1900 – 1919

1900 29th August, The foundation stone of the City Hall in Darling Street is laid. By 1900 the expanding municipal departments, had outgrown the limited accommodation in the Old Town House. The Town Council authorised the construction of the existing City Hall. The Mayor of Cape Town, Councillor Thomas Ball, laid the founation stone.

1906 February, Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson lay the cornerstone of the one of the finest Edwardian buildings in Cape Town situated at 62 Queeen Victoria Street. It was originally built to house the University of the Cape of Good Hope, designed

by British architects W Hawke and WN McKinley. In later years it housed the Cape Archives. When the Cape Archives relocated to its new premises in Roeland Street, it was renamed “The Centre for the Book”.

1909 Facing the Drill Hall on the Parade is a five-meter high marble statue of a male and female soldier, erected by the Citizens of Cape Town. It bears the inscription. “To the undying honour of those sons of the City who gave their lives for love of the Motherland in defence of the Colony during the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1901. The artist, W. Goscombe John A.R.A London signed the sculpture.

1909 The Union of South Africa is formed by the Act of Union, by which the British colonies of the Cape and Natal and the Afrikaner republics of the Transvaal (Gauteng) and the Orange Free State are united as a part of the British Empire. The Union came into effect in 1910, with Loius Botha as its first Prime Minister.

1910 November, The Duke of Connaught, son of Queen Victoria and uncle of King George V, visit Cape Town to open the first session, of the First Union Parliament. A week of celebrations ensued and a pageant was staged just below the railway station on land reclaimed from the sea. Scenes from South African history were presented in which hundreds of Capetonians, young and old participated in spite of a strong southeaster that blew almost continuously.

1912 The South African Native National Congress is founded, later to become the ANC.

1912 March Robert Falcon Scott R.N., the Antarctic explorer and four companions, perish in returning from the South Pole. His ship the Terra Nova called at Cape Town for four weeks on his journey South in 1910. This was his second visit to the Antarctic, the first being in 1901 in the Discovery. Opposite the Fountain, in front of the Medical Centre on the Heerengracht, is a small monument erected in his memory The memorial is a replica, as vandals damaged the original in 1948.

1910 A statue of Cecil John Rhodes is erected in the Company’s Garden. The statue is by Henry Pegram A.R.A. The left hand of Rhodes is outstretched to the North and an inscription on the Pedestal of Table Mountain sandstone reads, “Your hinterland is there”.

1913 The construction of a pier at the foot of Adderley Street is started. It it was a most ambitious structure and the pride of the City for many years. Constructed at a cost of £85,000 it extended one thousand feet from the shore of the Bay, which then lay a little to seaward of where Van Riebeeck’s statue now stands.

1914 World War 1 breaks out.

1914 The National Pary is formed in Bloemfontein.

1914 April C. J. Langenhoven, author of the words of the National Anthem, put the successful proposal to the Cape Provincial Council that Afrikaans be used as a medium of school instruction up to Standard IV.

1914, De Nasionale Pers is established with funding by Cape farmers, Its major publication, De Burger, first appeared in 1915.

During the First World War years a midday pause, when the citizens thought of those on active service, was observed in Adderley Street, as the noon gun was fired. It was an impressive sight to see every vehicle and pedestrian come to a halt. Silence descended on the main street and its surroundings, the men removing their hats during this pause. It ended by a bugle sounding from Fletcher and Cartwrights’ balcony. It was a distinctive gesture that won Cape Town praise from far and wide, and a stone in Adderley Street, at the junction of Darling and Shortmarket Streets, commemorates the spot where the pause was first observed, and where Cape Town gave thanks for Peace in 1918.

There was a serious shortage of coins during the War years. To ease matters the City Council issued token coins for use on the Pier. They were purchased at the entrance turnstiles and could be presented in payment at the tearoom, slot machines and bathing cubicles, in place of common coins. This was the only time when the Cape Town Municipality issued its own currency.

By the end of the First World War the cinema was firmly entrenched in Cape Town life. The Globe was as much a part of District Six life, as the luxurious Alhambra with its Moorish décor, was for the wealthier. The first ‘talkies’ were first shown in the Alhambra. In District Six the ‘bioscope’ was such an integral part of local culture that one couple recorded in 1957 that they had visited the cinema at least three times a week for 48 years. At the height of its popularity, crowds queuing for performances outside the Avalon cinema were so large that buses had to be re-routed. The City Cinema, the National Theatre, the British Bioscope and the Star Bioscope all played to local audiences. In District Six the Avalon was the most superior – it had softer seats and ushers, and patrons were not allowed to take their fish and chips inside. But the popularity of the cinema destroyed older forms of live entertainment: both the Tivoli, home of music hall performance, and the Opera House closed in the inter-war years.

1918 Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Madiba) is born in the Transkei. He was president of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997, and was the first president of South Africa under the democratic constitution of 1994.

1918 1st April, The University of Cape Town is founded. Set in incomparable surroundings on part of the Groote Schuur Estate. This centre of higher education incorporated the South African College.

1919 Jan Christiaan Smuts becomes the Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa.

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