This fascinating article appeared in The Star in the lead up to Johannesburg's Centenary Commemorations. It highlights the layers of significance attached to Northcliff Hill previously known as Aasvogel Kop. It is interesting to note the tussle between the forces of preservation and development on the ridge as well as the limited resources of the heritage authorities of the time.
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.
In or around 1970, when the Department of Dramatic Art was about to open the following year, I was visited by John van Zyl and Art de Villiers, who had been appointed to the staff of the Dramatic Art Department. They were in a bit of a panic because notwithstanding that the Department was opening in a matter of a few weeks, no provision had been made for a performing venue.
[Originally published in 2014] Emily Blake was an experienced, caring nurse. One evening, while tending to a sick child, he began crying for his mother, so she kissed him gently and tucked him into his bed. Soon after that, Nurse Emily contracted Bubonic Plague. She died at the tender age of 27 years. Her grave is one of about 7000 graves of people of all creeds who were buried in the grounds of the the Rietfontein Hospital between 1895 and 1957. This hospital, known as Sizwe since 1995, still operates today.
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.
This is one of those stories we love to publish. A hidden piece of heritage revealed by passionate activists on the ground. Thank you to William Gaul for sending it through. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have. [Originall Published 13 June 2015]
In November 1987 members of the Johannesburg Historical Foundation paid a visit to the 'village' of Parkview. I use the word 'village' deliberately because this has always been a friendly suburb with a particular character of its own where I lived as a child and never visit without a feeling of nostalgia. After all, don't street names like Kilkenny, Kerry, Roscommon, Westmeath, Kildare and Wicklow evoke visions of somewhere green as shamrocks, fresh and soft as Irish mist, where the road rises to meet you and the sun shines warm upon your face?
During rush hour every day tens of thousands of people experience the slow and maddening commute along William Nicol Drive in northern Johannesburg. The road connects Bryanston, Fourways and many suburbs beyond to Sandton and Hyde Park (and ultimately Rosebank and the Joburg CBD via Jan Smuts Avenue). Given its landmark status today it is hard to imagine that just over sixty years ago no road existed. The following brief excerpt from a speech by Bill Hedding traces the origins of the road that Joburgers love to hate.
On a Saturday in mid October 2015, a group of Johannesburg Heritage Foundation members gathered in Rissik Street in front of what older Johannesburg citizens knew as the Johannesburg City Hall. Today the building is the Gauteng Legislature. We met on the City Hall steps, standing on what was once the historic market square, laid out in Johannesburg in 1886. It is a space that has seen vast transformations, buildings have come and gone, ideas about city centre layouts have altered.
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.
"Shandukani is a Venda word meaning 'change' and is an appropriate name for a facility that represents multiple aspects of positive change: the value of public/private partnerships; the transformation of a derelict building with heritage status into a thoroughly modern facility that nonetheless preserves its historical stature; and the positive impact on change we can all have." Yael Horowitz
A visit to the bustling Oriental Plaza today hides the dark history of its apartheid origins. Opening in 1971, it was the result of a compromise between the Johannesburg City Council and the Department of Community Development over the future of Indian Traders in Pageview. In the article below Nigel Mandy highlights the many tragedies of the flawed ideology behind the relocation of traders to the Plaza.
[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.
[Originally published 2 September 2015] The Standard Bank Gallery has put on something incredibly special and you only have until 12 September 2015 to see it. This is, of course, the Pierneef Exhibition. Kathy Munro, Honorary Associate Professor in the School of Architecture and Planning at Wits, visited the exhibition recently and compiled this absorbing piece. Enjoy.
[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 Rand Club is one of Johannesburg's great landmarks. It has a rich and controversial history and remains a major attraction for the public on occasions when access is arranged. Kathy Munro, Honorary Associate Professor in the School of Architecture and Planning at Wits, visited the Club recently exploring every nook and cranny and pondering the future of this iconic institution. The Club has been reinventing itself for a number of years but tough decisions lie ahead...
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.