Sammy Marks Museum

Sammy Marks arrived in South Africa with a case of silver knives as his only valuable possession, and became one of the first entrepreneurs, playing a significant role in mining, industrial and agricultural development in the country. Ninety eight percent of the household contents in Sammy Marks Museum originally belonged to the Marks family.

Sammy Marks got an Italian artist to paint the walls of his mansion ‘to look like satin’. The paintings in the billiard room were done on silk and pasted on the ceiling.

Zwartkoppies Hall is a Victorian mansion where businessman and entrepreneur Sammy Marks and his family lived from 1885 to 1909, and then it became a weekend retreat. After his death, his widow and children inhabited it until the last one passed away in 1978. After that, no one in the family wished to live at Zwartkoppies permanently – by now ageing, deteriorating structure. A suitable tenant had to be found. It was offered as a nursing home, school, army, and hotel – without success.

In 1980 the National Cultural History and Open-air Museum asked the Marks trust whether it could purchase 40 hectares of Zwartkoppies as a site for an open-air museum.

Neill Maisels, the eldest grandson and chairperson of the Trust, explained the conditions of the will and suggested instead that the Museum leases the house and surrounding ground and purchase the contents.

The Museum did not have enough money to do that. Mendel Kaplan, a Johannesburg businessman, planned to transfer Sammy’s private papers to the UCT and heard about the Museum project. He offered to donate half the money to the museum through his family foundation, and negotiations could continue. Eventually, the Museum opened in November 1986. In March 1989, Zwartkoppies was declared a national monument. In 1995 roughly 73ha surrounding the house, upon which all of the historical buildings are situated, was cut from the rest of the farm and expropriated for sale to the National Cultural History Museum.

Conference Facilities

Sammy Marks had five cottages built on the farm for some of his employees. One of them, the Dairy Cottage, had been renovated. Part of it is being used as a chapel now. The chapel is decorated in Art Deco style and can seat about 80 people. It is an ideal venue for small informal weddings or baptisms. Booking for photoshoots (Rate: R500 per hour) on the site is essential. Please note photo shoots are only for the site, not the house interior. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Museum for more information.

Products the Museum has to offer
  • House tours from Tuesday to Sunday (10:00 am, 12:00 pm, and 14:00 pm)
  • Bird walks: February, May and November
  • Annual event: Sammy Marks’ birthday celebration
  • Education programmes
  • Victorian picnics
  • Wedding chapel
  • Site available for photo shoots ( pre-bookings and R500.00 per hour)
  • Tea garden/restaurant
  • Bird walks are presented on selected Sunday mornings. After an early morning cup of coffee, bird watchers go on a walk with a bird guide. Afterwards, a well-deserved breakfast is served at the Croquet Court.

Sammy Marks Museum offers a guided tour through the Marks Mansion. Visitors hear the story of Sammy Marks and his family, their experience throughout the South African War and Marks’s achievements as a businessman and entrepreneur. The guides take the visitors back into the Victorian Age as they walk through the house, of which 98% of the contents belonged to the Marks family. Beautiful Victorian silver, porcelain and furniture can be seen.

Educational programmes consist of a house tour with a focus on the teacher’s choice of Children’s lifestyle, Victorian and now or Sammy as an entrepreneur and an outside activity also chosen by the teacher: a game of Croquet, a Treasure hunt in the garden, Animals in the garden with hand puppets or the Garden birds of Zwartkoppies. These programmes are presented from Tuesdays till Fridays on different levels to learners from Gr R to Gr 12. The cost is R15.00 per learner, and booking is essential.


Sammy Marks Museum: Garden tour. Compiled, edited and published by the National Cultural History Museum, Pretoria, 1998.

This pamphlet gives a detailed description of the garden and site of Sammy Marks Museum and is a popular aid for visitors who want to tour the garden and site. Also available in Afrikaans.

Sammy Marks. Compiled by André Malan, edited and published by the National Cultural History Museum, Pretoria, 1996.

A booklet on the history and achievements of Sammy Marks, including a list of his business ventures. Also available in Afrikaans.

Paul Kruger and Sammy Marks – related by marriage? Compiled by André Malan, edited and published by Northern Flagship Institution, Pretoria. An interesting investigation of the possibility that Sammy Marks and Paul Kruger could be related by marriage – through one of the Guttmann family members’ marriages. Also available in Afrikaans.

Sammy Marks’s role in the Anglo Boer War 1899 – 1902. Compiled by André Malan and Wendy Sturdy, edited and published by the National Cultural History Museum, Pretoria, 1999.

Sammy Marks did his best to maintain good relationships with the Boers and the British. The outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War put him in a predicament. It took a lot of patience and diplomacy for him and his business to survive the War.

A Souvenir of Zwartkoppies Hall: Zwartkoppies and its people. From the Sammy Marks Photographic Collection, compiled by André Malan.

The Lewis and Marks partnership – a success story. Compiled by André Malan. Edited and published by Northern Flagship Institution, 2006.

An overview of the foundation, achievements, and disappointments of the Lewis and Marks partnership.

Wilderness to Country estate Vol I. Compiled by André Malan. Edited and published by Northern Flagship Institution, 2005 second edition.

In this booklet, Malan tells more about the history of the house, its interior, and the research done to restore it to its former glory.

Wilderness to Country estate Vol II. Compiled by André Malan. Edited and published by Northern Flagship Institution, 2004.

A booklet with information about the garden, structures and outbuildings on the farm Zwartkoppies.

Sammy Marks Museum: Garden tour. Compiled, edited and published by the National Cultural History Museum, Pretoria, 1998.

Information Centre

The Marks family left a vast collection of letters, business records and inventories. This was donated to the Kaplan Institute of Jewish Studies at the University of Cape Town. The photo collection and books of the Marks family are housed in the Sammy Marks Museum and can be accessed with prior arrangement.


Per hour R550 per photographer (Other).
Per hour R2000 for filming.
Per hour R250 per student photographer (Student with Student card, matriculants).
Per hour R500 per photographer in training (under the supervision of a professional photographer).
Daily package minimum of R16 000

Clients are advised not to leave valuables or electronic equipment unattended on the property, as the Museum cannot be held responsible for the loss thereof.

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Free Parking Available for All Visitors

Prices for Adults, Children and Pensioners

Admission Fees

  • Adults
    • Own Tour
  • R 65
  • Children
    • Own Tour
  • R 25
  • Pensioners
    • Guided Tour
  • R 25
  • Learners
    • Learner
  • R 30
  • Educators
    • Free entry for educator/ group of 30 learners
  • R 30
  • International Tourist
    • Adult
  • R 80
  • International Tourist
    • Child
  • R 40
  • Special Guided Tour
    • Tour of the Garden, S.M. House and Outbuildings
  • R 80
    • Person, including Bird Walk and light refreshments
  • R 150
    • Adult, includes croquet lawn
  • R 65
    • Child
  • R 25
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