Johannesburg CBD

Diagonal Street is one of Johannesburg's iconic streets with an energy hard to find anywhere else. It is difficult to imagine a time when its very existence was threatened. The following compilation of sources provides an overview of the preservation of Johannesburg's most famous street scene. The details appeared in a survey conducted by Johann and Catharina Bruwer in the early 2000s. Thank you to the City of Johannesburg for giving us permission to publish.

 

If you visit the High Court in Johannesburg you will notice a massive statue on the western edge along Pritchard Street. The statue commemorates the life of Captain Carl von Brandis -the 'Father of Johannesburg'. In the following article, P. J. Edginton uncovers some fascinating biographical details. The article first appeared in the old Johannesburg Historical Foundation's journal Between the Chains.

To the west of Marshalltown along Main Street in Johannesburg lies the Anglo American Precinct. Anglo was one of the companies that remained committed to the inner city during the flight to the north in the mid to late 1990s. With a remarkable set of buildings telling the history of the company, city and country we understand why! The jewel in the crown is certainly 44 Main Street which was a landmark in its time and remains so today. The wonderful piece below appeared in the Anglo publication 44 News in the early 1980s.

In the article below, Oscar Norwich answers the fascinating question 'When did Johannesburg first appear on a map?''. Norwich was a prolific collector of maps and his priceless collection is now held by Stanford University (click here for a description). He was also the long time Chairman of the old Johannesburg Historical Foundation. The article first appeared in the 1984 edition of the Foundation's journal Between the Chains.

This fascinating piece was compiled by Janet Lee in 1993. She turned back the clock one hundred years to describe what life was like in Johannesburg in 1893. The article first appeared in the Johannesburg Historical Foundation’s journal Between the Chains.

A lot has changed since Oscar Norwich compiled this piece about the famous Norman House in Doornfontein in the 1980s. Norman House was a grand mansion frequented by the who’s who of early Johannesburg. We are not sure when it was demolished. If anyone has any information please add it to the comments section below.

The 50th floor of the Carlton Centre was once known as the Carlton Panorama. It opened in the early 1970s as a whites-only facility in a vastly different context to the one in which it was planned. Tough economic times replaced the boom of the 1950s and 1960s and the apartheid regime was coming under increasing pressure - internally and externally - to implement reforms.

The unearthing of the programme and proposal to save the Colosseum in the early 1980s led me further into a sleuthing foray. At the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation research centre I presented the 1980s papers. Mary Boyeasse, a keen researcher, then said ‘we have that one already’ but five minutes later she reappeared with a rare original souvenir programme of the 1933 opening of the Colosseum. The 1982 prospectus takes on a new look because the design was based on this original souvenir programme.

[Originally published in mid 2015] Following a spate of attacks on colonial monuments around the country, paint was splattered on a post-apartheid statue on Gandhi Square in downtown Johannesburg. Eric Itzkin takes up the case of Gandhi and his bronze effigy.

A Joubert Park visit has been on my to do list for some time and here was the perfect opportunity. A few weekends ago, the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation (JHF) offered a talk on Joubert Park by Professor Louis Grundlingh of UJ, access to the wonderful Johannesburg Art Gallery and a guided walk around the Park. I had been nervous about visiting Joubert Park on my own but with safety in numbers one felt comfortable and at ease. Actually all my anxieties were groundless as the people of today's park were caring, welcoming and ready to engage in conversation.

Who remembers the Colosseum in Johannesburg? This theatre belonged to the collection of theatres built for pleasure and entertainment when one went to the movies in style and cinemas attracted audiences of thousands watching a single block buster grand epic. With its orchestra pit the Colosseum was versatile; it was a large venue for movies, concerts, and stage shows. It closed in 1985 and was demolished, it transitioned to “Lost Johannesburg” in a flash.

 

Above is a postcard of an SAA Airways or Suid-Afrikaanse-Lugdiens DC-7B aircraft. This post card came my way when it fell out of a book I bought recently. The reverse is blank, so it was never sent and simply says "with the compliments of South African Airways” (in English and Afrikaans). The interest to me is the backdrop of Johannesburg viewed from the air. The challenge is to date the photograph. The central iconic building is Escom House (completed in 1937 and demolished /imploded in 1984) and the view is in a westerly or north westerly direction.

About five years ago I stumbled over weeds and litter to get a glimpse of the crumbling Edwardian Lavatory in Newtown. I wondered how many more times I would be able to visit the heritage gem before the forces of neglect consumed her. When Atterbury announced its plans for the massive Newtown Junction development I prayed that this would mean a second life for the historic structure. Thankfully my prayers were answered and the developers along with their heritage consultants kept the building safe and secure during three years of construction.

The Heritage Association of South Africa (HASA) is, with growing concern, following reports from heritage preservationists and activists about the crisis unfolding at Museum Africa – in our opinion custodian of one of the finest and most valuable Africana collections in the world.

In short, the crisis stems from critical staff shortages, in some cases, at least, two decades in the making, as important curator, educational, conservation, cleaning, facilities management and security posts have been left vacant.

A few years ago a wonderful collection of old documents was found in the basement of a Johannesburg inner city building while the tenant (Nedbank) was moving out. One of the boxes we looked at contained details of Nedbank's 50th anniversary celebrations (circa 1938). It was here we found a remarkable set of images of a few Town / City Halls around the country. It appears as though the photographs were taken in the late 1930s. Enjoy...

 

With Johannesburg firmly establishing itself as the economic heartland of South Africa during the mid 20th century, Standard Bank decided to move its South African head office from Pretoria to Johannesburg in 1959.  The head office moved into the upper floors of the Johannesburg branch building, situated on the corner of Commissioner, Harrison and Fox Streets.  This building could however not accommodate all the administrative staff and at a 1962 board meeting, the idea of a prestigious new head office building was conceived.

[Originally published in September 2015] Last week Jacques Stoltz reported that the massive Gauteng Provincial Government Precinct (Kopanong Precinct) may finally be moving ahead. The project involves the 'rehabilitation, development and management' of twenty-one buildings in the historic heart of Johannesburg at a projected cost of R5 billion. This is certainly exciting news but what is more exciting for us is that this is just one (by far the biggest of course) of many projects transforming the CBD.

This is an article that we have been wanting to write for years. We have always been amazed how the six storey Markhams building was once the tallest building in the city and thought it would be fascinating to trace the record breakers over the decades. The list is definitely a work in progress and we will need your help to generate a complete picture. Feel free to add your comments below the article. [Originally published in 2014]

In 1961 the "new" Johannesburg Civic Centre was being conceptualised. The City of Johannesburg invited architects to submit their plans for the new landmark building in an open competition. As part of this process the City issued a folder labelled Architectural competition / Boukindige Prysvrae containing a locality plan and detailed site plan.

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