Swakopmund

Historical facts and information on Namibia's premier holiday resort. We have tried to emphasize on less known facts from the town's history.

Swakopmund was founded two years later than Windhoek, in 1892, by Captain Curt von Francois as the main harbour of German South West Africa. Increased traffic between Germany and its colony necessitated establishing of own port as Walvis Bay, located 33 kilometres south, was already in British possession. The choice fell on Swakopmund where water could be found and because other sites checked (including Cape Cross) were unsuitable.

Name. The majority of towns and villages in Namibia have grown out of indigenous settlements and very often were located close to sources of water. Names of places given by original inhabitants were very descriptive and in many cases those names were retained by European settles who sometimes simplified pronunciations of the names. Nama word ''Tsoakhaub'' can be translated as ''excrement opening'' which was offensive but accurate description of the waters of Swakop river at the time of coming down in floods carrying masses of mud, sand, pieces of vegetation and animal corpses. The masses of dirty and muddy water were emptied into the ocean and the indigenous name described it very well.
The Nama name was changed to ''Swachaub'' and with proclamation of Swakopmund as independent district in 1896 the present way of writing came into use.
History. On 4 of August 1892 the crew of gunboat ''Hyena'' erected two beacons (one at the present location of the Mole and another at the location of lighthouse) to mark the landing site which symbolized the laying of the foundation stone of the town. The first settlers were offloaded from the ''Marie Woermann'' (120 Schutztruppe with equipment and 40 settlers) using 4 landing boats. The settlers had to build a ''caves'' on the beach to protect themselves against hostile weather. Before the Mole was built all offloads were carried with use of special boats which can be handled by Kroo men (from Liberia) only. At the time up to 600 Kroo tribesmen were employed by Woermann Line. The number of vessels offloaded in Swakopmund was increasing rapidly. In 1894 four ships offloaded, 1895 - 5, 1896 - bi-monthly service was introduced by Woermann Line, 1899 - monthly service.
First town building plan was drawn by Dr. Rhode. Because of lack of building materials mainly prefabricated wooden houses were erected.
Sights and buildings. Marine memorial. Design of Berlin sculptor Wolff, donated to the town by marines from Kiel in 1908.
War memorial. Unveiled on 10 November 1963 in memory of those killed in World War 2. Located near the museum. Woermann House. One of the most beautiful buildings in the town was completed in 1905.
The Mole. An unsuccessful attempt to construct the artificial harbour. 375 metres pier was completed in 1900 but by winter 1906 a sandbank completely blocked it.
Jetty. The first wooden jetty, completed in 1905, was damaged by borer worm Teredo navalis and construction of iron jetty began in 1911. Proposed length of 640 metres was enough to offload vessels without usage of smaller boats but by the beginning of World War 1 only 262 meters were completed. First repairs were done in 1986 and now the second replacement of badly corroded iron structures (the site was closed for pedestrians in 1998) is under way. The Jetty is proposed to be part of new desalination plant which will be built in Swakopmund.
Princess Rupprecht House. Now a private pension the original building was completed in 1901 as a military hospital.
Kaserne. The original building served as a barracks. The design is similar to Alte Feste in Windhoek and Fort Namutoni in Etosha park and the building was completed in 1906.
Railway station. (Swakopmund hotel from 1994). Declared a National monument in 1972 the building, designed by C. Schmidt (tower design by Willy Sander - architect of Windhoek's ''Three Castles''), was completed in 1901.
German school. Completed in October 1913, the building hosted both the government and municipal secondary schools. Design by E. Krause.
Hohenzollern1.JPG (11504 bytes)Hohenzollern building. Built in 1906 initially served as a hotel. At the present it is sectional title flats.
Deutsche Evangelical church. The building designed by Otto Ertl was consecrated on 7 January 1912. The bells were imported from Germany where they were made by Franz Schilling.
Antonius Gebaude. Designed by Otto Ertl the building (the hospital) was opened in March 1908.
Lighthouse. First 11 metres were erected in July 1902 and further 10 meters added in 1910.
State House (Kaiserliches Bezirksgericht). Built as a magistrate's court in 1902 the building served as a summer residence for top government officials for several decades. Architect C. Schmidt.
Some historical dates. September 1892. First building is erected in Swakopmund (a barrack for troops).
1894. 19 inhabitants.
1895. First people to be buried in the local cemetery - 5 sailors who drowned in boat accident.
1896. Lieutenant Troost's attempts to solve transport problem by introducing ''Martin Luther''.
1897. First post office in town.
1899. Introduction of cable telegraph service. Water pipeline from Swakop.
1901. First passengers is landed at the Mole. Telephone service established with 40 subscribers.
1903. First wooden pavements.
1905. Jetty opened. The newspaper Deutsche Suedwestafrikanische Zeitung published. 1433 inhabitants.
1909. Swakopmund is an independent municipality.
1911. Shipping connection with New York. First Swakopmunder Zeitung published.church.JPG (8126 bytes)
1914. Shelling of the harbour by British naval cruisers. Swakopmund is evacuated inland.
1915. Occupation by SA troops. Shooting of more than 1500 horses and mules outside of the town.
1926. Railway bridge opened over the mouth of Swakop river.
1929. Hansa Brewery is opened.
1930. First guano platform constructed.
1931. Railway bridge is destroyed by flood.
1935. Railway bridge constructed 5 km upstream from Swakop river mouth.
1951. Opening of museum by Dr. A.Weber.
1959. Opening of salt road to Walvis Bay.
1960. 4 701 inhabitants.
1967. Tar road from Windhoek reached Swakopmund.
1970. Tar road to Walvis Bay opened.
1973. First 3 traffic robots.
1982. 5 800 vehicles registered in town.
1994. Swakopmund hotel is opened.

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Important telephone numbers (Swakopmund code 064):

AMBULANCE 405731
FIRE BRIGADE 402411
FIRE BRIGADE CELLULAR 0811 285613
POLICE 1 0111
STATE HOSPITAL 405731
COTTAGE PRIVATE HOSPITAL 412201
SEA RESCUE 405544
AEROMED 400700
MEDRESCUE 200200
TRAFFIC CELLULAR 0811 242944

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