De Zwaan houses

Was born in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where he was educated and apprenticed to the Amsterdam City Architect. He arrived in Johannesburg in 1889 and was recommended for a post as an architectural assistant in Johannesburg in 1889. He appears to have been employed by the Departement van Openbare Werke, Zuid-Afrikaasche Republiek for several years, (a number of payments for travel were paid to him by the Department. He worked in partnership with F SOFF from about 1895 to about 1923 in Pretoria (cf DE ZWAAN & SOFF), after which he seems to have practised on his own account. Having married in 1898 and settled in the city he remained in Pretoria all his working life, his obituary noting that he had worked there for sixty years. He was responsible for two of the buildings on Church Square, Pretoria, the old President Hotel (renamed The Grand Hotel), a three-storeyed building with verandahs on each floor, and the well-known Nederlandsche Bank building. This latter building was saved from demolition following public protest in 1975.

De Zwaan appears to have worked in association with the South African Township & Mining Company who developed the suburb of Waterkloof, he designed houses in two’s in the area between the Pretoria Country Club, Main St, Premier St and Lawley St around 1904. Most of these houses still exist although most have undergone alteration which makes them less easy to identify. They had the following features in common – tin roofs with peaked wooden ventilation openings, shuttered, wood-frame windows with small panes and entrance stoeps, the larger houses in Albert St having columned stoeps. He is said to have been a ‘big, aristocratic Hollander’ (Du Plessis 1990), and his houses reflect this; his nickname was ‘Zwaantjie’ and he was also known as Wim. De Zwaan was elected to the provisional council of the newly-formed Association of Transvaal Architects in 1911 in order to deal with the Architects’ Act (Transvaal) of Registration. He lived latterly at ‘Therapia’, Albert St, Waterkloof, Pretoria, in a columned colonial-style house.