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Peaceful park hides explosive past. More...
Gold was the catalyst that fuelled the industrial awakening of South Africa. The discovery of the Witwatersrand Reef in 1886 resulted in Johannesburg becoming the largest market in the world for dynamite, almost overnight.
The ‘Zuid Afrikaansche Fabrieken voor Ontplofbare Stoffen Beperk’, a company formed expressly to supply dynamite to the mines, was the brainchild of Paul Kruger, President of the South African Republic. Modderfontein Factory was laid out on 2400 hectares of virgin Highveld teeming with game and wildlife, and devoid of industry, raw materials and skilled workers. Construction started in April 1895 under the supervision of the first Factory Manager Franz Hoenig, an Austrian seconded from the Nobel explosives factory at Pressburg in Hungary.
Four explosives factories were built, complete with infrastructure and housing, with an estimated output of 240 000 × 50 lb cases of explosives per year.
Trained explosives workers were recruited mainly from Europe and at one stage representatives of no fewer than 17 European nationalities were on the payroll. Black employees were recruited from the four corners of the sub-continent to embark on a significant contribution to the Company's success story which continues 100 years later.
The layout of the factory was based on that of the Nobel plant at Ardeer in Scotland. A survey of the property carried out prior to the establishment of African Explosives and Industries in 1924 valued Franz Hoenig house at 4 000 pounds sterling. Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout movement, lived in Franz Hoenig house during the Anglo Boer War. The first million tons of explosives were produced at the factory in 1953. The General Offices (now Modderfontein House) were built in 1937. Modderfontein was proclaimed a Health Committee in 1952 and a Town Council in 1986.
The Modderfontein Conservation Park is situated on AECI property and covers an area of 899 hectares. This includes a variety of habitat ranging from grasslands, forests, riverine vegetation to wetlands.
The Park was established by AECI in 1988 to demonstrate that industry and nature can co-exist. At the heart of the Park is a small complex of buildings fondly called "ISIDLEKE" which means "the nest".
Isidleke comprises3 buildings: an old barn, Dobb’s House and an office complex. The old barn was built in 1896 by Sir Alfred Beit, who was once the owner of a hunting lodge in the area. The only part of the hunting lodge remaining today is the shooting tower. The barn was used as a staging post for carriages and horses. This has been restored to it’s former glory and operates as an Environmental Education Centre. It is also a very popular venue for business meetings, functions, workshops and weddings due to the tranquility of it’s surroundings.
The dam keepers house, Dobb’s House, built in 1934 has also been restored and serves as a smaller venue for meetings.
In 1991 the office block was built together with ablution facilities catering for up to 100 visitors. They were designed to blend in with the architecture of the barn and Dobb’s House.
An attraction of the Park has always been the wide variety of birds seen there. The number of recorded species currently stands at 253. Birds such as the fish eagle and crimson breasted shrike are regularly seen in the Park, with seasonal visits from long crested eagle and other interesting birds of prey. In addition a pair of blue cranes has bred near Dam 4 for the last 15 years.
The Park has always had small populations of black-backed jackal, steenbok and duiker and genet. The game variety has been boosted with the introduction of zebra, black wildebeest, red hartebeest, blesbok, reedbuck,.and highveld springbok. At present these animals are restricted to an area in the north-west portion of the Park.
Eager naturalists walking through the area may also have the privilege of seeing some of the leguaan resident along the Modderfontein Spruit, as well as the Cape clawless otter, various mongooses/meerkats and hedgehogs.
Although the Park currently has restricted access, the longer term plan is to open sections of the park to the public. The Park can be accessed under the leadership of members of the committee of the Modderfontein Conservation Society. The Society has a program of walks (for hikers and birders) every Tuesday morning, one Saturday and one Sunday morning each month. On the last Thursday evening of every month a talk is given in the barn at Isidleke. These talks cover a wide range of conservation topics and are extremely interesting.
33 HIGH STREET RESTAURANT & BAR
This beautiful restaurant is
situated in a dear old house built in 1896; spacious, comfortable and
fully restored with a gracious past revitalised - mellow and immaculate.
High ceilings, gleaming Oregon pine floors and five separate dining
rooms, each with its own distinct entity for cozy get togethers.
Seating 100 inside, 85 in the leafy outdoors. Creative, full flavoured, friendly priced international a' la carte menu, here kids get a warm welcome.
Stately oaks in their pristine setting proclaim the mood, the tangible tranquility in what we are, how we think, and what we have to offer.
MODDERFONTEIN GOLF CLUB
The Club was opened in 1928
but has been revamped on several occasions and is the home of the AECI
Classic. This championship course has been host to all the major amateur
tournaments including the National Inter-Provincial in 1998. The
Clubhouse itself, was rebuilt in 1997, and features all the most modern
facilities together with spacious parking areas. The 6568 metre course
is located in a beautiful setting with nine holes either
alongside or crossing dams and streams.
The Modderfontein Town Hall built in 1897 is one of the original buildings. It initially served as an officials club known as the Casino, and now the town hall.
Franz Hoenig Haus is a home with a special charm and character which transports the visitor to times gone by.
It is one of the oldest restored houses in Gauteng.