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OOn the slopes of Table Mountain, above the suburb of Rondebosch, sits an old white house with an eclectic mix of pillars, barley-sugar turrets, and wrap-around verandas. The house was originally part of the Dutch East India Company’s grain storage system, hence its name, Groote Schuur, which when translated means Big Barn. By the late 1800s it fell to ruins, and was bought by Cecil John Rhodes to be used as his personal home.
Rhodes hired a young and unknown architect (at that time) called Herbert Baker to turn the slightly dilapidated building into a functional residence. When the house was completed, it had a warm Rhodesian teak interior, white-washed walls, colonnaded gables and typical Cape charm. The gardens were a riot of colour with plumbagos, hydrangeas, roses and fuchsias. People would picnic on the lawns on weekends, and grand parties were thrown in the evenings with the likes of Rudyard Kipling and the Duke of Westminster in attendance.
FFor years, the house was used as the main home of the prime minister of South Africa, with a number of famous faces taking up residence there. The last prime minister to live there was FW De Klerk, who was instrumental in getting the ball rolling for the country’s eventual freedom.