Johannesburg

Over the holidays I was given a unique Christmas gift by my friend, Peter Digby who shares my enthusiasm for Johannesburg heritage items. It was a single old yellowed newspaper page, dated 9th November 1965, from The Star Newspaper. The page was saved in a cupboard of the Digby home because it carried an unusual story. The headline was: “Fine old stone in a new wall“.

Killarney is one of the great historic suburbs of Johannesburg. With its majestic buildings from different eras, there is a great case for it to be declared a heritage area. The article below, written by journalist Lucille Davie, is packed with fascinating details on the people, history and architecture of a majestic neighbourhood. The piece was originally published on the City of Joburg's website on 18 January 2012. Click here to view more of Davie's work.

The passages below, taken from the City of Joburg's heritage inventory form, reveal the captivating history behind the Indian War Memorial. The three metre high sandstone memorial stands at the summit of the Observatory Ridge with majestic views over the surrounding suburbs.

 

Drawing on a rare collection of souvenir photographic printed albums of Johannesburg, dating from the period approximately 1890 to 1910, we are able to build up a composite picture of Johannesburg's main thoroughfares, buildings and street life. These visual images show how Johannesburg's founding and growth coincided with the coming of age of photography.

I really enjoyed reading the piece by Lucille Davie on the Hillbrow Tower (click here to view). As with many others, I watched in awe as it went up. There was this orange plastic around the top bit where the concrete was being poured. The more concrete, the higher went the orange bit until it got to where the “double disc” is now.

In the feel good article below, journalist Lucille Davie describes the epic return of Joburg's first stamp mills to the area where they were originally installed in 1885. The article was first published on the City of Joburg's website on 21 May 2009. Click here to view more of Davie's writing.

It always feels good when something is returned to where it originally belonged. So it is with the stamp mills owned by Joburg's first gold prospectors, Fred and Harry Struben.

An interesting collection of Johannesburg, Transvaal and South African printed photographic albums has recently come to light*. Kathy Munro was lucky enough to be able to photograph over four hundred images from the various albums including some from an 1892 volume on Johannesburg produced by the Davies Brothers. A few of these early images along with notes from Munro have been reproduced in the article below. 

Earlier this year I wrote a piece highlighting a few amazing places to see the Joburg skyline (click here to view). Since then I have received several requests to do something similar for Sandton so here it is. If you know of any great places not mentioned, please add them in the comments section.

St Stithians School

In 1889, just three years after the founding of Johannesburg, the finishing touches were being put on a building that would become one of the city's landmarks for seven decades. It rose almost 30m into the sky and was the tallest building in town until the Markham's Building claimed the title in 1897. Considering it dominated the skyline, it is no surprise that it gained the nickname the 'Eiffel Tower of the Rand'.

A few weeks ago I noticed a post in the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation's facebook group highlighting the neglect of 12 Park Lane - Parktown's oldest surviving house (built circa 1895). The comments by concerned members of the community resonated with me as I have watched the historic property deteriorate over the past few years. The garden has been left to grow wild, windows are broken, cracks in the walls continue to spread and a portion of the balcony appears to have collapsed.

Important editor's note: The initiatives mentioned in this article are only proposals. A thorough consultation phase with a spectrum of stakeholders still needs to take place before any plans are approved. The article was unpublished on 13 December 2017 following a request from the Johannesburg Inner City Partnership (JICP). On 24 December 2017 it was republished after the release of a similar article on BusinessTech.

Pages

Subscribe to Johannesburg