Sandton

In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie reveals the rich history of Lonehill in Sandton. She also uncovers some wonderful details about the places, spaces and people of Sandton before it became the financial capital of South Africa. The piece first appeared on the City of Joburg's website on 25 February 2003. Click here to view more of Davie's work.

She is the daughter of the City of Gold and she is gorgeous. Sandton is definitely coming of age with landmark buildings around every corner. If you love her during the day, you should see her at night! Property owners and their lighting experts have created quite a show when the sun goes down. Below are a few photos taken by The Heritage Portal team to encourage you to explore the city at night.

 

A short distance from the modern Fourways CBD lies a highly significant gem from another era... an old house that once belonged to the Van der Walt brothers who farmed watermelons in the area.

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 the late 1980s a magnificent statue of a rearing stallion was erected outside the Sandton Civic Centre near the corner of Rivonia and West (just up from where the Gautrain Station is today). It was surrounded by a fountain and became an instant landmark in the rapidly expanding Sandton CBD.

For several years the historic 1906 Driefontein Farmhouse (or more specifically the Wilhelmi House) in Parkmore/Riverclub has been waiting for a new use (click here for some history). The old Sandton Historical Association used to use the house for meetings and functions but this ceased when the organisation shut its doors in the 1990s. I am very happy to report that the historic landmark is set to serve the local community once again.

A common view ventured during small talk at meetings and social occasions I attend is that Sandton has no history. Many people describe the area as rich and soulless while others complain about 'poor architecture' and the explosion of sectional title complexes. In this article I will take readers on a dash around a few significant sites and hopefully persuade the naysayers that Sandton does indeed have a rich and layered history.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange has had a remarkable six homes during its existence reflecting the massive growth of  Johannesburg, South Africa and the institution itself over a relatively short period of time. The streets where it has been located have become famous in financial circles around the world (think Simmonds, Hollard, Diagonal and now Gwen Lane). Whenever the Stock Exchange has moved, major banks and companies have followed creating new financial districts and leaving old ones to reinvent themselves.

It is hard to imagine that the small park adjacent to Redhill School and opposite the Morningside Shopping Centre in Sandton was once a major 'outspan' where weary travellers (and oxen of course) rested on the way to Johannesburg. The following article, first published in the 1984 Sandton Historical Association journal, brings the story alive.

An old 'outspan', at least 150 years old, has just recently become a new Sandton Park, and will be preserved forever as an open place. This is Outspan Park in Morningside.

For many years Bill Hedding was known as the ‘Father of Bryanston’. He played a central role in the development of the suburb and the recording of its history. He was the founder of the now defunct Sandton Heritage Association, a long term city councillor and at one point the Mayor of Sandton. In the late 1970s he gave a speech on the history of Bryanston. Below are a few edited excerpts to give the reader an idea of the origins and development of the suburb.

To the north of Johannesburg lies a hill of great historical, archaeological and geological importance. In the article below Lilith Wynne explores the archaeological aspects of the Lone Hill site. The article first appeared in the 1988 Journal of the Sandton Historical Association, two years after Professor Revil Mason made his 'discovery'.

The aerial view of the old Borrowdale Farmhouse and outbuildings is truly remarkable. Today the area is dotted with established trees and multi-million rand homes so it is hard to imagine the rural landscape of the past. In the article below Valerie Gordon-Bennett shares some of her memories of growing up on Borrowdale Farm before and during the early days of Sandton. The article first appeared in the 1994 annual magazine of the Sandton Historical Association.

 

Last month we published an article from the Restorica archives where the author spoke about the power of excursions to heritage sites to inspire the youth (click here to read). We are sure most readers can remember at least one phenomenal trip during their childhood that has left an impact to this day. Over the last few weeks we have been sent some wonderful stories and photographs of recent adventures.

In August 1988 an article appeared in The Star with the headline 'Sandton historians seeking facts about mystery man'. Researchers from the Sandton Historical Association (SHA) had found a neglected grave in the veld just off Sloane Street in Bryanston but knew nothing of ‘John Richard Davis, born 8th December 1876, Died at Craigieburn, 25th May 1948’. The case generated significant interest and caught the attention of Davis’ daughter Molly Steel and others who helped researchers to build a picture of Bryanston’s mystery man.

It is hard to believe that the land to the east of the Bryanston CBD was once home to a grand hunting estate. The following article, originally published in an old journal of the Sandton Historical Association, sheds some light on the fascinating story.

In the early 1990s the Sandton Historical Association, with expert guidance from Professional Land Surveyor Werner Kirchhoff hoped to erect a Beacon monument to mark the boundary line between two of Sandton's original farms. Although the initiative did not get past the planning stage, the vision for the project was documented in an excellent article written by Avril Reid and Kirchhoff. Below are a few extracts from the article (SHA's 1993 annual magazine) revealing some fascinating history about beacons and boundaries.

I have noticed that many people are trying to establish the location of the Lord Howe Race Track in Kelvin. It is possible that the borehole is still there so if one can find it the rest may fall into line (see sketch below). Another clue that could assist the heritage enthusiast is that the main straight was at the top of a hill and finished in a dip. I can recall these details as I spent quite a bit of time in the pits and in the grandstand as a child as my dad, Prosser Roberts, was a fearsome racer during the 1930s. He raced the Bugatti pictured above.

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