Over 90 years of community building.The history of Garden Cities starts in June 1919 with the Senate of the Union of South Africa formally approving the grant of about 280 hectares of land on the Uitvlugt Forest Reserve in the southern areas of Cape Town to the trustees of the company. This was the area that was to become one of the city's most successful suburbs, Pinelands.
Founded by Cape Town businessman Richard Stuttaford with six trustees, and his own capital injection of £10 000, the company was based on the revolutionary British Garden City movement started by Sir Ebenezer Howard. Howard's objective was to build entire new towns and effectively improve the poor living conditions that had developed in Britain at the turn of the last century. The planning included space for schools, hospitals, playing fields and shops, making each of what he called garden cities, a self-contained community. The first project, called Letchworth, was highly acclaimed and was followed by a second, Welwyn, which was the model on which Richard Stuttaford based his vision for a South African counterpart.
Today, having grown enormously, Garden Cities serves a new dispensation in South Africa but still adheres to the Deed of Trust that was signed at its founding, with the main purpose 'to provide better housing and social conditions for the people, the latter purpose to be construed in its widest sense.' The trustees, or directors, as they are now called, to this day, receive no remuneration for their services, and continue to be drawn from the City's highest echelon of business and the professions.
The current chairman of the company, Sean Stuttaford is the great-grandson of the founder Richard Stuttaford, and his chairmanship is in the family tradition. When Richard Stuttaford died in 1945 he was succeeded by Sean's great-uncle, Richard Bawden Stuttaford (known as Den) who died in September 1978 and was succeeded the following month by Sean's grandfather John Steel Stuttaford (known as Jack). He retired in 1990 and died in June 1997.
Two non-family members, HC Kuiper and DT Fletcher held the chairmanship between 1991 to 2002 when Sean Stuttaford was elected to the chair.
The earliest years of the development were not easy, and problems included a worldwide depression and reservations about the possible success of the Garden City, but Richard Stuttaford remained undaunted and General JC Smuts laid the foundation stone of Pinelands in 1923.
Pinelands was known for its idiosyncratic thatch roofs which were specified for all houses build in the suburb until years later when fire and economic considerations led to other roof materials being allowed.
Many pitfalls were overcome in the early years including the provision of housing loans to the developers by government and later, Richard Stuttaford established the Pinelands Development Company to help finance the buyer's 20% deposit. The company was established with an authorized capital of £10 000 for providing this financial assistance to buyers.
Pineland Development Company is today the building operation that undertakes construction of Garden Cities' houses in the many developments the company has established throughout the Cape Peninsula and northern areas.
The story of Garden Cities is underscored by the enormous care that is taken with each of the new developments, which included Meadowridge in the south peninsula, Elfindale, Square Hill and Edgemead among others. Today, 90 years after the company came into being as a builder of communities, that is still the main objective.
Every sector of a community is catered for, from schoolchildren, provided with education sites and playing fields, to the elderly, who can find retirement homes in specially developed enclaves in the heart of the community. Retail is a big consideration and the suburbs all have excellent shopping areas to serve the needs of the householders. Hospitals too, are near at hand.
In line with Garden Cities' preoccupation with quality, the new developments on the west coast at Sunningdale and also in the northern areas of Cape Town at Pinehurst, follow the same exacting standards of layout, design and construction. The prices of the properties are still achievable and continued efforts are made to raise the standards even higher. The innovations go so far as to provide householders with crops to harvest as in the case of the olive groves being planted at the new village Oakwood near the border of Durbanville.
Garden Cities has not wavered in its devotion to fair dealing throughout its long history, and today, that good reputation stands unchallenged, as it has over the past 90 years.