Sea Point got its name in 1776
when one of the commanders serving under Capt Cook, Sam Wallis, encamped his men in the area to avoid a smallpox
epidemic in Cape Town at the time. It grew as a residential suburb in the early 1800s, and in 1839 was merged
into a single municipality with neighbouring Green Point. The 1875 census indicated that Sea Point and Green
Point jointly had a population of 1,425. By 1904 it stood at 8,839.
Bantry Bay was
originally called Botany Bay after a botanical garden that was planted here for the cultivation of medicinal
herbs. The name was changed during World War I.
With the 1862 opening of the Sea Point tramline, the area became Cape Town's first
"commuter suburb", though the line linked initially to Camps Bay. At the turn of the century, the tramline was
augmented by the Metropolitan and Suburban Railway Company, which added a line to the City Centre. During the
1800s, Sea Point's development was dominated by the influence of its most famous resident, the liberal
parliamentarian and MP for Cape Town, Saul Solomon. Solomon was both the founder of the Cape Argus and the most
influential liberal in the country - constantly fighting racial inequality in the Cape.
There are extensive beds of kelp offshore. Compared to the False Bay side of the
Cape Peninsula, the
Further along the coast, going towards Clifton,
there is a plaque overlooking the rocks. This commemorates Charles Darwin's observation of a rare geological
interface, where igneous rock has invaded, absorbed and replaced metamorphic rock.
In the 17th century the peak was known as Leeuwen Kop (Lion's Head) by the Dutch, and Signal Hill was known
as Leeuwen Staart (Lion's Tail), as the shape resembles a crouching lion or a sphinx. The English in the
17th Century called the peak Sugar Loaf.
These tidal pools were the destination for children and families. The men went to Graaff's Pool
which was a walled tidal pool for men only, and the men could sun bathe in the nude.
Graaff’s Pool was built in 1870
and was named after David and Jacobus Graaff, whose family owned an estate on the beachfront which included
“Although the natural pool is
today known as Graaff’s Pool, access was originally facilitated by Pieter Marais who bought the Bordeaux mansion
in 1865. When Marais’ wife fell into poor health, he constructed a path from the front gates of Bordeaux to the
natural pool in the rocks opposite. She became an invalid and during hot weather she was wheeled to the pool,”
In 1893, Jacobus bought the
Bordeaux mansion from Marais.
His wife, Lady Graaff, used to
cross the gravel road to go for her daily swim in the sea, but in 1895 a railway service was introduced between
Cape Town and Sea Point, leading to her husband building a tunnel under the tracks from the Bordeaux mansion to
the beach and extending the walkway to the natural pool where she bathed daily.
When the beach fron became home to high rise apartment buildings, there was an
outcry because the men could easily be seen - especially by putting a chair on top of a table, and using
The Round Church
Saul Solomon built his Round Church (St John's) of 1878 reflected his syncretic approach to
religion - housing 4 different religions in its walls, which were rounded to avoid "denominational corners".
"Solomon's Temple", as it was humorously known by residents, stood on its triangular traffic island at the
intersection of Main, Regent and Kloof roads, a centre of the Sea Point community, until it was destroyed by the
city council in the 1930s.