Saturday, October 22, 2016 - 16:48

Pritchard Street is one of Johannesburg’s iconic streets. For many decades, the most prestigious shops in the city craved a Pritchard Street address and shoppers came from all over South Africa to marvel at the latest goods and fashions from around the world. By the 1970s, the rise of suburban malls saw a major shift in shopping patterns with upmarket customers abandoning the historic retail district. This shift in buying behaviour led to the closure of landmark department stores such as John Orrs and Stuttafords.

Pritchard Street adapted to changing customer needs but few could argue that by the 1980s the era of glitz and glamour was well over. With the general decline of the CBD in the late 1990s and early 2000s many buildings on the street fell into disrepair while others operated well below their potential. In recent years, however, a revival has been underway and if you walk along Pritchard Street today it is hard not to get excited about all the activity!

On the corner of Pritchard and Rissik Streets, Afhco has completed a residential conversion of the Stuttafords Building. Over 100 units have been created many with magnificent views over the city.

 

Stuttafords - restored in 2015-16 (The Heritage Portal)

 

Next door to Stuttafords as you move eastwards is the Game Building painted in the colours of the South African flag. While this is a few years old now it certainly adds life and character to the street.

 

Game Building (The Heritage Portal)

 

Some of the biggest changes are happening on the strip between Joubert and Eloff Streets. Propertuity (of Maboneng fame) is converting all four buildings on the southern side of the street: Dunvegan Chambers (1934), The Royalty (circa 1930s), Hilson House (1929) and Cuthberts (1904). It appears as though a large portion of the space will serve the legal community with the High Court only a short walk away. Propertuity will no doubt have a few exciting surprises in store. There are rumours that the top of Cuthberts will become an iconic event space and that lower down the building, the concept of the once famous balcony tea room will be revived.

 

Dunvegan Chambers (The Heritage Portal)

 

Side of Dunvegan Chambers. You can see that Propertuity has come to this part of town. (The Heritage Portal)

 

The Royalty Building and Hilson House (The Heritage Portal)

 

Cuthberts being adapted (The Heritage Portal)

 

Cuthberts Roof - A potential unique events space? (The Heritage Portal)

 

Moving across Eloff Street towards the High Cout there is another major refurbishment underway at the old John Orrs Building (Inner Court). It appears as though aspects of the original look of the building are returning.

 

Returning more to its original look from the 1930s? (The Heritage Portal)

 

John Orr & Co (The Heritage Portal)

 

Diagonally across from John Orrs is the magnificent Innes Chambers home to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). The building was in a real mess a few years back but thankfully was brought back from the brink last year. Click here for full details of its transformation.

 

Neglected in 2013 (The Heritage Portal)

 

Brought back from the brink in 2014 and 2015 (Brian McKechnie)

 

South Gauteng High Court from Innes Chambers. The Court has been a catalyst for many of the renewal efforts along Pritchard Street. (The Heritage Portal)

 

For one building on Pritchard Street the future is uncertain. It appears as though Markham is looking to sell its landmark building. Considering that the firm has been operating there for almost 120 years it would be incredibly sad to see the company turn its back on its heritage. Let us hope that company directors see the potential of this site beyond a mere store and hold onto it indefinitely.

 

Markhams Building (The Heritage Portal)

 

If you find yourself in the inner city in the near future do yourself a favour and take a walk or drive down Pritchard Street taking in the remarkable energy of one of Johannesburg's historic streets!

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