The historic “Jan Rabie Cottage”, known as “Jan en Jorie se huis” in Hermanus is on the market. Karin Engelbrecht, an agent with Seeff who is marketing the property says it is one of those rare properties which occupy a very special place in the history of South Africa.
The home is located on a spectacular 1918sqm corner plot overlooking the ocean in Vermont near Onrus River and a short walk to the Jan Rabie Tidal Pool.
It was the home of Jan Rabie and Marjorie Wallace between 1970 and 2001 when Rabie died, but was only sold on auction in 2006 following the death of Marjorie who had moved to a retirement home in Onrus after Rabie’s death. The proceeds were donated to the University of the Western Cape.
Rabie is one of the best-loved Afrikaans writers, a pioneer of protest literature and an acclaimed inclusion in the “Sestigers” which is a group of influential Afrikaans writers of the 1960s. He travelled the world and lived in France for seven years where he met the Scottish painter, Marjorie Wallace. They married on their return to South Africa in 1955.
He wrote short stories, novels and other literary works, and translated more than forty books, mainly from French. He worked for the SABC (South African Broadcast Corporation) and wrote for Die Burger and co-founded the Afrikaans Writers Association (Afrikaanse Skrywersgilde). Concerned with marine conservation, he also co-authored an encyclopaedia of South African marine flora and fauna.
The couple entertained many well-known writers and artists such as Uys Krige and Chris Barnard (husband of Katinka Heyns) who also lived in the area along with other such as André P. Brink, Etienne Leroux, Breyten Breytenbach, Abraham de Vries and Elsa Joubert.
Ms Engelbrecht says the new owners initially used the home as their holiday home as they resided in Kenya since 1993, establishing an export rose farm there in 1995. The property needed significant work with a lot of structural repairs and the entire roof replaced.
Fortunately, they only had to wait three months for approval from the Heritage Committee. With the help of local architect, Neel Saayman, who as a child used to visit Jan and Jorie’s house, the house was restored and renovated.
The home has characteristic Cape Dutch gables, sash windows with shutters and a wide stoep in the front and back. The front boundary features a beautiful old low stonewall and wooden gates.
Since it is a historic building, the exterior had to be retained except for the upper-level attic, Marjorie’s “studio in the sky”, which was a later addition by Jan. Hence, the new owners were able to change it by installing large windows to maximise the spectacular sea views.
The ground floor comprises a lounge, dining room, kitchen, scullery and TV room (which could serve as a fourth bedroom) and a third bedroom leading off it with a separate third bathroom.
As is often the case with historic restorations, the new owners discovered a hole under Jan’s study where he apparently used to hide friends in the event of a visit by the security policy during the Apartheid years, says the agent. This space, now under the TV room, has been converted into a lovely wine cellar.
The upstairs section also offers two bedrooms with bathrooms and a spacious living or study/studio area, ideal for working from home with spectacular sea views. Kiaat wood is used for various cabinetry including in the bedroom, bathroom, farm-styled kitchen and staircase to the upper level. The outbuildings include two garages and there is also a stone-built braai area in the garden. This spectacular heritage property is on the market for R12,7 million.
Some memorabilia still in the home include the original number plate of Jan and Marjorie’s Morris which adorn the wall above the fireplace, old paint-splattered red telephone from which Marjorie phoned Uys Krige every day as well as Jan’s olive press, used to press olives from trees imported from Greece.
Hermanus is now one of the most popular coastal towns
Hermanus is fast becoming one of the most popular coastal towns in the country, largely for its excellent weather, cosmopolitan lifestyle, whale-watching and access to Cape Town and the international airport.
It is one of the busiest coastal property markets with Lightstone data showing transactions for the past twelve months to the end of August to the value of over R2,347 billion at an average transaction value of R2,281 million.
It is also getting younger, says Paul Kruger, licensee for Seeff Hermanus. Although 77% of property owners are over fifty and 62% have lived in the same home for more than seven years, 45% of recent buyers are now under fifty.
He says further that property in the town is regarded as an excellent investment with buyer interest varied, from holiday to retirement property as well as semigration to the town in recent years, especially with the WFH trend. Over 70% of buyers tend to be from out of town and activity has recovered to pre-pandemic levels. There is also an active residential and holiday rental market
Vermont is adjacent to Onrus River and is a holiday hotspot and becoming very popular with permanent residents. Just down the road is the Jan Rabie tidal pool, a special spot for many parents and children during the summer months. A meander built all along the coast provides safe walking for early morning or late afternoon strolls or runs. Hermanus offers exceptional infrastructure, retail, wine tasting and dining as well as medical facilities and top schools.