Grand Mansions

I think Heritage Portal readers will be interested in my archival sleuthing. I have found the blueprint of the original plan for the Parktown home Gordon Leith designed in 1927. Then called Morgenzon for the Coddingtons and built in 3rd Avenue Parktown, Johannesburg. The name changed to Le Tholonet and the house became the home of Clive and Irene Mennell after World War II.

Fire is the most destructive and frightening of all elements. A Johannesburg heritage home in Parktown, Le Tholonet, at 6 3rd Avenue, was lost to fire on 17th July 2018. On Wednesday this week Clive Chipkin and I embarked on an expedition to discover and if possible photograph Parktown and Saxonwold homes of a certain period. We were in search of the Cape Dutch architectural style and its variants in the old elite northern suburbs of Johannesburg.

A few years ago, Bev Young compiled this article on the spectacular Cock's Castle in Port Alfred. The piece was originally published in the newpaper Eastern Cape Today on 21 January 2010. Bev is one of the Eastern Cape's most prolific and passionate researchers. 

Strubenheim is a majestic historic mansion in Rosebank, Cape Town. It belonged to Harry Struben who, along with his brother Fred, played a crucial part in the story of the discovery of the largest goldfield on earth. Although they cannot claim to have discovered the Witwatersrand's main reef, it was their pioneering efforts on the Confidence Reef nearby that drew others to Langlaagte where the big discovery was made (click here for further details).

Forest Hall is an historic estate located in The Crags near Plettenberg Bay. It hosts a spectrum of high end functions including grand weddings and corporate events (click here for some recent pics). In the article below, first published in Restorica in 1977, Patricia Storrar delves into the history of this unique property. Thank you to the Heritage Association of South Africa and the University of Pretoria for giving us permission to publish.

The following brief history of Windybrow, one of Johannesburg's great historic mansions, was compiled by B.L. Grant and appeared in the 1979 edition of the Johannesburg Historical Foundation's Journal 'Between the Chains'. The house is now home to the Windybrow Centre of the Arts (previously the Windybrow Theatre). Notices on the Centre’s website and facebook page indicate that it is closed for renovations and organisational ‘stabilisation’. 

Norscot Manor lies to the north of Sandton, west of the William Nicol Drive and just north of the N1 Motorway. The home of the Eriksen family until 1982, Norscot now belongs to Sandton who have developed it as a community centre to serve their northern suburbs, and have already made one wing into a Public Library. Norscot was built in 1936 on a scale few could afford today and was ideally suited to lavish entertaining as well as being the quiet secluded home the Eriksen's wanted.

This fantastic article describes Cas Nel's 'Partnership with Pabst' during the restoration of the famous Joki House in the late 1980s. A huge thank you to Cas for sending through the superb photographs.

The partnership approach facilitates the achievement of excellence in architecture. It is an approach in which a spirit of co-operation is the basis. It relies on a partnership of various skills that is synthesized in the process of the project.

Below are a few edited excerpts from an article on the early history of Tara compiled by Avril Read from the Sandton Historical Association. They appeared in the Association's 1987 journal.

In the late 1980s Oscar Norwich (founder and longtime Chairman of the Johannesburg Historical Foundation) did a survey of certain parts of Doornfontein. As we were paging through the survey one property jumped out at us... a mansion with a landmark dome built two years after Johannesburg was established (1888). A site visit last week confirmed that the remains of the mansion including the dome still exist. Enjoy Norwich's brief description below.

[Originally published 24 April 2013] In 2009 local businessman Gerrit van der Stelt stumbled across a small demolition notice attached to a boundary wall of the highly significant Tait House in Benoni. What followed was a desperate struggle by the community to preserve the historic home. The Heritage Portal is happy to report that not only is the house still standing but it could also become a powerful symbol of the ability of old and new to coexist and thrive.

[Intro originally published in March 2013] A few weeks ago we visited Yukon, the famous historic mansion in Bez Valley. The owners, Henry and Loretta, gave us an overview of the mystery and intrigue behind the disappearance of the house's hugely significant stained glass windows. It would be fantastic if we could find them and bring them home to South Africa. Below is a brilliant article from the Saturday Star (1993) that gives some background to the saga.

[Originally published 11 July 2014] A modern day mystery appears to be developing in Highland Road, Kensington. No one seems to know what has happened to Marius Van Den Spek, the apparent owner of the iconic Kensington Castle. Over the last few years the property has fallen into disrepair with various sources stating that Marius has abandoned his inheritance (along with a very large council bill).

The following epic case study, written by Albrecht Holm, appeared in a 1996/7 edition of the old Johannesburg Historical Foundation's Journal 'Between the Chains'. It not only highlights the significance of the site but also the skill of a spectrum of professionals needed to achieve the spectacular result.

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