111 years ago, was the last time he had a coffee on his front porch, gazing at the church opposite his house, before he went into exile, never to see any of this again. He died on the 14th of July 1904 in Clarens, Switzerland.
Take-away cuppachino in hand, I am sitting on his porch, enjoying a lull in the afternoon Church street traffic, as I ponder the life and times of President Paul Kruger.
The house was designed by Tom Claridge and Paul Kruger with his wife Gezina and their youngest son Tjaart lived here from 1884 untill 1900.
As I wonder through the house, I am struck by the combination of an ordinary daily life and conducting the affairs of state, let alone going to war with the mighty British Empire !! The original house organ testifies to that. The grandson of Kruger, Frikkie Eloff, played the organ every morning during devotions.
Looking at the various kitchen utensils of the time, running a household then was clearly a much more laborious task than in 2011.
The telephone in the front office was installed in 1891 and this was also one of the first houses in Pretoria to have electricity.
An eye catching bronze eagle guards the entrance to the President’s offices. It was a gift from the Irish-American community, in sympathy with the Boers during the South African War. It still hangs in its original place when the Krugers lived in the house.
During Kruger’s time as President, Dutch lawyer, Dr Leyds was a very influential part of that government. First as State Attorney and later as State Secretary. And not always loved by all. This clock was a gift from Kruger to Leyds. The Leyds family donated the clock to the museum and is a permanent testament to their very close relationship.
In the backyard stands the railway coach used by the President during political campaigns and various official visits. He also resided in it at Machadodorp and then onto Maputo, from where he left into exile in Europe.
Walking across street, I peek into the Dutch Reformed Church to see the 2 original chairs on which President and Mrs Kruger attended services, now placed under the pulpit.
I am drawn back to the museum for one last look. In the ZAR hall numerous tributes and tokens of sympathy are displayed. This indicates the international support for the Boers’ struggle for independence during the Anglo-Boer War, which sadly ended in tears and much bloodshed.
I leave the house through the front gate, famously flanked by the 2 marble lions. A birthday gift from mining magnate Barney Barnato on the President’s 71st. The 10th of October 1896.
On my way home, I am thinking that I can’t remember anything from my first visit to the Kruger House in 1973. Today’s visit however, made quite an impression on me.
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