Huckleberry’s – The Café in the Park
Magnolia Dell is one of the oldest parks in Pretoria. The public space was originally reclaimed from land ‘belonging to the consolidated brickworks of Olive and Co, makers of bricks for amongst others the Union Buildings’
The park was laid out in 1967 by Harry Bruinslich, Director of Parks and Recreation of the then City Council of Pretoria. In 1975, Mrs Hannah Weilbach, wife of the then Town Engineer, developed a charity kiosk in the park under the auspices of Round Table Group 87. Various charity organisations sold tea and cakes on weekends and public holidays.
The park contains many Magnolia species – both Magnolia grandiflora and Magnolia soulangeana. In the late 1940’s, 250 Magnolia trees were planted on the current site after the roadworks were completed. Magnolia grandiflora has also been planted as street trees along the adjacent Florence Ribeiro street.
Over time the kiosk became dilapidated. David Brewer (a resident of Muckleneuk) used to visit the park with his wife and young son. He realised that the community would benefit from an upgraded kiosk which was open during the week, as parents could watch their children whilst having coffee. He approached the Round Table and the City Council, and suggested that the Round Table continue to lease the site from the City Council, whilst subletting to David, who would develop the site at his own cost. This way the park would benefit from a regular presence, whilst the charity organisations would continue to receive a monthly income as before. After two years of negotiations it was agreed that he could develop the kiosk into a full-time coffee shop in 1994.
Huckleberry’s was developed around the original kiosk, with the original kiosk forming the kitchen of the restaurant. The Leopard trees (Caesalpinia ferrea), which were planted by Mrs Weilbach at the kiosk, were retained in the outside deck area, and the plaque commemorating the development of the kiosk can still be seen inside the restaurant. Mrs Weilbach and her family became regular customers at Huckleberry’s, and she would often remark how happy she was that her legacy was continuing. Mrs Weilbach used to organise an annual ‘Jacaranda tour’ for the elderly, and a tea party -sponsored by Huckleberry’s - was included in the itinerary. Mrs Weilbach celebrated her 100th birthday in 2018, and sadly, passed away on 31 July of the same year.
Walker Spruit flows through the park and connects with the Apies River about 3km downstream. As part of the Groenkloof Stormwater Management Plan, an earth berm was constructed behind the restaurant in order to deflect any excess stormwater through the park. This creates occasional dramatic flooding through the park itself. A shallow pond in the western part of the park is a popular play area for children and dogs alike.
Magnolia Dell has always been synonymous with wholesome family recreation. In 2014, as part of the Cool Capital Iniative, Intiem Magazine decided to develop a ‘Love Bridge” in Pretoria. The editor, Liezel van der Merwe, chose Magnolia Dell specifically because she had such fond memories of playing in the park as a child. The Love Bridge continues to be a popular attraction in the park, with its collection of locks symbolising marriage and commitment.
Peter Pan and Wendy
Flanking the pond are two stone plinths that used to hold statues of the storybook characters Peter Pan and Wendy. Unfortunately, the statues have been stolen.
An oversized megaphone sculpture - designed by artist Lira van Staden from MEGA PHONE ME, as a part of the Capital Collective Initiative (an initiative to improve the city through public private community partnerships) - was installed in the children’s playground area. The sculpture faces a similar sculpture in the park at the Pretoria Art Museum. The sculptures are not only works of art, but have been designed for public interaction, forming a structure to play on, and including a children’s slide The megaphones signify a need for different communities and cultural groups to communicate, and symbolise ‘giving the general public a voice’