The story begins intertwined with the adjacent Lutheran Church Group of buildings. This city block, first shown on Wentzels’ map of 1751, was granted to Martin Melck in 1764 who was a devout Lutheran. At that time, the United East India Company was in control of the Cape and did not allow any Lutheran church congregations. Melck submitted requests to the Company to review the situation, but was rejected. He then took matters into his own hands and had a hall erected in Cape Town’s stately Sea Street (now Strand Street). He pretended it to be a warehouse, but it was used as a secret church hall from 1771 to hold Lutheran church services, just like Roman Catholic shelters in the Protestant Netherlands. The Lutheran ‘warehouse’ on Strand Street was wider and shorter than the long warehouse built by Melck along Bree Street. Although exact dates of construction are unclear, a 1767 map indicates that the warehouse on Bree Street already existed or was being built by this time. Upon the death of Melck in 1781, ownership of the majority of the block was transferred to the Lutheran Congregation, and from 1791-1792 the Lutheran ‘warehouse’ was transformed into the Lutheran church by Anreith. The remainder of the block, roughly a third containing the Bree Street warehouse, was left to Melck’s daughter Maria.
He pretended it to be a warehouse, but it was used as a secret church hall from 1771 to hold Lutheran church services
This city block was on the edge of town to the North and ideally placed to serve the fortifications then being constructed along the rocky coast-line. These included the nearby Roggebaai, Amsterdam and Chavonnes Batteries. The warehouse on Bree Street was therefore put early or immediately to a military use. The property was described in 1785 as “Kaserne Magarzijnen” (meaning Barracks & Warehouse/Store), and the 1786 Plan van het Casteel en de Stad, de Goede Hoop colours the property to suggest military use. A 1786 sketch shows the Strand Street façade with a sentry-box and a soldier wearing the de Meuron regiment uniform in front of it. It was reported that the sentry was guarding the entrance of a Company Warehouse (“Compangnie se Pakhuys”), which was used for wine on the ground floor and wheat on the floor above, but at other times it was occupied as Barracks. The warehouse had been used by Melck to store Company goods and after his death, it appears to have been appropriated by the VOC. Reports from the period 1809-1829 refer to the building as a military depot in Strand Street, and there are references to it being formerly used as the naval hospital. Thompson’s well-known map of 1827 describes the property as a “Military Depot”. It is said that the Luxembourg Regiment also used these Barracks.
The drawings, maps, panoramas and photographs suggest that the Bree building was essentially unchanged for its first hundred or hundred and twenty years, until 1890 when the property was first subdivided. Thereafter the various subdivided parts each have their own history of use and development, and were iteratively changed over time according to the different owners and uses. The strip of the site closest to Martin Melck House was used by the owner, de Pass, as a manure depot at least until 1897. The street directories and the Goad’s insurance maps show that the rest of the site was used for a series of cartage and warehouse uses until 1924 when another subdivision took place and ownership changed. From 1924 until the mid-1960s the uses were an electrical engineering business (Woods) and a motor garage and spares (Strand Garage/Holmes Motors/Spares). During the period 1945 to 1962 the warehouse was altered initially with the additions of toilets and office partitions, but gradually by removing much of the old structure on the Strand Street side and replacing it with steel columns and then re-enforced concrete columns, beams, slabs and a new roof. A similar series of alterations and rationalisations of the structure were carried out after 1967 for use by a bank and various other retailers such as Quickprint run by the Yates family who purchased the Strand Street side of the property for their business. Later in 2001, Mike’s Sports owned by the Augoustides family, moved in from Woodstock where it was originally established in 1949.
The portions of the building facing onto Waterkant Street were occupied by a fodder store until about 1900, a Mission for Men (hall and residential accommodation) until about 1920, and later by a series of warehousing, general dealers and other retail uses such as Hamrads and Tracmac. These businesses did not require the same extent of change to the historic structure as required by the motor businesses with the result that very little of the original 1770s warehouse structure was lost. Sam Jocum, who arrived in the Cape in 1888 (Jocum & Palley Crockery 52 Waterkant Street), had a new façade with a covered colonnade constructed on Waterkant Street when he purchased that portion of the building in 1924, but the colonnade was later removed.
At the start of the 21st century, Mike and Casey two brothers from the Augoustides family (owners of Mikes Sports), negotiated to buy the various sections of the Bree Street warehouse from the different owners until almost a decade later in 2010, they managed to consolidate all the pieces back into a single erf under one owner. The property had come full circle and was re-united into the single portion left by Martin Melck to his daughter in 1781. At this point, however, much of the eighteenth century warehouse had been gradually and iteratively eroded by innumerable ad hoc alterations over time, and it looked quite different to the original warehouse that was built by Melck.
Both SAHRA and the City of Cape Town have kept an active interest in the progress, with regular site visits over the years. A recent letter received from SAHRA recognises the importance of the project.