Johannesburg CBD

Gandhi and Mandela both began their crusades against injustice in Johannesburg, a city where historic buildings and places still map their journeys towards liberation. Half a century before the young Mandela's political history began in earnest, Gandhi launched his struggle, developing his technique of satyagraha (passive resistance or 'truth force'). Both men started out as lawyers for the downtrodden.

The Colosseum was an iconic Art Deco Building designed by the architect Percy Rogers Cook and developed by the entertainment mogul I.W. Schlesinger. It occupied an entire city block on Commissioner Street and formed part of the ‘Great White Way’ along with His Majesty’s, Shakespeare House, the CNA Building and others. The theatre could seat over 2 500 people and its ceiling gave the illusion of a star filled night sky above walls built to resemble fairy castles. Over the decades the theatre hosted hundreds of famous productions, actors and musicians.

In searching the archives or trawling through book finds, one sometimes encounters two items in different places that have a relationship and a natural belonging. This happened recently when I discovered a cache of Johannesburg photographs decked out to celebrate the coronation of Edward VII in June 1902. Some months later in a batch of recently purchased pamphlets I found the official Programme for the same 1902 coronation celebrations in Johannesburg. Putting together two quirky and chance survivals opens up a window on the world of Johannesburg in 1902.

Over the last few months many Joburgers will have noticed that the inner city has some new street names. Although it may seem that these are quick decisions, the opposite is true. The City of Johannesburg via it Directorate of Arts, Culture and Heritage follows a rigorous process. Below are a few excerpts from various reports compiled over the last few years to give readers a deeper understanding of the process.

The original conversion of part of the Newtown Market Buildings to create the Market Theatre complex in the mid 1970s is one of the great adaptive reuse success stories in South Africa. The complex is one of Joburg's cultural icons and a huge asset to the reviving Newtown Precinct. In the article below Nigel Mandy describes the fight, vision and generosity that it took to get the initial project going.

Who was the Marshall in Marshallstown, Marshall Street and Marshall Square? How did the suburb Melrose in northern Johannesburg get its name? Where did the name of the famous Glenhove Road which leads into Rosebank come from? If you are intrigued by any of these questions please read on. The article below gives an overview of the life of Henry Brown Marshall one of the pioneers of Johannesburg.

Here is an interesting photographic souvenir and important record of early Johannesburg. The title is "South African Goldfields Panoramic and Other Views of Johannesburg, 1889". This small booklet is a rare item as it was published just three years after the start of the town and its mining camp origins. It came to me together with a second little booklet, called  "Johannesburg, Golden Centre of South Africa ", also dated 1889, by Charles Cowen.

The following brief history of Windybrow, one of Johannesburg's great historic mansions, was compiled by B.L. Grant and appeared in the 1979 edition of the Johannesburg Historical Foundation's Journal 'Between the Chains'. The house is now home to the Windybrow Centre of the Arts (previously the Windybrow Theatre). Notices on the Centre’s website and facebook page indicate that it is closed for renovations and organisational ‘stabilisation’. 

Named after the appeal judge, Sir James Rose Innes, Innes Chambers is prominently positioned opposite the South Gauteng High Court on Pritchard Street, in the heart of the Johannesburg CBD. Originally the offices of the Johannesburg Bar, Innes Chambers was purchased by the Department of Public Works in the early 2000’s, earmarked for redevelopment as the Johannesburg offices of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

 

[Originally published 19 July 2015]  A scale model of the proposed Kopanong Precinct was prominently on display at the Gauteng Infrastructure Investment Conference at Gallagher Estate this week. According to a project flyer distributed to attendees the project will entail the rehabilitation, development and management of twenty-one inner city buildings. The objectives of the project are:

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