The now celebrated English architect James Alfred Cope-Christie (1870-1953) was active in Johannesburg between 1902 and approximately 1908. He was in the city for a relatively short time but made and left a legacy of three houses that have survived to the present. The three homes are in Parktown, Waverley and Yeoville.
September is Heritage Month but it is a downer when the news comes through that the museum and heritage site Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia has closed its doors permanently. The news of closure announced by the CEO and founder of the Liliesleaf Trust, Nic Wolpe, son of Harold Wolpe, comes as a surprise.
I would like to pay tribute to Clive Scott who passed away in July 2021 at the age of 84. He was a much loved and talented actor who performed on the stage and television during a long career. My tribute takes the form of writing about Dykeneuk, exploring the architect and the context of the grand home. Scott was Clive's professional name; his real name was Clive Cleghorn and he was married to Margie Cleghorn for over 50 years. Dykeneuk has been the Cleghorn home since 1982. It is one of those special heritage gems of Johannesburg.
The article below forms part of a larger piece by Kathy Munro on the Dix House in Kensington. Click here to read.
Langermann and the development of Kensington
I was recently invited on a site visit to The Kagye Samye Dzong, Tibetan Buddhist Monastery and Centre in Kensington. It is a remarkable and little known heritage house in this suburb.
Research into Herbert Baker’s domestic architecture in Johannesburg led me to return to Doreen Greig’s excellent book Herbert Baker in South Africa. Appendix B lists Herbert Baker’s projects and a house in Yeoville at 10 Yeo Street designed in 1910 under the names of Baker and Masey for Mrs G B Given-Wilson is listed. It belongs in the body of work labelled the “Transvaal houses” of Herbert Baker.
It is with regret that I inform the heritage community of Johannesburg that a special Robert Howden house has been demolished. No application for demolition was received by the Joint Plans Committee East of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation and it would appear that an application for demolition was neither received nor approved by the Provincial Heritage Resources Agency of Gauteng (PHRAG).
We have heard that the blue plaque at Temple Israel, Paul Nel Street Hillbrow has been destroyed. However the good news is that we have heard from Eric Itzkin at the City of Johannesburg will be replacing this blue plaque as part of its restoration budget.
Clive Chipkin passed away peacefully on January 10th 2021 in Johannesburg, aged 91. Clive was born on 21st March 1929 in Johannesburg, the city he made his own. He was an extraordinary person who lived a rich and full life and meant much to friends and colleagues in the heritage and architecture communities.
2013 Award of an Honorary D Arch
On a recent visit to the Resource Centre of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation at the Holy Family College, Oxford Road, Johannesburg, a new acquisition was on display, namely a brass name plate from the architectural firm “Kallenbach, Kennedy and Furner ARIBA Architects“. The brass plaque had been donated to JHF by Ronald Sutherland of Durban.
In 1896 Johannesburg had reached its tenth birthday. The astounding growth of the town in its first decade meant that the authorities (at that stage It was the Johannesburg Gezondheids Comite or the Sanitary Board / Committee) wanted to know about the population of the town, its origins, location, composition, religions, local industries and occupations.
One does not normally associate Bloemfontein with Royalty, but Bloemfontein, located in the centre of the country (and despite its Boer republican history), was always on the itinerary for that cluster of 20th century British Royal tours. It was included in the series of Royal perambulation around South Africa in 1925 (the Prince of Wales), 1934 (Prince George, later Duke of Kent) and 1947 (King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and their family).
The SAIA - KZN Regional Heritage Committee in Durban has raised alarm about the Barrie Biermann House currently under threat of demolition. Robert Brusse (in the chair), together with Rodney Harber, Trish Emmett, Lindsay Napier and Kirk White have launched a national appeal. The heritage community including architects everywhere wish to object to the demolition of this modernist Durban architectural gem.
Marian Laserson (nee Spilkin) architect, town planner, champion of wetlands and heritage campaigner passed away on 10 July at the Morningside Clinic of the Covid-19 Virus.
I am delighted that one of the Johannesburg Glimpses interviews conducted in the early 2000s by Mike Alfred was with Kenneth S Birch a giant of a mining man (click here to read). I have been aware of the work of Kenneth Birch for some time. Unfortunately I never met him. I know that the Birch archive was deposited with the University of Pretoria.
Here is some exciting news for the heritage community. Dr Ronald Levine, antiquarian book collector and dealer, is offering a remarkable Railway manuscript and some attachments for sale as a single lot, on the Antiquarian Auction in June 2020 (see www.antiquarianauctions.com).
EBay has on sale a medal to commemorate the declaration of Johannesburg as a city in 1928. I was immediately intrigued. I have never seen one of these medals but I am not a collector of such items. An internet search reveals that this medal is not regarded as rare but that prices fluctuate from as little as R45 to about $10 to as much as £18. It is a bronze medal.
