When Hester de Villiers died, in 1914, she left instructions in her will that “after the death of my husband, Jacob Izaak de Villiers, the farm Vischoek near Kalk Bay shall be sold.” She asked that it be sold in building plots and that after sums of money had been deducted for three of her nieces, and for various charities, the balance was to be equally divided between her husband’s children and her other nieces and nephews. Being a shrewd businesswoman, and realising how popular Fish Hoek had become, she obviously felt that more money would be raised for her heirs by selling it off in this way.
She also asked that a sum of £150 “shall be placed in the savings bank at Cape Town and used for the maintenance of the family cemetery”. An interesting addition to this clause reads that “no trees shall be planted in the cemetery.” No explanation is given for this but perhaps she thought that the roots might undermine the graves. This cemetery, in which Hester and Izaak de Villiers are also buried, is alongside the Dutch Reformed Church in Kommetjie Road and is looked after by the Church Seniors’ Club.
There was great interest in the proposed sale of plots in Fish Hoek. On 7 December 1917 we read in the weekly paper, The Cape, that “Fish Hoek is at last to be laid out as a seaside residential resort.” The writer hoped that “before passing the plans for the sub-division of the Fish Hoek Estate, a definite scheme of laying out the roads and erecting buildings should be followed. Without some such plan Fish Hoek will inevitably grow up anyhow, as Muizenberg has done. Visitors who are gifted with any sense of the picturesque become mentally ill when they see the town of Muizenberg for the first time, with its houses elbowing and crowding each other and facing all ways. The Divisional Council now has a unique opportunity of rendering a service to the Peninsula and the public by taking steps to see that Fish Hoek is, from the beginning, built on the lines of order and picturesqueness which will add to instead of detract from the natural beauty of the place.” I wonder what the writer would have thought of Fish Hoek today?
On 16 March 1918 the first sale of plots was advertised.
“Colonial Orphan Chamber and Trust Company.
The Famous Estate, Fish Hoek near Kalk Bay
South Africa’s Premier Watering Place.
Preliminary Notice of Sale of Portion of this most charming
and delightful Seaside Resort.
First Sale by Public Auction of exceptionally valuable,
most attractive and desirably situated.
Residential Building sites
In the Estate of the late Mrs. H. S. de Villiers
On Wednesday, April 24th
At 11 o’clock on the spot.
The Executors of the Estate will cause to he submitted a large number of lots on this
Estate, in order to satisfy the wishes of intending purchasers.
Further and fuller particulars will appear in later issues.
Lithographic Plans will be available on and after the 10″ April
at this and the Auctioneers Offices.
Cape Town, 91h March 1918. I. C. D. DE VILLIERS
J. B. ZOUTENDYK & CO J. C. FAURE-JURITZ
Auctioneers and Sworn Appraisers” Secretary
That sale, and a further one in May 1918, was very well attended and plots were sold at prices ranging from £10 to £140. The most popular sites being those overlooking the bay. In a reference book on the area, published that year, we read that “The estate has been cut up into building plots, of which nearly 3 000 have been sold, and houses are springing up in all directions.” We are also told that “there is a postal delivery twice a day” and ‘for residences or camping, Fish Hoek is an ideal place and, owing to its situation, it enjoys three hours more sunlight a day than the neighbouring resorts on False Bay.”
A newspaper advertisement for a further sale of “336 Splendid Plots” appeared in January 1921. It pointed out that “The keen competition for this land at earlier sales points to the necessity for prompt action if you wish to secure one or more plots before it is too late. The land is increasing in value every day: many who purchased at earlier sales have since resold at a good profit.”
A cutting from 25 February 1929 tells us that nearly a hundred people assembled on the Outspan for a further sale of plots, which were mostly on the mountainside. As building on the higher plots would be more difficult they could be bought more cheaply than those lower down. High plots were sold for as little as £2 whilst those on Kommetjie Road fetched up to £100. Even at these prices profits were being made, a plot bought in 1918 for £35 had been resold in 1929 for £600.
The first residents were mainly weekenders, many of them having previously camped in the area, put up what they called “weekend shacks” which were wooden huts in which they could sleep overnight and leave their camping gear. The Robertson’s bought a wartime shooting box which they had railed to Fish Hoek. They built rooms on to the sides of it which meant that the shooting apertures were now between rooms and their children enjoyed opening the little shutters to chat to each other. The Ohlssen’s brought a railway carriage to turn into their home, much to the envy of their children’s playmates. “The Caboose” remained for many years, being used for extra accommodation after the building of a more conventional house. Gradually more permanent structures were built, most of them wooden cottages with roofs of corrugated iron, but many of them were still only used over the weekends and the Christmas season.
In the early 1920’s Mr Rice caused a sensation by building a very imposing house on the top of a sandhill on what is now the corner of de Waal Road and Third Avenue. As most of the development in Fish Hoek at that time was on Elsie’s Peak, overlooking the bay, or at the top of the early Avenues, people thought that he was crazy. “Fish Hoek is never going to develop that far” they said, and nicknamed the house Rice’s Folly. The Rice family sold it, it became a hotel and then flats before being pulled down in the 1970’s, but even then was still known as Rice’s Folly.
The plan from which the plots were sold was based on hexagons, something quite different from the usual system of blocks, and one that has made Fish Hoek a very confusing place for succeeding generations. The open hexagons were to be recreational open spaces. On the one bounded by Central Circle, which now is the Civic Centre, sports fields and a bowling green were laid out. In 1932 a hall was built next to the sports fields. Known as the Recreation Hall this wooden building, with its thatched roof, became the centre of social life in the village.
The sports clubs used it for changing and hospitality to visiting teams and many social events took place there. The Dramatic Society put on plays, there were film shows and many dances and parties at what was known as the Rec Hall. In 1960 the Municipality decided that Fish Hoek needed a bigger hall, the sports fields were relocated, and the Civic Hall and Minor Hall were built. In 1988 new Municipal Offices and a Library were also built there. With the building of the Senior High School the sports fields were again relocated to their present site.