been refurbished specifically for the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, and is being used as office space, a peace centre, an archive centre and a museum.

An important part of the restoration was the installation of a permanent exhibition that captures the rich history of the building, and its various uses and functions. In addition, a detailed description of the restoration process and the materials have also been included.

“The Old Granary is steeped in history. If the walls could talk, you would go back in time to more than 200 years ago to get a feel for the people who lived and worked in this building. The internal spaces have not been glossed over but instead have been well preserved to showcase the building’s heritage status in its original condition. All aspects, even down to the original cracks and chips in the floor and on the walls were preserved, which is what gives this build its unique character,” said the City’s Mayco member for assets and facilities management, James Vos.

The foundation’s exhibition space, a permanent installation, is up and running. It displays the original hand-written manuscripts and memos of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

Additionally, the City has also installed a permanent exhibition that showcases the history of the building as it relates to the development of Cape Town.

The Old Granary was built between 1811 and 1813 using locally made bricks that were of poor quality at the time. During the 18th and 19th century, to address the problem of poor quality, the foundations and walls were built with quarried slate that was also known as Cape Town bluestone.

During former times, the Old Granary served a variety of purposes such as a customs house for the handling of imports and exports; as a magistrate’s court; as the town granary that aimed to ensure food security at the time and provide affordable daily bread; as a house of correction, or more simply put as a women’s prison; and as a Public Works Department building that accommodated the offices of civil engineers who were responsible for the infrastructure development of the Cape’s urban landscape. Exciting future plans are afoot to draw both locals and visitors to this heritage building which boasts such a rich history.

“In addition to the exhibitions, the City’s property management department is in the process of preparing a tender to secure a suitable tenant for the restaurant space located at the rear of the building, which will spill out onto Longmarket Street. This tender is expected to be advertised early in the new year and will present economic opportunities for a potential entrepreneur,” added Mr Vos.

The refurbished Old Granary with its old-world charm, coupled with the informative exhibitions, certainly warrants a visit by both locals and visitors to the city. It has heritage links to the Castle of Good Hope, the iconic Grand Parade and City Hall, creating a precinct of great historical and heritage value.