THE HISTORY of the property goes back to 1660 when the first owner was Jan Pieters Louw, founder of the Louw family in South Africa.  After passing through various distinguished hands the property, known mainly as La Rochelle, in 1926 became the residence of Henry Hepburn Bright, his wife Wilhelmine Henriette and his sister-in-law, Dorothea Frances Bleek, then the acknowledged authority on the Bushman (San) language and art.

The property was then sold by Miss Bleek, after the deaths of her sister and brother-in-law, to Mr (later Professor) A J H Goodwin of the Department of Archaeology of the University of Cape Town.

A Board of Trustees was established in 1948 with the purpose of developing and preserving the property for cultural and limited social purposes.  In 1953 the newly established Athenaeum Trust acquired the property and some land was disposed of to raise funds for converting the building to serve its new purpose.

The house was altered in 1967, principally to create the main auditorium, the Newbery Hall, and to provide accommodation for the resident supervisor. Read more history here.

A pamphlet about the Athenaeum, distributed in 1968, can be seen here.