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HISTORY OF CALVINIA
The town of Calvinia was laid out on the farm Hoogekraal in 1851 by Reverend N.J. Hofmeyer. The strip of land along the north of the bank of the Oorlogskloof River which was selected for the purpose, must have been inhabited for several decades before 1851, as is borne out by several surviving buildings.
The original name for Calvinia was Hantam, which mean the “mountain where the red
bulbs grow” and derives from the Khoi word “han-
The first Jews came from Germany in 1843 to Calvinia. One of these people were Gustav Wetzlar, who first rented from Goldschmidt & Sussholtz and later bought this building and put up a shop named “Lewis & Wetzlar”.
Because the Jews had a lot of knowledge about trading, they were welcomed into the community where they could provide a market for the farmers’ produce.
To get goods to Calvinia from Cape Town to trade, they had to take the Ceres/Wolseley road and from there they were transported with horse carriage to Calvinia over very bad gravel roads.
The building was built in neo-
SYNAGOGUES & RABBI’S
When Louis Rosenblatt bought this house from Heilbrun & Wetzlar in 1863, they used what is now the restaurant as a Jewish synagogue.
The synagogue was in use until 1920, when the distinctive Art Deco style building which houses the town’s museum today were built as the new synagogue.
Certain features of the old synagogue can still be seen, such as the lamphooks in the ceilings.
Walkabouts are encouraged and Calvinia is one of the few places left where you can stroll about in the streets at sunset without worrying that you will be left another statistic.