This national monument, formerly known as Webster’s Hotel, was built in 1864 and lies at the foot of the Zuurberg Pass has a colourful history spanning decades.
The year 1867 marks the year that diamonds were discovered along the Orange River and fortune hunters flocked to the mining sites via every known route. The Webster Hotel was conveniently situated and benefitted from this as they offered accommodation, food, a smithy and a well-stocked retail shop on the premises. Business was good. When and how the name changes from Webster’s hotel to Ann’s Villa came about is not clear from old papers, but today it is still known as Ann’s Villa.
From old records it seems that a school was started 24 years after the villa was built. The teacher for the school, stayed in the first room upstairs in the villa. It seems that the Websters also paid the teacher’s salary. The school closed down after World War II probably because the numbers fell below 11 students.
The Webster sons joined their father in doing business. Samuel managed the shop and financial affairs as well as the postal agency, James was the farmer and supplied fresh produce to the shop. William was the carpenter and George was the builder and blacksmith at Ann’s Villa. John (Snr) ran the bakery.
It is interesting to note on an inventory from a stocktaking during 1918 some of the brands you still find today are on the list: Tiger oats, Nugget polish, Packo tea, Royal baking powder and Springbok tobacco. The type of business that was conducted at the Villa also changed over the years. According to the books the blacksmith’s work declined as motor vehicle came onto the scene. Since 1927 car repairs are recorded in the shop’s ledgers and fuel was sold until 1957. Today the shop can be viewed by appointment only.
Ann’s Villa first became a post office in 1896 and later on demoted to a postal agency in 1910. From 1955 it was a postal agency again and remained thus until its closure on 18 December 1961.
The Villa is within an easy drive from Port Elizabeth and offer something different to do on a windy day in the Friendly City. Pack snacks for your road trip as no refreshments are available at Ann’s Villa.
On the day of our visit entry to the small museum was R20 per person (cash only).
DIRECTIONS TO GET TO THE VILLA
From Port Elizabeth take the N2 to Cradock, pass the village of Paterson, travel over the Olifantsnek Pass and turn left at the Ann’s Villa road signed. Continue on the R335 at at the first crossroad turn left and after 1 kilometer you will find Ann’s Villa.