The story of that
house on the hill.
This grand old home (originally known as Florida House) has been collecting stories for over a century. Built in 1906 it has seen its fair share of owners and transformations. Most notably its namesake, Sir John Ellerman who did not build the property, but took ownership and was the longest resident of the property second only to its current owners, The Harris Family.
Sir John Ellerman was an interesting fellow. Often referred to as the wealthiest man in Britain, thanks to his inheritance of the family business, the Ellerman Shipping Lines. A fierce rebel who married his Canadian girlfriend Esther De Sola, under the protest of his father. Known as a stickler for timekeeping, there are infamous stories of how Sir John Ellerman would sit on his South African home’s terrace and watch his ships sail in and out of the Cape Town harbour – his captains would not dare to be late. On the flip side, he was a generous philanthropist – shortly before his death he had transferred 79% of the shares in Ellerman Shipping Lines to grant-making trusts.
Ellerman House then saw a few more owners come and go and when one day it came across the radar of the immediate neighbour across the road, Paul Harris – a South African banker with a pioneering attitude, not dissimilar to Sir John. When purchasing his home across the road, he told the sales agent that he would love to see inside that house on the hill. Paul moved to Australia during this time to continue his business interests, but before he left he told his sales agent that he would love to see inside that house on the hill. Late one night in 1988, he received an unexpected phone call. It was the sales agent notifying him that Ellerman House would be going up for auction in the morning and asking if he would like to make an offer! Paul excitedly jumped at the opportunity and made an offer (site unseen). As luck would have it, he won the bid. That was the easy bit, as in the morning he had to notify his wife of their new purchase. Naturally, she thought he was dreaming.
When Paul walked down the staircase from the top terrace down towards the gardens upon his very first visit to his latest acquisition, he felt obligated to share its beauty with the world. He knew that this property would be able to showcase the very best of South Africa. This philosophy still rings true today – from genuine South African hospitality delivered by an experienced team. To the incomparable location in Bantry Bay (a sought after suburb of Cape Town), with its uninterrupted views over the Atlantic Ocean. To a collection of South African art considered to be the most important collection in the country due to its diversity of important artworks. To a unique cuisine offering that celebrates local flavours, yet embraces techniques from around the globe. To a gallery that honours our country’s most delicious export, wine. To a garden that rejoices in indigenous flora. And lastly, to music, the original craft chosen by Africans to share history and stories by means of song.
In 1992 his dream was realised when Ellerman House was opened as a 7-bedroom luxury hotel. Now operating for over a quarter century as a world-leading boutique luxury hotel, Ellerman House has continued to reinvent and innovate without losing sight of its origins. Since its inception, four bedrooms, two ultra-modern villas, a spa, a wine gallery and a contemporary art gallery have been added to the property. These are only the tangible additions. Unparalleled service standards, food philosophies and authentic South African experiences are constantly evolving at the hands of the Ellerman House team. To this day, Ellerman House continues to share the very best that South Africa has to offer.
And no, it’s not for sale.