Observatory, Cape Town
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2008)|
Top: One of the historic buildings at the former Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope, (now the headquarters of the South African Astronomical Observatory) after which the area is named. Middle left: Groote Schuur Hospital. Centre Middle: A World War I monument in the centre of the Neighborhood. Middle right: Cafes on lower main road in Observatory. Bottom: A view of Observatory's soccer and hockey stadium looking towards Devil's Peak.
Street map of Observatory
|Municipality||City of Cape Town|
|• Councillor||Brett Herron (DA)|
|• Total||3.10 km2 (1.20 sq mi)|
|• Density||3,000/km2 (7,700/sq mi)|
|Racial makeup (2011)|
|• Black African||39.7%|
|First languages (2011)|
|Postal code (street)||7925|
Observatory is a suburb in Cape Town, South Africa, bordered by Mowbray to the south, and Salt River to the north. The area is best known as student neighbourhood, most of whom attend the University of Cape Town located close by, and for being the home of the South African Astronomical Observatory headquarters as well as Groote Schuur Hospital.
Geography and history
Much of present-day Observatory was a marshy estuary formed by the rivers, with buffalo, hippo, elephant, zebra, jackals, antelope, lions and leopards once prevalent.
Observatory traces its origins to the Koornhoop Colony land grant, in 1657. Officials from the Dutch East India Company were given land in the Liesbeeck River valley, and Jan van Riebeek himself had a farm there, originally called Uitwyk, later Malta Farm.
The name is derived from the location there of the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope in the area at in 1820. The original buildings now serve as the headquarters of the South African Astronomical Observatory, with an on-site museum exhibiting various historic instruments and telescopes.
During the years of apartheid, Observatory was one of the few de facto 'grey' suburbs where all races lived together. It continues to be a somewhat alternative part of town, with 'New Age' style stores, South Africa's only anarchist infoshop, and a monthly 'Holistic Fair' at the Community Centre on the first Sunday of each month. It is served by Observatory railway station on the Southern Line, with regular trains every 40 minutes or so, every hour on Sunday.
The Raapenberg Bird Sanctuary protects 10 hectares (25 acres) of land along the Liesbeek River.
Economy and popular culture
Observatory has long had a vibrant entertainment scene, perhaps as a result of its high proportion of students.[original research?] There are numerous restaurants and bars, with a high turnover, but some long term stayers. Most restaurants and retail shops are located along Lower Main road. There is also a shopping complex in St. Peter's square, which is located opposite Groote Schuur graveyard.
Known locally as 'Obs', its proximity to the University of Cape Town (UCT) and its Medical School in particular, have always made it popular with students and lecturers.
Observatory has many churches. The Anglican parish church of St Michael and All Angels, designed by Sir Herbert Baker and the only one of his churches completed to his design, has a strong choral tradition.
Observatory has a soccer and hockey stadium below the station, Hartleyvale, on Liesbeeck Parkway and an outdoor swimming pool that's very popular on summer afternoons – between the two there's a circus school. A driving range and nine hole golf course is housed at the River Club. In November 2009 the Observatory Improvement District was launched to enhance the suburb with better security and cleansing. In 2010, walking and cycle paths were established on the western side of the Liesbeek River. There are two birdwatching hides on the river, one in the grounds of the South African Observatory, and one in the grounds of the River Club.
Beyond the astronomical observatory is Valkenberg psychiatric hospital, a Victorian building that has recently undergone extensive renovations. Valkenberg houses the mentally ill in secure accommodation as well as providing out patient care. Beyond Valkenberg is a small hotel, and the Wild Fig restaurant.
'Obs' also harbours the Groote Schuur Hospital, where Professor Chris Barnard performed the world's first heart transplant, on 3 December 1967. This event is the theme of the Heart of Cape Town Museum, located at the hospital.
Crime and security
As with most of Cape Town, crime has been a problem in recent years, with burglary, and muggings as well as minor vandalism and graffiti. Over the past decade there have been several murders. A pioneering community security organisation, Obs Watch, ran bicycle patrols for years, but became defunct as a result of a strange quirk of company law. It has been replaced by the Observatory Neighbourhood Watch. Large CCTV cameras have been erected at most of the exits and entrances to Obs.
- "Sub Place Observatory". Census 2011.
- "Cape Town – Southern Suburbs". Maps Info South Africa. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
- "History of the South African Astronomical Observatory". South African Astronomical Observatory. 1995. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
- "The History of Observatory". 31 May 2008. Archived from the original on 23 June 2008. Retrieved 17 August 2008.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Observatory (Cape Town).|
- Observatory Community Website
- South African Astronomical Observatory