Graaf's Pool

The pool was built in 1910 to accomodate the needs of a paralysed woman who lived in a mansion right behind the pool. It featured a tunnel for acess under the beach road, and a wall to shield the users from view. After her the mansion, and the pool, was owned by a politicial named Graaff, after whom the pool was named. He bequethed the pool to the City of Cape Town, where it soon became a hangout for gay men, who congregated behind the wall and swam in the nude. In later years the locals objected to this practice, and the wall was demolished in 2005. Today the pool is mostly unused. 

A further story in the area flourishes as steady as the legendary gaze of the ‘Lady of Bordeaux’ herself. In 1898, a villa named Bordeaux was built on Sea Point’s Beach Road by Mr Pieter Marais, a wealthy businessman who had ties to the wine industry. His wife, the ‘Lady of Bordeaux’, was wheelchair bound, and would watch passers-by from the top windows of the Villa Bordeaux.

During the 1920s social stigmas about disability abounded and as such, Mr Marais constructed a pathway from the villa straight over the rocks to a private pool with a wall erected in front of it for private wheelchair access for his wife.

There she would bathe, concealed behind the wall, away from prying eyes. When the family fell on hard times, they sold the villa to Mr Jacobus Graaff. The Graaff family would walk from their palatial villa to the pool in their silks, without having to interact with common society, and so the pool was named Graaff’s Pool.

The story of the ‘Lady of Bordeaux’ has been attached to a mysterious, inaccessible tunnel for years where it is supposed that family members accessed the pool via the tunnel.

One can still view the remnants of the blocked tunnel and view the old path to the demolished pool. Eventually the bathing area was opened to the public in 1929 but its slow demise started in 1995 when the gates were shut at sunset, to control anti-social activities there. Its final demolition in 2005 had a powerfully positive impact on the general upliftment of the area.

The Villa Bordeaux was converted into a hotel and in 1959, just one year after Winchester Mansions inception, it was demolished to make way for what is today Sea Point’s largest block of beachfront flats, aptly named, Bordeaux.


Graaff's Pool cut down to size

2005-06-09 21:59

Cape Town - Nudie landmark Graaff's Pool - labelled by a city councillor as a venue where sex was for sale, drugs were peddled and the area used as a toilet - is almost gone.

A huge bulldozer started on Thursday with the destruction of the concrete wall around the well-known pool on the Sea Point promenade.

For councillor J P Smith, representing Sea Point and Green Point and who was there to monitor the proceedings, it was the end of a three-year campaign.

He said: "We can now make an end to the abuse of Graaff's Pool."

Smith approached the council three years ago with a deposition to do away with the concrete wall protecting the historic Graaff's Pool from prying eyes on land.

He was supported by the Sea Point Ratepayers' Association, as well as the area's community policing forum.

Tunnel under the street

Smith said: "It took us a long time to weigh up the pros and cons of this move and we eventually decided the demolition of the wall was justified.

"It no longer serves any useful purpose for the community."

The pool dates from the period when the former politician and leader of the opposition, Sir de Villiers Graaff and his family had a home across the street in Beach Road.

It was even possible for them to walk along a tunnel underneath the street to the pool where bathing was strictly in the nude.

The tunnel entrance can still be seen today.

In later years the family donated the pool to the city council.

Initially, only men were allowed to use it and it was only much later that women were allowed to use it.

'A hotspot for crime'

According to Smith, the sea took its toll through the years and storm damage caused cracks in the wall and even took away sections of concrete.

Smith said: "In time, it became a hotspot for crime.

"Condoms and stolen property were found there regularly and rent boys also used the place as a hangout."

The Western Cape heritage watchdog initially gave permission for the demolition of the wall to a height of one metre.

However, Smith is presenting a further deposition to break the wall down to the rock surface and have the area restored to its original state.