Looking through old editions of the SA Builder is a fascinating experience. Many of the magazines have high quality photographs (and some sketches) and solid descriptions of projects occurring at the time. As one browses through these projects it becomes clear that only a small number of buildings have survived to this day. Below is a random selection of ten buildings from the 1920s and 1930s that were featured in their day but no longer grace the streets of Johannesburg.
1) Reid Bros Building (corner Main and Harrison, 1924)
The building is an example of simplicity and reasonable economy, and was designed by Mr. Gordon Leith. It was designed on a strictly geometrical basis with a module of 11 ft. 6 3/4 ins. The proportion of window space. To wall surface was only determined after exhaustive attempts to arrive at the correct ratio.
A feature of the building is its large projecting cornice, which throws a pleasant shadow on the walls below, and is constructionally an exceedingly fine piece of work.
The builders, Messrs. T. Clark and Sons, deserve every possible praise for the splendid manner in which they executed the work.
Among the originalities of the building may be mentioned the centreless barrel vault spanning the entrance vestibule, the blocks for which were designed by the architect.
Reid Bros Building (SA Builder)
2) Henderson's Buildings (President Street, 1924)
This building is being erected for Messrs. R. H. Henderson, Ltd., to be occupied entirely by them as a drapery emporium.
The structure consists of a basement over the entire area and three storeys over, and is constructed in brick and reinforced concrete, and, if the present rate of building is maintained, will constitute somewhat of a time record for this class of building in Johannesburg.
Rock was encountered in the basement, which naturally delayed the commencement of the structural work. The rock formed an interesting occurrence of dyke rock and quartzite contact and might easily have presented a most difficult problem for the foundation engineer. Fortunately, the dyke rock was of an unusually unyielding nature and approximated in hardness that of the county rock adjoining. In view of earth tremors, with a possible relative movement of strata, a substantial pad of reinforced concrete was laid under the walls.
The floors are served by a spacious and easy stair in reinforced concrete and a seven-passenger lift, the motor for the latter being placed in the roof. A pneumatic cash service is also being installed in all departments.
The floors will be surfaced in Enduro Magnesite flooring, and a marbled wainscotting will be carried up the staircase hall. The facade will be carried out in Italian Ionic style in white cement precast work, with metallised plaster panels.
The centre of the ground floor front, including the verandah, is being elliptically elevated, to give effect to the great depth of shop fronts, which forms an important feature of the buildings.
The architect is Mr S. V. Mann, and Mr Andrew Gill is the builder.
Hendersons Building (SA Builder)
3) Majestic Mansions (Parktown, 1930)
This block of buildings stands at an important and busy thoroughfare known as Twist Street Terminus. The neighbourhood has become recently a favourite locality for residential flats, and Majestic Mansions is the latest and one of the finest additions to this part of the city.
It is a four-storey structure comprising 61 double and single flats equipped with every modern convenience. Each flat is provided with a private balcony facing east or north and entrance to the flats is obtained through a spacious, open corridor arranged around a quadrangle planted with grass and shrubs.
A double-storey building at the rear of the site provides for 40 garages on the ground floor and natives' rooms above.
The grounds are laid out with tennis courts, lawns, ponds and a swimming bath.
The buildings were erected by Messrs. Frank Ward-Smith & Co., from the designs of Messrs. Cowin, Powers & Ellis, and cost £54,000.
Majestic Mansions (SA Builder)
4) St Andrew's Buildings (Commissioner Street, 1920s)
St Andrew's Buildings, a seven-storey reinforced concrete structure in Commissioner Street, Johannesburg, were erected at an approximate cost of £25,000 by Mr. Thomas. Douglas, to the designs of Messrs, J.A. Moffat & Harvey, on behalf of the St Andrew's Building Society.
The first floor in the building is occupied by the Society and special fittings have been included as befits the dignity of this 25-year-old institution. The doors on this floor are of teak, the ceilings plastered and floors of rubber (North British Co.) and marble.
The fittings on all floors except the first are Oregon doors, plastered ceilings, magnesite flooring and steel windows.
All the offices were designed to suit the convenience of the tenants and were bespoken before the building was completed.
In the front of the building are heavy imported metal panels painted to imitate bronze.
5) Transvaal Drug Company Building (Kerk and Simmonds Streets, 1925)
Mr. D. F. Corlett was the contractor for the large block of buildings at the corner of Kerk and Simmonds Streets, Johannesburg, for the Transvaal Drug Co. This building, which was erected to the designs of Messrs. Kallenbach, Kennedy & Furner, at a cost of approximately £22,000, is one of the most up-to-date warehouse of its kind.
