During Heritage Month 2019 I gave a talk to a preservation group on the story of The Heritage Portal so far. Part of the presention involved unpacking some stats behind the platform. I always keep an eye on what stories are doing well week to week but I'd never done an overall look at the numbers. It was a lot of fun and I emerged from the research feeling deeply proud and humbled by the impact the Portal has had.
In November 1982, Harry Oppenheimer presided over the opening of a landmark fountain in the heart of the Sandton CBD. The fountain, located on the corner of 5th Street and Rivonia Road in front of the Sandton Civic Centre, was donated to the town by Kay Barlow in memory of her husband Charles Sydney (Punch) Barlow.
In November 2018, the Legacy Living website announced what many South Africans had been hoping for... that the Leonardo in Sandton will be Africa's tallest building on completion (it probably won't hold the record for long with the Pinnacle under construction in Nairobi). Assuming the announcement is accurate, the building will reach 234m into the sky. This will be 11m higher than the 223m Carlton Centre completed in the mid 1970s.
Johannesburg has dozens of remarkable staircases inside its houses, hotels, offices, churches, fire stations and apartment buildings. Some are well known while others are more obscure. Below are ten of my favourite. Enjoy! Feel free to send through pics of your favourites.
Stewarts and Lloyds Building / Marshdale House
Anyone that has travelled in and out of the Joburg CBD recently will have noticed the massive MTN adverts covering Old Park Station, one of Joburg's priceless heritage structures. Not only has this been done illegally but it has shown an acute disregard for Johannesburg's heritage.
She is the daughter of the City of Gold and she is gorgeous. Sandton is definitely coming of age with landmark buildings around every corner. If you love her during the day, you should see her at night! Property owners and their lighting experts have created quite a show when the sun goes down. Below are a few photos taken by The Heritage Portal team to encourage you to explore the city at night.
The last week of April 2018 will be remembered by Sandton enthusiasts for many years to come. It was the week that the Leonardo surpassed the Michelangelo Towers (140m) and then the Sandton City spire (141m) to become the tallest building in Sandton.
Earlier this year I wrote a piece highlighting a few amazing places to see the Joburg skyline (click here to view). Since then I have received several requests to do something similar for Sandton so here it is. If you know of any great places not mentioned, please add them in the comments section.
St Stithians School
In 1889, just three years after the founding of Johannesburg, the finishing touches were being put on a building that would become one of the city's landmarks for seven decades. It rose almost 30m into the sky and was the tallest building in town until the Markham's Building claimed the title in 1897. Considering it dominated the skyline, it is no surprise that it gained the nickname the 'Eiffel Tower of the Rand'.
A few weeks ago I noticed a post in the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation's facebook group highlighting the neglect of 12 Park Lane - Parktown's oldest surviving house (built circa 1895). The comments by concerned members of the community resonated with me as I have watched the historic property deteriorate over the past few years. The garden has been left to grow wild, windows are broken, cracks in the walls continue to spread and a portion of the balcony appears to have collapsed.
Important editor's note: The initiatives mentioned in this article are only proposals. A thorough consultation phase with a spectrum of stakeholders still needs to take place before any plans are approved. The article was unpublished on 13 December 2017 following a request from the Johannesburg Inner City Partnership (JICP). On 24 December 2017 it was republished after the release of a similar article on BusinessTech.
Over the years I have photographed hundreds of plaques in South Africa and beyond. Most are easy to find as they are well documented and placed within easy view. Some, on the other hand, are a bit more tricky. Below is my list of five sneaky blue plaques...
1) Charles and Isabelle Lipp
In the late 1980s a magnificent statue of a rearing stallion was erected outside the Sandton Civic Centre near the corner of Rivonia and West (just up from where the Gautrain Station is today). It was surrounded by a fountain and became an instant landmark in the rapidly expanding Sandton CBD.
Most Joburg citizens have some direct experience of the scourge of illegal dumping. Across the city, vacant pieces of land, once beautiful parks and even heritage sites are used by dumpers. Catching the culprits is difficult, cleaning up the mess is expensive and the negative effects on health, the environment and heritage preservation are massive.
This Heritage Month, the newly established Gauteng Heritage Action Group (GHAG) launched its 'Heritage Horror Stories' campaign. Sites that have been neglected for years have received 'black plaques' (the opposite of the prestigious blue plaque) with the aim of shaming owners into taking action. Many of these owners have made big promises over the years but have failed to deliver.
For many years, the heritage community in Johannesburg has been searching for a smart tool that can alert property owners up front whether or not they need to follow heritage processes before carrying out any work. This Heritage Month, I am happy to announce that such a tool has arrived with the launch of The Heritage Register (click here to view).
For several years the historic 1906 Driefontein Farmhouse (or more specifically the Wilhelmi House) in Parkmore/Riverclub has been waiting for a new use (click here for some history). The old Sandton Historical Association used to use the house for meetings and functions but this ceased when the organisation shut its doors in the 1990s. I am very happy to report that the historic landmark is set to serve the local community once again.
A common view ventured during small talk at meetings and social occasions I attend is that Sandton has no history. Many people describe the area as rich and soulless while others complain about 'poor architecture' and the explosion of sectional title complexes. In this article I will take readers on a dash around a few significant sites and hopefully persuade the naysayers that Sandton does indeed have a rich and layered history.
News broke recently that work on Africa’s tallest building has commenced (click here for details). Assuming it will be completed as designed, the Pinnacle in Nairobi Kenya will be 300m tall eclipsing the Carlton Centre by quite a margin. The fact that the Carlton has managed to hold the record of Africa’s tallest building for over four decades is remarkable.
The news that the Ornico Group has moved its headquarters from a prime Sandton address to the Joburg CBD is making waves in heritage and property circles. Over the past year, the company has been refurbishing the historic Natal Bank Building and in recent weeks over 100 employees have moved in. This is a major psychological boost for the ongoing revival of the historic heart of Johannesburg.