Uncertain future for Queen of Adderley

A historic picture of the old Standard Bank building supplied by the Western Cape government.

The future of the Queen of Adderley – the old Standard Bank building on the corner of Darling and Adderley streets – is once again unclear, after the Department of Transport and Public Works (DTPW) terminated a lease agreement with the owners that would have seen a museum and provincial offices occupying the iconic structure.

The DTPW last year sent out a number of press releases introducing the Cape Town museum which was to have been housed inside the heritage building and launched on September 1 last year.

However, at the end of a two-year negotiation with Standard Bank, which owns the building, the DTPW decided to terminate the possible lease “due to high cost of repair, restoration and maintenance of the building”, according to the DTPW spokeswoman, Beverline Thomas.

The history of the building dates back to 1879, when the Cape Town government at the time offered the property to Standard Bank.

After Standard Bank announced its move to Thibault Square on the Foreshore in 2011 and vacated in 2012, the Queen of Adderley stood unoccupied for years thereafter, and has suffered some vandalism and was even damaged by a fire last year.

However, while renovations seem to be taking place at the building, it is unclear what will happen after the revamp is complete.

When the CapeTowner visited the building, a security guard inside the premises, as well as nearby stallholders, said renovations were under way.

Numerous attempts to contact Standard Bank were unsuccessful, and enquiries about the future of the building went unanswered.

In email correspondence, Ronel Judin of the DTPW said Standard Bank had been dissatisfied with the outcome, “as the negotiations ex-tended over two years and the decision was made at the very end when the lease was presented for signature”.

But plans by the provincial government to open the Cape Town museum are still on the cards, as the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport held an inaugural meeting for the Cape Town museum’s management committee on Tuesday August 23.

The management committee, which comprises four members, will complete a two-year term, during which they will work together to preserve the heritage of the City and the Western Cape and contribute to inclusion of the people in the City.

The spokeswoman for the the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Tania Colyn, said there was no museum in Cape Town that captured the history of the city and its people. “The Cape Town museum will offer locals a transactional space to engage around relevant themes such as identity, reconciliation and memorialisation so as to enhance a sense of belonging in the City.”

She said the museum wouldorientate tourists to the City’s heritage and would refer visitors to specialised museums for greater detail on other themes. For example, if tourists want to find out more about forced removals, they will be referred to the District Six museum.

Ms Colyn said the department could not confirm when exactly the Cape Town museum would open its doors, but in the interim, it would be developing an online presence.

The members of the Cape Town museum management committee are historian and Khoisan teacher Bradley van Sitter; Dr June Bam-Hutchison, who has worked widely in heritage and education, and has served on a number of heritage boards, including the Council of Iziko museums, Bongani Cyprian Ndlhovu, author and philosophy doctor, and community representative Amanda Lomberg.