As we enter silly season I have been warned to be brief. No one has time to read long pages of diatribes against those who own wonderful old buildings and don’t maintain them. I am just back from a week in Cape Town, travelling there by train. The most disgusting views of Johannesburg came from the eastern section behind the Art Gallery where literally tons of filth are simply pushed over the side from what used to Union Grounds. This continues for some way. Clearly no one ever dreams of cleaning alongside the railway line, but any visitor would imagine they enter Joburg via a rubbish tip. The train goes fast enough to miss seeing the rats and smelling what must be a revolting mix of rotting refuse and urine. Leaving and approaching Cape Town is not like this.
The Johannesburg Art Gallery (The Heritage Portal)
The one rewarding part of the Johannesburg exit was seeing the Kensington Flats still standing. These provided accommodation to Milner’s teachers who were all Oxford graduates. Several went on to head Potchefstroom Boys High, Jeppe Boys High and Pretoria Boys High. One decided to follow Maria Montessori and set up her own primary school – St Katherine’s in Parktown.
Changing our name to Johannesburg has already involved us in other areas. The New Killarney Residents Association was interested in preserving and promoting the heritage of the suburb. So working with two noted heritage architects who live in Killarney, Herbert Prins and Mira Fassler Kamstra, we identified two category A buildings – Whitehall Court and Daventry Court - 7 Category B or B+ and 2 in category C. There will be further assessment done by Mira and Herbert into the more recent buildings.
Daventry Court Killarney (Boris Gorelik)
The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation has lodged an objection to the application for rezoning to offices on both sides of Rose Road in Houghton. The applicant jumped the gun and put in the rezoning and Removal of Restrictions application before the Heritage Impact Assessment had been done and those recommendations considered in designing the development. We are still awaiting the HIA and especially what the impact will be on The Wilds which is a declared heritage site and a most valuable public park. We are also surprised that the Houghton ridge should not be subject to the strictures which apply to the Westcliff and Parktown ridges.
We have also objected to the application by PPS for a considerable increase in bulk on their properties in Federation Road, behind Holy Family College. At the same time they seek an increase in height to six storeys. This is certainly not acceptable for Parktown residents on the other side of the M1, but from our point of view the increase in Floor Area Ratio and height would create a precedent which could destroy the heritage buildings which have been retained along Anerley Road as well as the adjoining one in Oxford Road.
We have been disappointed in the appointment of the new Provincial Heritage Resources Council for Gauteng. Neither of our nominations was accepted. We do congratulate Brian McKechnie who is a member of our Board and wish him well in what is a really an onerous and unpaid task. But the MEC appointed only 10 people when he should have appointed 15 so we have commented as per the Gazette Notice. PHRAG itself is in dire need of radical improvement not only in terms of finances, but particularly in being established as an independent body with its own staff, not the staff of the Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation. Please note Heritage isn’t mentioned in the name of the department.
Now to our new programme. Please support the heritage luncheon proposal. The first one is to the original China Town, to the Swallow Inn. We explore the area first and brush up on the history of the Chinese community in Johannesburg before extending the heritage experience gastronomically. One’s tummy is a great educator. We are also looking for new volunteers to lead tours. If you enjoy showing off favourite parts of the City and would like to extend your range do give David Forrest a call. It is fun, intellectually stimulating and we do have a research team to back up our guides.
Our researchers are steaming ahead of those doing the speed-rating, but the latter are catching up and when we have completed the survey of City and Suburban we will start on the City centre east of Von Brandis Street. Prue Mutumi has joined us to work on putting it all on computer while Merle Ruff has volunteered to get our catalogue in order. Since we only have one PC the catalogue is done manually, but we have dreams of digitizing our information which arranged by township and then by streets. The Berea survey has been completed thanks to Sarah, Mary and myself. Huge thanks actually as on four different visits to photograph and record the houses we have heard gunshots.
The Rissik Street Post Office (The Heritage Portal)
The JHF has been consulted regarding developments of the old Market Theatre as well as the new block east of Mary Fitzgerald Square. The Heritage legislation requires that the comments of interested parties be included in reports. So even if we disagree with a development we do serve a purpose! Please believe that the nagging continues – Rissik Street Post Office, Marshall Street Barracks, Rand Steam Laundries. We were very pleased by the notice in the Provincial Gazette of the intention to expropriate the Crown Mines Primary School and we have asked to be accepted as an interested party. Crown Mines Primary School is protected both by the provisional declaration as a Provincial Heritage Site and by the Notice of Intention to Expropriate. We don’t want another Rand Steam Laundries happening where developers disregard the law and demolish the buildings over the festive season. We look forward to seeing you on the tours. In the meantime best wishes and safe driving over the holidays.