As the town of Cape Town grew in size and sophistication, so then its management committee began to require a meeting place to discuss the affairs of the Burgher Council. Early in the 18th century, when ruinous fires had already threatened the life of a number of Cape villages, it was decided to establish a fire brigade for the town, with its main station next to Greenmarket Square. A vacant lot facing on the square was acquired early in the 18th century and the first Burgher Watch House was built on the site in about 1716. Initially it was a plain residential structure, but in 1755 the foundation stone for a new and more ornate building was laid. This was completed in 1761. The building was substantially altered during the 18th century, undergoing a number of alterations to its façade, work which may have been necessitated by the seismic events of 1809 and 1811, when a number of the building's decorative elements were dislodged. The building remained the administrative centre of Cape Town for more than half a century and served as a meeting place for the Burgher Council from 1761. Following the annexation of the Cape by the British in 1806, the Council acquired more municipal responsibilities until its abolition in 1828, when the administration of the city's municipal affairs was taken over by central government. During this time the Burgher Watch House served as a magistrate's court and offices, but after municipal government was returned to the city in 1839, it became once again its headquarters. This lasted until 1905 when a new city hall was built facing the Parade. The building was then restored under the guidance of architect JM Solomon, and on 8 May 1917 it became the home of the Michaelis Art Collection. It was declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on24 February 1939.
Old Town House, Greenmarket Square, Cape Town.
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