From the mid-1940s, the Witwatersrand East Rand and its gold mining and industries were the powerhouse of the South African economy (Bonner, 2000) and these industries drew in thousands of work seekers, fast-forwarding urbanisation in this region and creating a huge struggle for housing and transport. But very few of these hopeful migrants became rich, and many lived in dire poverty and squalor. There were massive systems of conflict.
102 years ago, when the so-called “Spanish Flu” arrived in South Africa, there was no national health department, and no official guidance on what to do. By mid-October the death rate was so high that town councils decided to close cinemas and schools. Some schools, such as Benoni Central School, Vogelfontein school in Boksburg, and the Springs government school were converted into emergency hospitals to treat the overflow of patients who could not be accommodated in official hospitals.
A friend who grew up in Germiston claimed at his recent birthday bash that while you could leave Germiston, it would never leave you. His words mulled through my mind as I arrived at the Primrose Cemetery. Visiting a historic cemetery like Primrose is similar to visiting an interesting museum. Instead of viewing artifacts one sees the tombstones of people who participated in events that may have shaped one’s life in one way or another. One also starts better interpreting the tombstone symbols and appraising the epitaphs.
Perhaps you recall the 1980s advert, ‘Where did you have your first Campari? – in Benoni.’ That was well before Charlize Theron made Benoni famous.
Well, you do not have to be a taphophile (someone who takes an interest in cemeteries and tombstones) or require a taste for Campari to visit the Rynsoord Benoni Cemetery.
On 5 April 2017, Keith Martin, who heads up the heritage community in Modderfontein, unveiled the first two heritage plaques to be erected in the area. This was done in conjunction with the Thornhill Homeowners Association and under the auspices of Joburg Heritage. The plaques are positioned at significant sites within Thornhill Estate.
One site commemorates the first granite rocks to be quarried at Modderfontein. These are located on a specially built platform at 8 Brussels Ave.
Horwoods Farmhouse, one of the oldest structures in Ekurhuleni, has been in crisis for many years (click here to view background and updates). Despite increased security in recent years, vandalism has continued. Local residents and councillors have brought the situation to the attention of Ekurhuleni Metro officials repeatedly and pleaded for resources to be allocated for restoration. They are still waiting.
Vogelstruisbult is an abandoned gold mine on the East Rand near Springs. It was registered back in 1933 and began production in 1937. Anglo American was the controlling shareholder for many years. According to the book, "History of Springs" the mine produced just under 224 tons of gold during its 31 year lifetime.
Some time ago I posted an item on the Heritage Portal about the demolition of the 1904 ERPM Clubhouse and the 1908 (Herbert Baker) extension to the ERPM Clubhouse (click here to view). A stop order was subsequently obtained, and demolition of these two structures was halted, but only after they had been broken down by about 80%.
In the publication Boksburg 1903-4-1978-79: 75 Years of Municipal Government an unknown contributor reflected on the development of the town over seven and a half decades and asked ‘What was Boksburg like in 1903 when the first Town Council took office?’. Below is the answer to this captivating question.
Johannesburg is a gold mining city and, through the decades, there have been a number of disasters related to the industry. A walk through Johannesburg's cemeteries offers a visual history of premature loss through mine related explosions. The granite memorial in the Braamfontein Cemetery erected in memory of those who lost their lives in the great dynamite explosion of 1896, is still moving and offers a unique insight into Johannesburg history.
Below is a wonderful article compiled some time ago by the team from the Boksburg and East Rand Historical Association. It looks at the fascinating first decade of Boksburg's existence. [Main image - Boksburg Post Office]
Sit back, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy this phenomenal piece by Ian Robinson. It was written in the 1980s and traces the remarkable story of the pioneering Italians that helped to build South Africa's first major manufacturing industry.
Gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand in 1886 and the subsequent development of the gold mines required large quantities of dynamite. As there was no local manufacturing industry, all requirements had to be imported.
We are honoured to publish this phenomenal article on the priceless Art Deco architecture of Springs. Thank you to the Arts, Culture and Heritage team from the Ekurhuleni Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture for sending it through. Enjoy!
We are honoured to publish this powerful piece of research dealing with many aspects of the outbreak of plague in Johannesburg in 1904. The piece was compiled by Tim Capon, the great grand-nephew of Emily Blake, the only nurse to die during the epidemic.
[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.
After many years of depressing headlines there is finally some good news for the Germiston Carnegie Library. The following fascinating piece has been compiled by Nicholas Clarke, the heritage consultant on the project. [Originally published 13 October 2014]
[Intro originally published 30 July 2015] Last week we visited the Modderfontein Historic Village to hear about plans that development firm Zendai has for the area but more specifically to hear what will happen to the historic buildings on site. We were told that it is too early to go into specific details but the buildings will be retained and used as a major selling point for whatever use is decided. One of the ideas mentioned in passing was that the buildings could form part of a new University.