The Presidency, as the house was called, was not an official residence but a private home. This was a modest residence where the Kruger’s maintained a simple yet elegant lifestyle. The house has been refurbished to look almost as it did during the time President and Mrs Kruger lived there, based on a thorough study of the available evidence of the original furnishings.
In the early years of the 20th century, after the death of both Gezina Kruger and President Kruger, the house had a rather chequered existence, first as headquarters of the South African Constabulary and later as a private hotel. Still later it was turned into a maternity hospital. In 1925 the Union government of South Africa purchased the property, and it took many years of intensive research, fieldwork and restoration to return it to a semblance of its original self. Wherever possible original pieces of furniture and other objects and articles were traced and brought back to the house. Where not, similar pieces were acquired. The house was also furnished with carpets, curtains and wallpaper similar to the original. Two inventories and a single photograph still in existence and information gained from Kruger family members were of great help with the refurnishing.
The Kruger museum was finally opened in 1934 and declared a National monument in 1937.
During President Kruger’s term of office 1883-1902, European countries such as France, Germany and Russia were in conflict with Britain. When war broke out in South Africa between 1899 and 1902, no world power dared to intervene in the conflict between the Boers and Britain. However, thousands of tributes to Kruger and the Boers poured in during the war from many parts of the globe. The majority later found their way to the Transvaal museum, and then to the National Cultural History Museum.
The collection on display in the West Hall includes many tributes of value, addresses, pictures, poems, medals, musical compositions, sketches, letters, albums, books and newspapers. They originated from countries as diverse as the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, the USA, Israel, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Russia and Spain. All in all, the National Cultural History Museum houses more than 1 000 examples of this kind of Krugeriana and tokens of honour to the Boers.
The Exile Hall
In September 1900 it was decided by the Government of the ZAR that President Kruger should go to Europe on behalf of the Republic, while the Boer War continued. Paul Kruger could no longer be constantly on the move with the forces and was too old to ride a horse. Accompanied by his secretary, physician and personal attendants, he lived for a time at Lourenco Marques, until Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands sent the battleship “de Gelderland” to fetch him in October 1900. This ship took Paul Kruger into exile in Europe, where he remained until his death in 1904.
The exhibits in this hall cover President Kruger’s journey to Europe, his hero’s welcome in France and the Netherlands, his exile in Europe, his death in Switzerland and the State funeral in Pretoria.
President Kruger’s State Railway Coach
Most railway lines north of the Vaal River were operated by the Nederlandsche Zuid-Afrikaansche Spoorweg-Maatschappij (NZASM) prior to 1900. On 2 January 1894 the NZASM ordered two sets of luxury coaches from the firm of J.J. Beijnes in the Netherlands. The one set was for the use of President Kruger, while the second set was for the use of the company directors.
President Kruger used his coach from 1894 till 1900, on official visits and political campaigns to parts of the ZAR and on his trips to Natal and Bloemfontein during the Boer War. He also lived for a short time in the coach while at Machadodorp. The last time President Kruger travelled in the railway coach was when he travelled to Lourenco Marques, to go from there in exile to Europe. Thereafter the coach was used to convey senior government officials in South Africa and Namibia.
The Kruger and the directors’ coaches were taken out of service by the South African Railways in 1934, because of their deteriorating condition. The interiors of both were superficially restored in 1951. In 1952 the Kruger coach was brought to its present site at the Kruger museum. The directors’ coach, with a NZASM locomotive, has been located on the main platform of Pretoria Station since 1965.