Herbert Maurice John Prins, distinguished architect, professional conservation and heritage architect and practitioner passed away on Wednesday, 15th April 2020, just 12 days short of his 93rd birthday. His was a long, rich and remarkably productive life. Herbert was a role model in his work and ongoing commitment to the heritage of Johannesburg and other parts of South Africa until just a couple of months before his death. It was a joy to celebrate his 90th birthday in 2017. His professional career extended over 72 years - surely a record.
My eye has been on international news about the Corona Virus since the story of this mysterious illness that was changing life in Wuhan China first hit the news. It all seemed a little distant in January. We were concerned and curious but it was not a personal threat - China seemed (mistakenly) a long way away. I now look back on our celebrating Christmas 2019 as a time of innocence and a time free of worry.
We have two mulberry trees in our garden but I shall concentrate on one. The fact that the are two mulberry trees is an early indication that the mulberry tree readily seeds, saplings shoot and a new tree roots itself. Officially the mulberry belongs to the Moraceae family.
Today I browsed my recipe book collection and randomly pulled out a thin paper cover recipe book called The Caltex Recipe Collection (published in about 1983 by Caltex). The book is a compilation of recipes from the Caltex Recipe Calendar series over the period 1979 to 1982.
This tree is one of those eternal landmarks of my front garden. It creates shade and one can mark the seasons by the performance of the tree, whether it's the berries on the ground in autumn or the lilac flowers on the tree (spring) which then drop their small flowers in light off-white profusion (autumn). The falling blossoms create a floral carpet on the lawn. The flowers appear in the spring and have a light scent but by this time of the year (late March) have given way to the berry fruit.
This piece was written on Day 1 of our 21 day stay home in the fight against the Corona virus. I have decided to try to learn something new about our garden and home and to share my writing with Heritage Portal readers during this time of quiet introspection and anxiety. We may discover that the small things within our own multiple worlds matter more than the large events beyond our control.
I found Mike Alfred's article about Jonathan and Geoff Klass absolutely fascinating as I have known Collectors Treasury and the Klass Brothers from the time they started up in business at what we now known as 44 Stanley Avenue (click here to read the article). Those were the days when for a young collector recently returned to Johannesburg there were wonderful book bargains and a great shared joy in finding good books. I have watched the business grow to the pre
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.
The author and poet Mike Alfred followed up his book Johannesburg Portraits: From Lionel Phillips to Sibongile Khumalo (Jacana, 2003) with a second series of writing about contemporary Johannesburg people a few years later. In a series of interviews and reflections Alfred captured the pen portraits of people who he encountered in Johannesburg, people who made a difference to and who had an impact on the kaleidoscope of Johannesburg in the first decade of the 21st century. Mike’s book is about their lives, their achievements and their relationship with th
Roger Webster, storyteller, raconteur, heritage supporter, broadcaster and author passed away after a short illness on 6th January 2020. Roger was an enthusiast of South African heritage and history.
Last weekend my husband Keith and I spent a weekend in Durban as guests of the Durban Art Deco Society (DADS). I was there to deliver the lecture at the Annual General Meeting of the Society on the Sunday morning at the Phansi Museum but we had about 26 hours to see Durban and pleasure the pulse of the Indian Ocean city which had been Keith’s home town and my favourite teenage holiday destination. I knew Durban from my childhood sojourns and then family visits to the grandparents once we had settled in Johannesburg but in recent years our visits have dwindled so
I snapped the image above from the Station Street entrance of the Braamfontein East Campus - exiting the Wits gates. Photo taken on Sunday 17th November 2019. It reminded me of how much of a city university Wits is and how layered the city is in the buildings around us.
In the foreground are the old corrugated iron semi-detached workers cottages (now the Performing Arts Administration of Wits’ School of Arts). This was once a home of an artisan - we know they were here as artisan’s residences of turn of the 20th century Braamfontein.
Saturday 5 October 2019 was a heritage cum book day of note at the library complex to be found at Solomon Street. The weekend offered booklovers the annual City Library book sale spread over two days, hosted by the Friends of the Johannesburg Public Libraries and the Johannesburg Library and information services.
Last month I attended the opening of the new photographic exhibition at Museum Africa: The Gift of Seeing History – The Legacy of Dr Arthur David Bensusan. The exhibition commemorates the 51st anniversary of the establishment of the Bensusan Museum and Library of Photography. The exhibition runs until 21st September and has been curated by Ms Dudu Madonsela of Museum Africa.
The Grand Station Hotel went up in flames on Friday evening, 2 August 2019 (main image courtesy of Eugene Ulman). This news reached the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation members at their AGM on the Saturday afternoon. