Klip Power Station
Vaal Triangle History
The information in this article was compiled by Norman Acton from information supplied by the Riviera Hotel and the Vaal Teknorama (2006 - 2008).
It was in 1895 that the present site of the country Club was chosen by TN Leslie as the most suitable for the erection of a hotel. Sammy Marks disagreed with his choice and the project was abandoned. Later, Leslie purchased the ground and in 1909, built his own residence which later became the Country Club.
A few years were to pass before the first Riviera Hotel was built, close to Leslie's residence in 1917.
The impoundment of water by Leslie's weir and the planting of trees along the Vaal River by Otto Brandmuller both contributed to the area becoming an attraction for local visitors and tourists. The completion of the Barrage in 1923 made the Vaal River a wide and deep waterway and the area became one of the most popular venues for watersport and relaxation in South Africa. The old Riviera Hotel - which was actually a majestic single storey house featuring a wide staircase leading onto a deep, cool “stoep” - was built by the Vereeniging Estates. It did a brisk trade from the early 1920’s especially for those who enjoyed boating, waterpolo, swimming and various other activities. Dressing rooms for bathers were also situated here and huts built alongside where the present day “Riviera Villas” are situated, gave shelter to overnight visitors.
In the late 20’s an American by the name of Mr. Schlesinger, who had made his money in cinemas and movies (He made 43 of them between 1916 and 1922), visited the site and proclaimed it one of the most beautiful he had ever seen. He proceeded to build the “ultra modern” Riviera hotel which featured a bathroom for every room, a luxury unheard of at the time! He also revamped the Carlton Hotel in Johannesburg and built the gracious art deco Polona Hotel in Lourenco Marques and the elegant Edward Hotel in Durban.
The Riviera Hotel, like so many of Schlesinger’s buildings, was built using imported Canadian materials and incorporating the latest modern American ideas and artifacts. The quality of the original construction was of the highest order. The unique feature was spectacular river views from every room, something that has survived to this day. The major drawcard in the initial years for people living on the “reef”, was the perfect expanse of water ideal for any type of watersport, the only one of it’s kind anywhere near Johannesburg.
The Riviera Hotel - photographed in 1917
The Riviera Hotel early 1920's