The article below forms part of Mike Alfred's series on Joburg personalities from the first decade of the 21st century. Click here to view Kathy Munro's fantastic introduction and here to view the series index. The stories were written in 2005/6. Please note that the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust transformed into the Johannesburg Heritage Foundat
Helen Aron, photographer and South African art publishing impresario, passed away in Johannesburg on 11th January 2020 after a long illness. Helen was an eccentric, unique Johannesburg character- someone of passion, intelligence, flair and great courage.
Helen was born on 30th November 1939.
Lesley and I first met Helen at a party, when some woman with wild hair and very red lips rushed up to us and informed us that we would be buying a copy of her book and that she would be delivering it to our house that next day and that the price would be R50. At that stage I was still a student and her price took a fairly large chunk out of our savings, and for many years thereafter it remained the single, most expensive book on our bookshelves. As I soon came to realise, Helen Aron took no prisoners, and let no grass grow beneath her feet.
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie profiles South African heritage icon Flo Bird. The piece was originally published on the City of Joburg's website on 4 October 2002. Click here to read more of Davie's work.
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie explores Brenthurst, arguably Johannesburg’s most splendid garden. The piece was first published on the City of Joburg's website on 2 February 2004. Please note that tours of the garden are no longer available. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
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
I think Heritage Portal readers will be interested in my archival sleuthing. I have found the blueprint of the original plan for the Parktown home Gordon Leith designed in 1927. Then called Morgenzon for the Coddingtons and built in 3rd Avenue Parktown, Johannesburg. The name changed to Le Tholonet and the house became the home of Clive and Irene Mennell after World War II.
Fire is the most destructive and frightening of all elements. A Johannesburg heritage home in Parktown, Le Tholonet, at 6 3rd Avenue, was lost to fire on 17th July 2018. On Wednesday this week Clive Chipkin and I embarked on an expedition to discover and if possible photograph Parktown and Saxonwold homes of a certain period. We were in search of the Cape Dutch architectural style and its variants in the old elite northern suburbs of Johannesburg.
The wonderful article below, written by journalist Lucille Davie, looks at the history and preservation of one of Joburg's grandest historic mansions. The piece first first appeared on the City of Johannesburg's website on 23 March 2004. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
In the article below, journalist and joburg enthusiast Lucille Davie takes a look at the restoration of one of Parktown's historic homes. The piece first appeared on the City of Joburg's website on 31 March 2010. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
This is Number 12 Park Lane. This property lies between Clarendon Place and Park Lane. It is a property that abuts Hillbrow; it is the other side of the fence to the grand Reya Vaya rapid bus transport system. James Ball reported on the disgraceful state of the property in November 2017 (click here to view). Alas there has been no improvement. How very sad!
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.
7th November 2017 is the centenary of the Russian Revolution but also of the birth of one of South Africa’s greatest 20th century daughters, Helen Suzman. On Friday 3rd November a small group of Johannesburg citizens and family members of the Suzman clan gathered to remember and pay tribute to Helen Suzman, with the unveiling of a blue plaque on the pavement at 13 Eton Road Parktown. The plaque was unveiled by Helen’s daughters, Frances and Patricia (Francie and Patty).
A few years ago, the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation organised a rare tour inside the iconic Parktown mansion Dolobran. Journalist and Johannesburg enthusiast, Lucille Davie was there and compiled the wonderful article below (originally published in the Saturday Star on 3 January 2015). Click here to view more of Davie's work.
Flo Bird, Founder of the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust and founder member of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation was a surprise guest speaker at the 17th annual symposium of the Heritage Association of South Africa held at Heidelberg last week. Flo’s speech was given at the remarkable NZASM constructed Heidelberg Station.
Most Joburg citizens have some direct experience of the scourge of illegal dumping. Across the city, vacant pieces of land, once beautiful parks and even heritage sites are used by dumpers. Catching the culprits is difficult, cleaning up the mess is expensive and the negative effects on health, the environment and heritage preservation are massive.
On Saturday 22nd July, a Johannesburg Heritage Foundation Blue Plaque was unveiled at Windybrow. 2017 saw the reopening of Windybrow as an Arts Centre under the auspices of the Market Theatre Foundation.
The sculpture shows a soldier in kilt and Scottish regalia. It fits in most dramatically with its position on a rising site on the triangular ground where St Andrew’s and Ridge Road meet. Visually it is very satisfying. It may not be a great work of art, but it is certainly a fine memorial, beautifully proportioned and well executed.
[Originally published in 2015] I recently visited The Moot House in Parktown as the gardens were on show as part of the Gardens of the Golden City programme. The entrance fee was R20 and tea was served with wicked chocolate cake at R25. Gardens of the Golden City supports a number of charities. I found the event advertised on the Heritage Portal and I wanted to thank those involved in promoting this fabulous home and garden.