Cape Town Postcard Map Project

Choose a location

. . .

Buildings

City Hall

City Hall

A postcard view of City Hall seen from the Parade.

City Hall

City Hall

A postcard view of City Hall seen from the Parade.

Buildings

Government House

Government House

A postcard view of Government House.

Government House

Government House

A postcard view of Government House.

Buildings

Post Office

Post Office

A postcard view of the General Post Office on Adderley Street.

Post Office

Post Office

A postcard view of the General Post Office on Adderley Street.

Buildings

Railroad Station on Lower Adderley Street

Railroad Station

A postcard view of the railroad station on lower Adderley Street.

Railroad Station on Lower Adderley Street

Railroad Station

A postcard view of the railroad station on lower Adderley Street.

Streets

Adderley Street

Adderley Street

A postcard view of Adderley Street.

Adderley Street

Adderley Street

A postcard view of Adderley Street.

Streets

Bree Street

Bree Street

A postcard view of Bree Street.

Bree Street

Bree Street

A postcard view of Bree Street.

Streets

Darling Street

Darling Street

A view of Darling Street.

Darling Street

Darling Street

A postcard view of Darling Street.

Streets

Loop Street

Loop Street

A postcard view of Loop Street.

Loop Street

Loop Street

A postcard view of Loop Street.

See current location on Google Maps.

Streets

Wale Street

Wale Street

A postcard view of Wale Street.

Wale Street

Wale Street

A postcard view of Wale Street.

See current location on Google Maps.

Scenery

Rogge Bay

Rogge Bay

A postcard view of Rogge Bay with Table Moutain in the distance.

Rogge Bay

Rogge Bay

A postcard view of Rogge Bay with Table Moutain in the distance.

Scenery

Junction of Bree and Waterkant Streets

Junction of Bree and Waterkant Streets

A postcard view of the junction of Bree and Waterkant Streets.

Junction of Bree and Waterkant Streets

Junction of Bree and Waterkant Streets

A postcard view of the junction of Bree and Waterkant Streets.

See current location on Google Maps.

Scenery

Green Market Square

Green Market Square

A postcard view of the Green Market Square.

Green Market Square

Green Market Square

A postcard view of the Green Market Square.

Postcards & Maps

This interactive map offers historical views of the city of Cape Town, South Africa. It uses picture postcards from the collection of Denis Bass and was prepared for his seventieth birthday. It remains, however, a work in progress.

Clicking on a red dot presents information regarding the location and a thumbnail of the associated postcard. Clicking on the thumbnail presents an enlarged image of the front of the postcard. (I hope to provide images of the backs of all the postcards in the near future.)

The underlying map image is part of an 1891 version of an 1884 map of the city. The map is described as “revised and corrected to date, under the super-intendence of the City Engineer, T.W. Cairncross, Esq.” Of possibly unrelated interest, Cairncross is listed in January 1884, the year of the original map, as official contact in the announcement of a competition for plans for “a system of drainage suitable for Cape Town” (The British Architect and Northern Engineer, volume 21 [1884], page 48, third column).

Apparently, things did not go all that smoothly with the drainage competition. According to a notice in the November 29, 1884 edition of The Builder, an illustrated weekly intended for “the architect, engineer, archaelologist, constructor, sanitary reformer, and art-lover,” the prize was decided unfairly and to a “storm” of epistolary opposition. As the author of the notice complains, “On calling for plans of the proposed sewerage of the city, certain rules were laid down for the guidance of the competitors, and every competitor, with the exception of the person who obtained the prize, acted on these instructions: the award was made to the one who disobeyed the conveyed intimations” (volume 47, page 743, second column).

What form did this mysteriously rewarded disobedience take? The author, “A Civil Engineer,” does not say. However, clarification is offered by another brief complaint in the September 27, 1884 edition of The Sanitary World. There we read:

The local authorities at Cape Town are not likely to get professional people to pay much heed to any advertisements they may issue in future. It may be remembered that not long since they invited engineers to send in designs for disposing of the “sewage of Cape Town, on any other system than that of permiting it to flow into the sea.” A prize of 250l. was offered for the best scheme, and, strange to relate, this was awarded to a genetleman whose plan did that which had been expressly forbidden. The competitors who adhered to the instructions issued were “out of the hunt” altogether. Anything more unsatisfactory can scarcely be conceived, and the Cape authorites owe an explanation to the general body of competitors, and to the profession. We trust this will be forthcoming. It is not a little singular that the competitor who worked counter to the instructions issued is a local clerk of the works, and it would be interesting to know what prompted him to act as he did. (Volume 2, page 303, first column.)

As the subsequent notice in The Builder suggests, the anticipated explanation for the misawarded prize was not, after all, forthcoming.

~Jonathan Bass, December 30, 2011