Established as a refreshment point for ships traversing the oceans to gather spice imports from Asia, Cape Town started its development in 1652 as a small community that provided fresh water, vegetables and meat to sailors who worked for the Dutch East India Company.
Originally known as Klaasenbosch Farm, The Cellars-Hohenort was the sprawling estate that belonged to the chief surgeon of the Dutch East India Company, Hendrik ten Damme, in 1693.
Resting on the eastern slope of Table Mountain, the fertile soil of the land led the farm to its calling in the 1750s to become an integral part of the flourishing wine industry in Constantia, Cape Town. The Cellars building was the original wine cellar on Klaasenbosch Farm.
Centuries and various owners later, the farm was bought by Arnold Spilhaus in 1906 and the construction of the Hohenort building began. This German-style manor replaced the original thatched farmhouse on the farm, with a name meaning “high place”. The name was reflected in the architectural style of Seeliger, with its impressive stature. After the death of Spilhaus in 1947, the farm was split into sections and sold off.
Through these three centuries, vines, fruit, vegetables and flowers have blossomed on this land in the fertile Constantia Valley. It was in these very gardens that Mr Fisher, a former owner of the Cellars, hybridised the rose “Chris Barnard”, named after the famous heart surgeon.
In 1991, Liz McGrath purchased what was then the sole Cellars building with the intention of restoring its historical beauty, and uplifting what was then a country guesthouse. McGrath was known at the time for her success in developing the The Plettenberg, and the appeal of modernising the Cellars, yet retaining its history, was an opportunity she could not turn down.
The Oregon pine staircase in the Cellars was built using original timber from the roof of the building, while the lounge still shows its original beam structure. The hotel’s main restaurant, The Conservatory, was built around an oak tree as old as The Cellars itself. The same year the hotel was refurbished, it was invited to join the prestigious, internationally renowned Relais & Châteaux Association.
Until then, The Hohenort Hotel had been run under separate ownership on the property adjacent to the Cellars.
In February 1993, McGrath took over the property and began an extensive renovation that saw the hotel reopen its doors in November of the same year. The two properties and their surrounding nine acres of land were united once more.