When Jan van Riebeeck landed on 6 April 1652 at what today is known as Cape Town, a Dutch colony was founded by the Verenigde Oos-Indiese Companjie (United East-India Company). On November 8 1679, the Dutch Governor Simon van der Stel travelled inland and camped on a small island surrounded by sparkling streams and beautiful tall trees, the site of the present Faculty of Theology. He named the river Eersterivier (First River) and the area, Stellenbosch. In 1685 Commissioner Baron van Rheede visited the "colony" of Stellenbosch and stipulated that a drostdy (magistrate's court and residence) be erected on the island of Stellenbosch and a town be laid out. On October 22, 1686 the first brick of this first building was laid, and was completed in April 1687 as the magistrate's court as well as the residence of the first magistrate, Johannes Mulder. The 1710 "Van Staden sketch" shows a U- or T-shaped building, which apparently was quite large, because Van der Stel and his entourage often lodged here.
In December 1710 this building, together with most of the town's buidings, burnt down. According to the 1757 sketch of Drostdy Street, the drostdy was rebuilt with a typical symmetrical façade and narrow gable. The second drostdy building was also destroyed by a fire.
A third drostdy, Cape Dutch in style and with a very special Baroque gable, was erected on the premises and was completed only between 1767 and 1768. Until 1745, when the Swellendam drostdy was built, a vast portion of the Cape Colony was governed from this "local" civic building. At the end of 1827 the British colonial government abolished this seat of Magistracy, thus it became a private residence.
As from 1858 this building became the seat of the first institution for higher education for the Dutch-Afrikaans section of the population: the Theological Seminary of the Dutch Reformed Church. This founding led to Stellenbosch becoming the home of a complex of educational institutions:
Firstly, the Rhenish Girls' High School, 1860 ff;
Thereafter, the Stellenbosch Gymnasium, 1866 ff, currently known as Paul Roos Gymnasium;
Then, the Stellenbosch "College'" 1880-1887, which later became The Victoria College, 1887-1918, and eventually Stellenbosch University, 1918 ff;
And in 1875 the Bloemhof Girls' High School (Afrikaans).
In c.1868 the beautiful old drostdy was changed into a double-storeyed building with residences for professors on either side. In 1905 the building was given the existing façade. However the iron pillars and lattice-work were replaced by massive concrete pillars in 1952.
Since 2000 ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church, the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa as well as other denominations is trained here.