A heart breaking beginnings.
General Hendrik Schoeman, original owner of the farm Hartbeespoort was also a farmer, decided that the community could gain from having a dam built to provide water and irrigation. He started in 1896 to build a dam wall in the Crocodile river, at the kloof where the river runs through, just were the railway line runs today in Meerhof. It was originally call Sophiadam after his wife. It cost him a massive £10,000 to build, an absolute fortune in those days. It was in those days the largest dam in the southern hemisphere and could provide water for the whole community.
Around 1905, a Sweed by the name of August Karlson, started construction on the dam wall as we know it. In the Schoemansville area. But with much financial problems in the country at that stage and with the onset of war, the building was terminated.
In 1918, construction was started again and the farms were bought and divided up for residential areas. Roads were tarred. The farm school had to be broken down to make way for the water building up in the dam. After the temporary dam was washed away by torrential rains in May 1921, all construction was stopped. The engineer left out of pure frustration. The morale of the builders and community was low.
The council eventually employed a young, but able engineer F.W. Scott, to complete the wall. In September 1923 the road was laid across the bridge, making it the new “main” road between Pretoria & Rustenburg. The main road in Hartbeespoort was then named Scott Street. The dam wall was built in an odd shape called a “Triomfboog”. Taken from Roman architecture for its strength to retain water. It is not repeated anywhere else in South Africa. To accentuate this, an arch is built on the wall to symbolize a gateway. It is a copy of the Arc de Triomphe in Parys. This shape is repeated in the Union Buildings, another major Historical Building.
During construction on the dam wall the children of the laborers were taught in a temporary school just behind the construction.
The dam used 250,000 bags of cement from PPC, rock was taken from the east side wall and sand was used from the river bed. Drinking water was provided by a natural fountain on the top of the mountain and accessed by a pipe line running through the mountain made from jam tins surrounded by cement.
In 1970 the dam wall was raised a further 2,4m and slues gates were installed, thus allowing the dam to fill to 205 million cubic meters of water.
The dam was mainly used for agricultural irrigation on the farms just below the dam wall and up to 60 km to the east and 58 km to the west via channels.
Many of the houses built in those days have been used for municipal buildings and are now tourist attractions (Tan Malie).
Still to this day, as it was from the beginning, when the dam overflows, tourists come from far and wide to see the spectacular. It has happened that the cars have been backed up all the way to Saartjiesnek (a good 10km distance).
Many thanks to Mrs van Zyl of Laerskool Generaal Hendrik Schoeman.