The magnificent Cape Dutch style AstroTech Conference Centre started life as a gracious home for a Mr Simpson and his family, close to the parklands of the Oppenheimer family home, Little Brenthurst. It was designed in 1924 by architects Graf and Kruger and named Three Ways.
In 1930, AstroTech Conference Centre was a family home to Randlords with a view over the suburbs of Parktown, Forest Town and Killarney. It was then bought by multi-millionaire insurance company owner, Isidor Schlesinger. He retired in South Africa after making his fortune in the United States which he'd first emigrated to in 1871 at the age of 18.
1904, Issy Schlesinger founded African Life Assurance Association and a year later bought Robertson's South African Bank from JB Robertson. He named it the Colonial Bank and Insurance Company. Schlesinger then bought the beautiful Empire Theatre in Commissioner Street, Johannesburg, a building where Mohandas Gandhi made his earliest speeches when embarking on his campaign of Satyagraha or non-violent resistance in 1905. Schlesinger transformed the bankrupt building into a theatrical masterpiece with lights emulating stars twinkling in the ceiling, heavy velvet curtains and seats and carvings and statues lending to an air of opulence and magic. Schlesinger used this theatre to launch African Consolidated Theatres Group which was the parent of Ster-Kinekor and the South African Broadcasting Corporation.
In 1949 when Schlesinger died he passed his empire to his son John who lived in Hyde Park. Three Ways was sold in 1933 to H Miller, who lived there for nine years before selling it to E Woolfson.
In the late 1940s, the Yugoslav government bought the gracious home with its carefully planned gardens and beautiful trees as a home for their consul. They sold the house to a Mr Porteus in 1960 who planned to demolish the stately manor and build townhouses, fortunately his plans never succeeded. Essex Investments owned by the father of US billionaire, Donald Trump purchased the property.
Trump’s time in South Africa was marred by some questionable multi-million rand property deals. He had to leave South Africa in haste, leaving the property in the hands of his bankers. Syd Catton obtained the property in 1980 and renamed it Wynford Kestrel and established a super elite gentleman's club. Liberty Life acquired the property in 1989 and turned it into a state of the art conference centre, team building and functions venue. Three flanking blocks of offices make the conference centre a self-contained venue. It is set back from the highways and busy roads that surround it in majestic isolation.
Liza van Wyk, CEO of AstroTech acquired the centre in 2008 and has worked hard to make AstroTech Conference Centre the premier conference, skills development and management training venue in southern Africa.