The Raadsaal building which currently stands in President Brand Street, is the fourth such to have been Built by the old Republic of the Orange Free State. Following the abolition of the Orange River Sovereignty in 1854, the Republic's Legislative Assembly provisionally met, in a humble thatched Hall in St George's Street, also used as a temporary Church Hall and a School. By 1856 new Premises were found on a site facing the market square, which is today occupied by the Post Office. Despite the fact that these Premises were provisional, it took another 20 years before the Government was able to build its own Building, located at the top of Maitland Street However, by the early 1880s the Republic's Administration had outstripped the office space available, and it was resolved to build a new Presidency as well as a new Council Chamber. Following a competition the design for both Buildings was awarded to Lennox Canning, a Johannesburg Architect. Although the Presidency was completed in 1886, work on the government buildings did not begin until 1889 when a tender of £27,183.10s from TR Robertson, of Johannesburg, was accepted. The Foundation Stone was laid by President Reitz on 27 June 1890. However a number of problems were incurred during construction, including shortages of labour, access to suitable building materials, and the resultant bankruptcy of the contractor. As a result new tenders were called for, to cover all work still outstanding, and the contract was awarded to JJ Kirkness for £12,500. The building was eventually inaugurated on 5 June 1893, when the Republic's legislative Council formally walked from the old Chamber to the new one in a procession headed by the Sheriff of Bloemfontein on horseback, escorted by men from the Mounted Artillery, and the Architect with the keys to the Building. Over the next few years a further £4000 were spent in internal furnishings. Nonetheless the Government was not destined to enjoy the comfort and luxury of its new premises for very long. In March 1900 Bloemfontein was occupied by British forces, and the Building's magnificent Hall was converted into a Military Hospital. Its furniture was removed, much of it finding its way into private Homes, while its beautifully carved wooden coat of arms was taken to England as a trophy. In 1907 the Orange River Crown Colony was granted responsible Government, and its Administration was taken over by two chambers, a Council and a Legislative assembly. The latter continued to meet in the Raadsaal, while a separate Building, facing Aliwal Street, was erected to House the Upper House. After 1910 the Raadsaal became the Headquarters of the Provincial Council while the Chamber and its suite of rooms were occupied by the Appeal Court, which met there until its own Premises were completed in 1929.
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