Johannesburg CBD

A few months ago it was my  pleasure to lunch with Mr Walter Pon, of first Chinatown of Johannesburg and Brett McDougall (Chairman of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation). Mr Pon has a passion for the history of the Chinese community in South Africa. Lunch was a gastronomic route into Chinese culture and history - our meeting point was the Ming Woo restaurant (corner of Alexander and Commissioner Street) which started and ended with copious small cups of delicate green tea. Lunch was Dim Sum, a variety of enticing servings of Chinese delicacies. This unpretentio

What do names such as ‘Astoria, Regal, Plaza, Victory, Pigalle, Empire, Roxy, Odeon, Vaudette, Regent, Apollo, Ritz, and Bijou’, mean to you?

Generation Z will probably think they are apps and Millennials that they are computer games. Generation X will think of them as names of men’s suits, restaurants or maybe small-town hotels. Only the Baby Boomers will recognise the evocative names of long closed and largely forgotten bioscopes.

If you want to literally touch Johannesburg’s gold mining days, check in with James Findlay’s Collectable Books and Antique Maps store, recently re-located from his Saxonwold home to the basement of the Rand Club in the inner city.
 
The dignified old club is the perfect place for his collection of antique memorabilia. The grand Edwardian edifice is a bit of an antique itself: built in 1904, it was the third gentlemen’s club on the site and is rumoured to have been chosen by that now infamous capitalist and imperialist, Cecil John Rhodes.

I recently came across the souvenir album Barnett's Views of Johannesburg and Suburbs. I photographed a panoramic view of the early town (in three sections) and thought I would share it. The book has no date but the look of the cover, very art nouveau design with floral garland, and the street scenes and buildings leads me to believe that it was published in the late 1890s or early 1900s.

Many readers will be aware that the Joburg Cenotaph was vandalised recently. The City of Joburg's Heritage Department pulled out all the stops to ensure that it was cleaned before the hugely important National Remembrance Sunday Service on 11 November 2018. Below are before, during and after photos via The Heritage Portal and Sticky Situations.

 

Before

Markhams Building, located on the corner of Eloff and Pritchard Streets in Johannesburg, is a landmark of the city. It is striking because it has survived. Built in 1897, it is nearly as old as the city itself.

 

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

A few weeks ago I was privileged to be invited by Clive Chipkin to join his Joburg tour for a group of visiting American students from Brown University, USA. The group of 22 postgraduate students spent a week in Johannesburg at the Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI) in Parktown. Hats off to Brown for devising a study abroad programme on the complexities of South Africa beyond 1994 and its transition to democracy.

In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie tells the story of the creation of the Constitutional Court's iconic South African flag. The piece first appeared on the City of Joburg's website on 8 September 2006. Click here to view more of Davie's work.

The Constitutional Court has a new artwork – a beautifully beaded and embroidered South African flag, positioned above the judges’ seats in the courtroom.

Thirty Three Nostalgic Coloured and Monochrome Postcards - Johannesburg. (Edwardian). Published: Braune & Levy, Printers & Engravers, Johannesburg, Circa 1904-8. One postcard was used with postmark and stamp. The remaining 32 were unused and have been removed from an old album and carry slight paste marks to blank side. All postcards printed by Braune & Levy, Johannesburg. Thankfully photographed for an auction on Antiquarian Auctions.

In the fascinating article below, journalist Lucille Davie explores the history of four landmark Joburg castles. The piece was first published on the City of Johannesburg's website on 23 July 2003. Click here to view more of Davie's work. Unfortunately, in 2018, the Three Castles Building has deteriorated significantly and remains endangered. Local heritage organisations are concerned by the lack of information about the state of the Kensington Castle.

This small handbook was literally a pocket filler. It was an annual Johannesburg City publication Vade-Mecum. The meaning of the word, Vade-Mecum, is the Latin expression "go with me". It is a small slender volume issued by the City Treasurer's Department and by 1949 was in its 19th edition. What a contrast to current glossy city reports and promotional books.

Clarendon Circle was a landmark intersection of the north east route into Johannesburg. It was a circle of note located where East Avenue crossed Empire, Bruce, Twist and Klein Streets. There was an island on East Avenue separating the traffic lanes with an attractive line up of palm trees and shrubs.

In the remarkable article below, journalist Lucille Davie describes her tour of the Consitutional Court with Justice Albie Sachs. She delves into the history, art and architectiure of a hugely significant site. The piece first appeared on the City of Joburg's website on 6 August 2004. Click here to view more of Davie's work.

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