The Transvaal Drug Company Building (SA Builder)
6) Anmercosa House (Corner Fox and Hollard Streets, 1925)
One of the new buildings approaching completion is Anmercosa House, at the corner of Hollard and Fox Streets, opposite the Stock Exchange, which is being erected for Mr. C. A. Meischke to the designs of Mr. P. Rogers-Cooke, Architect.
The rather peculiar name is a composite word abbreviating the name of the principal tenants - Anglo-American Corporation of South Africa. This company will occupy two floors, and the building was first designed to meet their requirements.
The Contractor was Mr. H. J. Kraayenbrink, and the work has been carried out with great satisfaction to all parties concerned. The foundations were carried down to the rock
Anmercose House (SA Builder)
7) Davidson's Mansions (Eloff Street, 1925)
Davidson's Mansions, Eloff Street, which have been erected by Messrs. T. Clark & Sons, are now completed. The building consists of five storeys, the bottom floor comprising shops, and the four upper storeys professional suites and residential flats. The steel structure was supplied and fixed by Messrs. Wade & Dorman, heavy girders being used, plated top and bottom to carry the superstructure.
The face of the building is in cast concrete blocks, and the floors throughout of reinforced concrete with flat concrete roof covered with reinforced asphalt sheeting. The Florentine bronze shop fronts were made and fitted by Messrs Harris & Hittinger; Perfecto floors, Messrs. Forrest & Hughes; the extensive system of heating, connected from the large boiler-house in the basement, was installed by Mr. A. E. Barker. The water system is supplied from a borehole on the site, there being a special water tower to carry a tank with 6,000 gallons capacity, fed by an air compressor pump. The Architects are Messrs. Emley & Williamson.
Davidson's Mansions (SA Builder)
8) Messrs. M. Bloch & Co.'s Building (Corner Smal and Market Streets, 1920s)
This building, comprising six storeys and basement, is constructed of concrete blocks and the floors are of reinforced concrete throughout. The reinforced concrete work was carried out by the Reinforcing Steel Company, Johannesburg. The window frames are of steel supplied by Messrs. Williams and Williams.
The building is used wholly by the firm of Messrs. Bloch & Company for their soft goods warehouse and offices, but it is constructed to be divided off into separate warehouses for subletting. There are two Waygood-Otis lifts communicating with each floor, and the openings for access are fitted with automatic steel revolving shutters as a protection against fire. The escape staircase is a special feature carried on concrete cantilever brackets.
The roof is covered with bitumen supplied by the Union Granolithic Company. The electrical installation was carried out by the firm of Messrs J. A. W. Kerr, Johannesburg, and the sprinkler installation by the Associated Engineers Company, Ltd. All the fittings are of polished teak and the office doors are laid with asbestos tiles.
Mr James Thompson was the contractor and Mr Allen Wilson of Johannesburg, the architect.
M. Bloch and Co. Building (SA Builder)
9) Bradlows Building (Market Street, 1920s)
This well-lighted building of four storeys and basement, designed by Mr J. C. Cook, architect, for the firm of Messrs. A. R. Bradlow, was completed in record time by Messrs. Clark & Maudsley, and occupies a site in Market Street, near the Eloff Street Branch of the Standard Bank. Messrs. A. S. Joffe & Co. were responsible for the reinforced concrete work, Messrs. Harris & Hittinger for the shop-fronts, Messrs Penman & Jochelson the electrical installation, Waygood-Otis for the lifts and Mr. D. F. Smith for the plastering. The interior of the building is as resplendent with every convenience including up-to-date fittings as indicated by the attractive exterior.
Bradlows Building (SA Builder)
10) Bird's Mansions (Von Brandis Square, c. 1925)
This block is to be erected on Von Brandis Square, opposite the Telephone Exchange, and consists of eighteen flats, each flat containing sitting-room, bedroom, hall, kitchenette, bathroom and balcony, all fitted and installed with electric light, gas heaters and gas cookers, and every modern convenience.
The lower storey is faced entirely with klompje bricks, and the upper storeys are finished in rough cast. The building has a flat roof, available to tenants, and the building is entirely fireproof throughout.
The Architect is Mr. Phillip E. Treeby, M.S.A., London, and the Contractor Mr D. Aitchison. The approximate cost is £10,180.
Bird's Mansions (SA Builder)