The discovery of the Witwatersrand Goldfields in 1886 provided the funds necessary to construct this building that was able to house the first Volksraad meeting on 5 May 1980 while still under construction. It is at this session of the Volksraad where the decision was taken to add a third floor to the building.
This building was a necessity as well as a symbol of pride for the ZAR. Paul Kruger had never been so personally involved in the construction of a building before. He took great interest in all its details.
The Government architect and designer of the Ou Raadsaal was Sytze Wopkes Wierda (1839-1911) of the ZAR Department of Public Works. The master builder of the time was John Johnstone Kirkness (1857-1939) and he became the contractor for the Raadsaal on Church Square.
A sculptor was needed for the Republican coat of arms to be placed in the second-floor pediment. The work of Anton van Wouw (1862-1965) attracted the attention of John Kirkness, whereby he was instructed to sculpt the coat of arms which consisted of a shield on a scrolled cartouche, surrounded by six radiating flags and an eagle with spread wings above the shield. Laurel leaves fill both sides of the tympanum and below this is the motto “Eendragt maakt magt” (Unity is Strength) inscribed in Roman lettering. This building is the first of the Transvaal Republic to bear the Z.A.R. coat of arms. Van Wouw's sculpture was later removed and replaced by the British coat of arms, but reinstated in the 1950s.
The building was finally completed in December 1891, telephones were installed (by P.C. Paff) in 1892, and electric lighting was implemented (by the Delphos Brothers) in 1896, with the clocks being completed in 1893.
Many celebrations took place in front of the Raadsaal, of which the second and third inaugurations of Paul Kruger as the President of the Republic are best known. In 1894 a ceremony for official guests was hosted in the Raadsaal by Sir Henry Loch, Governor of the Cape Colony. The completion of the Delagoa Bay Railway was celebrated with a large triumphal arch across Kruger Street in July, 1895. Crowds gathered on 8 June 1902 to honour the Peace Treaty signed at Melrose House on 31 May. The ceremony of the Trooping of the Colour was performed for Governor-General Lord Selborne for which the building was lavishly decorated.
The Ou Raadsaal was built on the highest part of Church Square and is also the tallest of the buildings surrounding it. It occupies the whole block, unlike the small barn-like Raadsaal that stood there before.
The style, as escribed by the architect himself, is Italian Renaissance. The walls are of plastered brick, painted to imitate sandstone. The main tower above the front entrance is capped with a lantern in which the clock is situated. Above that is the statue of a woman, which some believe to be Minerva, the Roman Goddess of war, or a statue representing freedom and liberty, or even the Virgin Mary.
The building was restored to its full glory in 1962 and again in 1989. The Council Chamber is the set piece of the dsing and is richly decorated. Theteak desks and rostrum and morocan leather chairs are all ori. Lavish stained glass windows let light into the room.
This building was declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on 27 September 1968.
-25° 44' 24", 28° 11' 60"