Oom Japie se Huis

Several related branches of a business in Philippolis’s main street on the R717 tar road, approached from the north (and the N1) from Trompsburg and from the south (and the N1) from Colesberg. 

Visitors can find the following at Oom Japie se Huis in Philippolis:

  • Secondhand bookshop (see March 2007 Country Life, page 28);
  • Restaurant, coffee shop and bar;
  • Fine art gallery;
  • Antiques and collectables sales room;
  • Laurens van der Post Memorial Centre;
  • Artists’ Retreat, a four-person guesthouse at the above centre;
  • Town tours; and
  • Horizon Route tour, starting and ending in Philippolis.

The business is centred on Oom Japie se Huis, named after Oom Japie Janse van Rensburg, a sheep farmer and church elder, who came to live in the town after the death of his wife in 1993. He restored 27 Voortrekker Street, a Victorian house dating from 1881, to such good effect that it received the 1997 award of the SA Institute of Architects for best-restored vernacular house in South Africa. Oom Japie died in 2003, but the lessors of the house believed that his name should be commemorated. Combining a bookshop with a restaurant (or vice versa) has proved to be good business.

The bookshop has some 8000 titles divided into a room for non-fiction and a room for English and Afrikaans fiction, children’s books and a few new books. Prices from R25 to R30,000.

The restaurant specialised in three-course dinners with a main course of deboned and marinaded Karoo lamb or Karoo lamb loin chops. The bar serves Philippolis’s famous Witblits and stocks close to thirty Scotch whiskies and forty table wines.

The art gallery specialises in paintings by Adolfo McQue and Chris Ruthven and photographs by Bruce Clemence and Wim Fourie, including works of Philippolis and other parts of the historical Southern Free State. Prices from R450 to R9000.

Sir Laurens van der Post’s study was brought to Philippolis from London and forms the main museum of the memorial centre, whose additional features include a small guesthouse set in symbolic gardens and a labyrinth.

The Old Bakery is another historical building opposite the Laurens van der Post Memorial Centre and it is now used as sales rooms for antique and collectable furniture, silver, glass and porcelain as well as some paintings and other items.

Other interesting features about the area:

  • Medicinal plants are collected and studied here; and
  • The nearby Laohu Valley reserve is wilding and breeding the endangered South China tiger.
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