The rustic charm and unique space of Open Door comes, in part, from its distinctive history. The farm Constantia Uitsig dates back to 1685 when the VOC Governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, was granted a large tract of land by the Dutch East India Company. Back in the Netherlands, Van der Stel gained an extensive background in viticulture wine making. He planted orchards and vineyards on the farm, making Constantia the oldest wine-producing region in the Southern Hemisphere.

Some time after van der Stel’s death in 1712, the property became part of the farm known as ‘Plumstead’ owned by Stephanus Petrus Lategan. Despite the land being divided up between his several sons after his death, the entire property eventually ended up with his son Willem Henrik Lategan under the English name ‘Constantia View’.

In 1902, Willem granted permission for a privately funded schoolhouse to be built on the property and the Tokai Primary School was born. Originally a modest building built on the current Open Door site, it educated roughly 60 children a year until 1917, when Willem subdivided the land and sold the site to the Trustees of the Tokai Undenominational Public School for a paltry 250 pounds sterling.

The Colonial Government opted to build a new schoolhouse in the same location as the original building and this is the building in which you now sit. The new school educated mainly the children of warders at Porter Reformatory and Pollsmoor Prison and, by 1921, the school had 137 pupils. Tokai Primary School operated until 1987 when dwindling enrollment numbers as a result of more schools in the area caused it to close its doors.

The property remained unused until 1997 when it was purchased from the government by the Constantia Valley Local Council with the intended use of being re-established as a school. This plan, however, never came to fruition and in 2001 the property was again sold to the McCay family who renamed the farm Constantia Uitsig (‘uitsig’ meaning ‘view’ in Afrikaans), paying homage to the farm’s early 1900’s name. The old schoolhouse was then converted into a restaurant (called the River Café) and tasting room.

In 2014, the property was again sold to the current owners and the restaurant and tasting room were renovated into Open Door restaurant. The Open Door team has done its best to honour the heritage of the original building as much as possible. You will see wood beams above the front entryway; this wood has been salvaged from the building and re-purposed as the ceiling in our entryway. You will also notice old school pictures in the hallway on the way to the restrooms. Because Tokai Primary School operated until 1987, there are sure to be those in the community who attended the school. If you or someone you know has any history or photos of the premises, we would love if you would share with us!