The tiny Karoo hamlet of Matjiesfontein was founded in 1884 by the British immigrant James Douglas Logan. He worked as a luggage porter at the Cape Town station and soon the agile and energetic man was promoted to station master. When the land around the station in Matjiesfontein was offered to him, he seized the opportunity and within very short time, created an oasis in the semi-desert. In 1889, he built a production plant for mineral water in Matjiesfontein and generated a good income from selling drinks and other provisions to the train passengers.
During the Anglo-Boer War (1899 to 1902) Matjiesfontein served the British as a military stronghold. The stately Lord Milner Hotel became a war hospital and after that, it became quiet in Matjiesfontein. After Logan's death in 1920, David Rawdon, an experienced hotel entrepreneur, bought the hotel and revitalised the whole village.
Matjiesfontein is steeped in history and was declared a National Monument in 1970. The station and the beautiful Victorian buildings were meticulously restored and a little museum opened to document the unusual history of the village and its inhabitants. Further information and accommodation to be found on the blue INFO page.
The little settlement soon became a popular stopover and rapidly grew until, at the turn of the century, Matjiesfontein had turned into a fashionable spa for the upper class. Clever Logan sold the dry, clear air of the Karoo as a cure for lung disease. Many famous persons like Cecil Rhodes, Lord Randolph Churchill, Edgar Wallace, Rudyard Kipling and the author Olive Schreiner become residents in Matjiesfontein. Nowadays, affluent Capetonians come here by train for a weekend to celebrate their grand fêtes.
Photo left: Lord Milner Hotel. Top right: Matjiesfontein. Centre right: Rovos Rail. Bottom right: Old Post Office.