Things You Didn’t Know About Pretoria

I’ve lived in Pretoria (aka “Jacaranda City”, aka “Snor City”, aka “The 012”, aka “P-town”) since 1996. I was away for about a year (from March 1998 to January 1999) but I’ve been a resident of this fine city for over 20 years. It comes without saying that I really love this city and its people. 7 years ago I even wrote an article featuring 10 Facts about Pretoria, but I think it’s time for an update – the city has changed A LOT since then.

So without further ado, here are Things You Didn’t Know About Pretoria:

Pretoria’s main street, Church Street (which sections have been renamed to Stanza Bopape, Helen Joseph, WF Nkomo and Elias  Motswaledi  Streets) is the longest urban street in South Africa and one of the longest straight streets in the world.

According to this website, there are 101 embassies / consulates in Pretoria. The embassies for the People’s Republic of China and the USA take up a whole blocks in Arcadia and are quite a sight. (Thanks for the heads up Joseph)

Winston Churchill was imprisoned at the Staats Model School in Pretoria during the Anglo Boer War period (1899-1902) but escaped from captivity and fled to Mozambique. He went on to become the British Prime Minister from 1940 to 1945 and from 1951 to 1955.

Pretoria has one of the best beer restaurants in the country, Capital Craft. It has the biggest beer variety for a restaurant in Africa. They have branches in Menlo Park and Centurion and there are more than 200 different beers from all over the world on their menus and if you’re hungry, their food is really good too. The owners have also been hosting an annual craft beer festival since 2013. Last year’s event attracted close to 8,000 punters.

The duplex flats next to Picasso’s pub in Pierneef Street is where the world famous artist Pierneef’s house stood. The city council didn’t know it was his house and gave permission for the house to be demolished. The street and the primary school down the road are named after him. Pierneef left a bunch of paintings in his will to the school. To this day whenever the school needs money they auction off a painting.

“Pretoriusdorp”, “Pretorium”, “Pretoriusstad” were all considered as names by Marthinus Pretorius (the founder of the city, whose father Andries Pretorius). MW Pretorius bought two farms to start a new town. The first church congregation was named Pretoria Philadeplhia (Pretoria Friendship) in honor of Pretorius’ father. Later the town took on the shortened name of Pretoria. (Thanks for correcting me Andrew Buitendach).

Cafe Riche (a restaurant on Church Square) has a glass pane that you walk over to get into the restaurant. This is because it used to be a gentleman’s club. The club was underground so the glass was there so the gentlemen could look up under the ladies skirts (who were walking into the club). True story.

Pretoria is also known as the “Jacaranda City” because of the over 50,000 Jacaranda trees that lines her streets and carpet the city in purple for three weeks in October. The first Jacaranda trees were imported from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1888 by a Pretoria resident. Contrary to popular belief, there are actually less Jacaranda trees in Pretoria than in Johannesburg (the world’s biggest man-made forest with over 10 million trees).

Moreleta Park is named after Aletta Erasmus (daughter of Daniel Elardus Erasmus) from the farm Doornkloof (modern day Waterkloof / Erasmusrand / Elarduspark / Moreleta Park). Aletta washed her clothers in the river in the morning and then people greeted her in the morning from across the stream with “More Aletta” (“Morning Aletta”). A part of the Erasmus farm was sold to Alois Nellmapius. He renamed it to Irene Estate (after his daughter Irene Nellmapius). She got her name from the Greek goddess of peace, Eirene.

The 1.88 km long Tom Jenkins Drive road (which connects Rietondale with Brenturion / Arcadia – the area close to the Union Buildings) was built by Italian Prisoners of War during the Second World War. It’s named after a former mayor of Pretoria. Jenkins also went on to become the mayor of Margate (in Kwazulu Natal).

The Rivonia Trial (where former SA president Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders were sentenced to life-long imprisonment) took place in the Palace of Justice (on Pretoria’s Church Square). This is also where Madiba made his “I’m prepared to die” speech on the 20th of April 1964.

Fort Schanskop (one of four forts in the Pretoria area) was completed in 1897 and is located in the Voortrekker Monument Nature Reserve on the highest hill in the Pretoria area. The garrison was initially armed with one officer and 30 men but it was reduced to 17 men (by 1899) and eventually to 1 person without guns (by June 1900). No shots were fired at this location during the Anglo Boer War. Nowadays Fort Schanskop gets used for Park Acoustics (a monthly live music event in the capital city featuring great SA artists).

Well, there you have it, Things You Didn’t Know About Pretoria. This article will always be a work in progress, so if you have any facts about Pretoria that you want to share, e-mail me via hennokruger@gmail.com.

Watch this space for regular updates in the Facts category on Running Wolf’s Rant.

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Henno Kruger
Blogger, Desktop Activist, Twitter / Facebook Addict, Music Festival Addict, Avid lover of South African music, Founder and owner of Running Wolf's Rant and co-founder of SA Music Zone

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