|This article does not cite any references or sources. (February 2008)|
The hall was constructed as part of the first phase of the University of Cape Town's Groote Schuur Campus. The other buildings included Jameson Hall, the Arts Block, the Mathematics Building and the women's residence Fuller Hall. The group of buildings have been declared national monuments.
When Smuts opened in 1928, the culture consisted almost emtirely of a micture of the culture of College House and University House, as the first students living within its walls came from these mentioned residences.
Solomon had planned long corridors between two rows of rooms. Hawke suggested that this would lend itself to rough play and make control difficult. The result was the design of cloisters giving access to a number of "entries", "staircases" or "flats" modeled on the Oxford and Cambridge Colleges. This has proved to be an extremely successful arrangement. There are a total of 17 flats in the building. The units of ten rooms to a flat, and nineteen in the corner flats (interestingly there is no room no. 13) provided a ready made social unit and all those who have passed through the Residence will recall what the coffee landings meant. Indeed they remain very much "the hub of life".
Solomon is reported to have looked at the plan of the Men's Residence and said "I wish I knew which room Paul [his son] will have, we could put in something special". The following morning it was learned that Solomon had shot himself.
Soon after opening in March 1928 the names "Matopos" and "New College" were put forward as suggestions but they were rejected. A free dance ticket was offered to the person with the most suitable suggestion. The following year "Nova Tieta", "Riebeeck" and "Matopos" were the choices put before the House. An overwhelming majority accepted "Matopos" although reservations were expressed about the "feeling that might arise out of the name on account of its historical association with Rhodes".
Nothing more is mentioned in the minutes of House Committee meetings until the beginning of 1938 when there was again a call for a name. Again the reward was a free dance ticket to the person suggesting "the name for the House which is ultimately accepted".
There was a lapse until 1941 when several suggestions were made in response to yet another appeal. "Entabeni" and "Ellisona" featured on the list. Others were "Pensakola" (rejected on account of the fact that it sounded too much like "pianola"), "Beattie College" (after the former Vice-Chancellor, Sir Jock Carruthers Beattie) and "Burleigh" (after Rhodes' house in England). "Beattie College" was finally voted in by the men but it was turned down by the University on the grounds that there were at the time surviving prominent members on the University Council who were also concerned with the inauguration of Men's Residence. It was presumed that the matter had been "left in abeyance pending the ultimate destiny of the venerable gentlemen concerned". In September 1950, it was brought to the attention of the men of the House at a General House Meeting that there was a move in the direction of giving Women's Residence a new name and that Men's Residence might also be involved. "Fuller Hall" ultimately became the new appellation of Women's Residence but the House Meeting in Men's Residence that night in September resolved that they would prefer to retain the name under which they had always gone but declared that "Smuts Hall" would be the most acceptable substitute if the name had to be changed.
The Warden, J.B. Clark, passed on the suggestion to the then Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Dr T.B. Davie. Ouma Smuts, in replying to a letter asking her permission, said that she would be delighted.
On 10 November 1950, the name "Smuts Hall" was formally adopted by the House with the following motion at a General House Meeting: "That this House endorse the decision of the University Council to change the name of the Residence to `Smuts Hall'." The motion was adopted unanimously.
The first design to be accepted was that at the front entrance of the building but its favour was short-lived, probably due to the discovery that it was the arms of the Cape of Good Hope. Very shortly afterwards, Theo le Roux offered a personal reward of one guinea to the man who offered the best accepted design for a crest.
By 1942, the present crest was in circulation and was adopted, the explanation behind its heraldry being rather less imposing than its appearance.
The interpretation that is accepted is the following:
The Lion rampant represents the same on the wall of the Randall's Hotel (variously known as "Alf's" and the "Pig and Whistle"), popular and most proximate watering hole for generations of students. The green background is the rugby union fields. The broad stripe is the sober path to the aforementioned establishment and the zig-zag lines in University colours anticipate the mood of the retreat to the Residence!
The residents of Smuts Hall have come to be known as the "Smutsmen". One famous ex-Smutsman is Mark Shuttleworth, the second space tourist and the first African in space. Another notable ex-Smutsman is Neville Isdell, former CEO of The Coca-Cola Company. The first warden of Smuts was A. Brown who took up the wardenship in 1928 after being warden of the first Male Residence at UCT, College House.