Noon Gun Tea Room demolished

The Noon Gun Tea Room has been demolished, much to the dissatisfaction of Bo-Kaap residents.

Bo-Kaap residents are still in shock that the historic Noon Gun Tearoom and Restaurant on Signal Hill was allowed to be demolished last month.

Jacky Poking, spokeswoman for Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association (BKCRA), told Atlantic Sun that residents have accused the association of “not doing enough” to stop the demolition as the Noon Gun Tearoom and Restaurant held heritage status.

The tearoom and restaurant had also been the home of the Misbach family for 70 years before they decided to sell it.

Ms Poking said the BKCRA had received an email from Heritage Western Cape in 2017, telling them of the planned demolition and the association had sent out notices to the community, giving them an opportunity to have their say.

Residents had handed in submissions, which included an ethnography of the area’s people, customs and cultures, as part of the public participation process which was to be submitted to Heritage Western Cape.

However, Ms Poking said the deadline for the public participation process had been missed as it fell during the holy month of Ramadaan.

AtlanticSunpreviously quoted Heritage Western Cape’s chief executive officer, Mxolisi Dlamuka, confirming that the Noon Gun Tearoom did, in fact, have heritage significance as it had been built more than 60 years ago and had, in the 1980s, along with other Bo-Kaap homes, served as a hide-out for anti-apartheid activists (“New plans for heritage site”, Atlantic Sun, November 10 2016). Heritage Western Cape did not respond to a query sent by the Atlantic Sun this time.

Shireen Misbach, who was born on the property in 1952, was a tour guide for the Bo-kaap area and in 1995 she and her mother, Mariam Misbach started the tearoom and restaurant.

She said the tour would always end in the backyard of the Noon Gun property so that’s how the idea of the tearoom and restaurant came about.

Ms Misbach said her parents had lived in the house for 70 years before selling the property.

She said she is not upset that the property had been demolished but hoped that the builders would incorporate parts of the old building into the new, such as the pillars on the outside or building around the facade.

She added that she enjoyed her childhood as many families in Bo-Kaap would gather at their home on weekends and her great-grandfather, Abdullah Harris would be their entertainment.

“We would have braais, he organised the watermelon festivals and even hung a Christmas tree for all neighbours that were Christian.”

Labiebah Wiener, granddaughter of Mr Harris, was unaware that the demolition process had begun. She was emotional when niece Fayrooz Asad showed her a picture of what the area currently looks like.

“I am very sad that the house was broken down like that, it is terrible. All my life I had lived there in the mountain, now there is no more mountain, no more house, nothing.”

The new owner of the property, Cape Town designer, Gail Behr, seemed taken aback when Atlantic Sun contacted her. She said the building had been put on the open market by Mr and Ms Misbach and they had no problem with having the house demolished.

Ms Behr said: “I discovered an old and rather unremarkable set of concrete stairs that must have once led up to the original ‘stoep’ buried beneath the slapstick additions and have retained these plus some old pillars which will be repurposed on the stoep that we will be building in the place identical to where the original stoep must have once stood proud.”

When asked about what would be built in place of the Noon Gun Tearoom, she said: “A bone-achingly pretty building with a real front stoep, antique windows and doors that we have sourced and are remarkably beautiful.”

Mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, said a demolition permit was issued in February this year and no new building plan application has been submitted yet.