In this article, I'd like to cover a bit more than just the Klipkerk (translated stone church) and delve into some pre-history and related history. Two related church communities appear in this history. There is the Nederduits Hervormde Kerk and the Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk, both translated to English as Dutch Reformed Church. Throughout the article I will use the abbreviations NH and NG respectively.
Johannesburg hosts many fascinating treasures. Did you know bookbinding is one of Johannesburg's oldest enterprises? A bookbinders appears in an 1889 photo of our town (see below). Impressed Craft bindery connects you to that past.
The weekend of the 24/25 June 2017 saw the launch of the Jozi Walks initiative of the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA). Individuals, community organizations, tourism companies and NGOs joined hands in offering a series of free and innovative walks through Johannesburg, north, south, east and west. It was exciting, fun and showed off Jozi at its best over a two day celebration of the Jane Jacobs walk my city philosophy.
Here is an interesting story. Sometimes paper finds, or ephemera, happen in a serendipitous way. A friend bought a book at a recent Johannesburg monthly book auction at Westgate Walding. As he opened the title page, the document below fell out into his hand. Of course all sorts of things are used as bookmarks in old books – I have found bus, airline and parking tickets. There have also been pamphlets and city maps. I have even found out of date bank notes.
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.
Most commentaries on Johannesburg of the decade of the thirties takes 1936 and the city's fiftieth birthday as the year for reflection and anticipation. See, for example, the Star Newspaper's popular history, Like it Was. Johannesburg A Sunshine City Built on Gold (1931) is an unusual publication that takes us back to the start of the decade to discover Johannesburg.
South African mining photographs from as early as 1870 have been identified. These early diamond surface mining activity photographs were taken by Weber & Sederstrom at New Rush (Kimberley). When gold was found in Johannesburg some 14 years later (1884), it was initially not difficult to mine as the gold was found near the surface and prospectors had many laborers to assist them with the digging.
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.
Beautifully situated in the Heidelberg Kloof is the Kloof cemetery, the original and oldest cemetery of the town. In fact, the oldest grave goes back to before the town was established. I'd like to take you on a walk through the graves, picking up a specific grave stone here and there.
The town started with Heinrich Ueckermann, he set up the first trading store in what now is the town.
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.
We South Africans live in a polyglot society, which under our Constitution, has 11 official languages that “must enjoy parity of esteem and must be treated equitably”. Mother tongues range from Afrikaans to IsiZulu, from isiXhosa to Setswana, however to stop us being a modern Tower of Babel we largely use one language to communicate between each other and that is English. In doing so we are reflecting a world wide trend. In today’s world English has become the “Lingua Franca” replacing French as the language of diplomacy and German in the field of science.
Should one drive out of Johannesburg eastwards along the N12 highway, a famous landmark is passed at the Snake Road exit, known as Benoni’s mountain or more accurately the Kleinfontein Mine Dump. The Dump has been standing tall (92 metres) for over 90 years but will soon only be a memory as it is being reclaimed for the estimated 3 ½ tons of gold that it contains. For many it is an eyesore and good riddance, but others will be sad to see it go.
A few years ago, one of the oldest houses in Norwood faced a bleak future. The owners had spent little to nothing on maintenance over the years, rubbish was piling up and services had been disconnected. Developers began circling hoping to acquire the property for a bargain price. Illegal demolition appeared to be the most likely outcome at this stage.
A fountain built by Italian POWs who were interred at the nearby Zonderwater POW camp around 1943 has been moved from its original position to a new site in the garden of the McHardy House Museum in Cullinan.
The fountain was built in an area called Hallsdorp. The miners houses built in this area in the early part of the last century were demolished at the end of the Second World War. The area became derelict and the fountain was quickly forgotten.
Irene is a wonderful village located less than twenty kilometres south of Pretoria. Visitors can feel the history around them whether staying at a local hotel, visiting the Smuts House Museum or touring the working farm. Residents are proud of the area's rich history and rightly so! Below are a few edited passages revealing the early history of Irene Farm. A longer version of the article appeared in a 1961 edition of South African Panorama.
The Joburg skyline (or at least hints of it) can be viewed from hundreds of places around the city. There are some spots that provide such an exceptional view and experience that they must be shared. City enthusiasts will be aware of these and many more not mentioned. Please add your favourite spots in the comments section below.
The Hill above the Dutch Reformed Church, Cottesloe
In the wonderful article below, Raymond Smith takes the reader on a journey to six iconic sites in Pretoria: the Union Buildings, Church Square, Unisa, Freedom Park, //hapo Museum and Marabastad. He describes the experience as a 'peripatetic walk contemplating diversity, dislocation, overlap and cohesion within an urban environment strained under its conflicting past, yet bravely attempting to respond to contemporary demands with varying degrees of success'.
While browsing through the book Seventy Golden Years (published by the Johannesburg City Council in 1956 to commemorate the city's 70th birthday), I came across a wonderful advert for Stewarts and Lloyds of South Africa. The company proudly announced that the hitching posts it supplied to the fashionable Athenaeum Club in the early 1900s were still in place over fifty years later. This was despite the Athenaeum being demolished and the reality that horses were no longer the major means of transport.
Da Gama Park is a little known, underused and under appreciated Johannesburg park. It is a rare beauty spot because it is located on spectacular open high ground bordering Observatory Extension, Cyrildene and De Wetshof (click here to view on google maps). It has the feeling of open, unfettered common land where your dogs can roam freely across tufty African grass. There are no fences and no playground equipment.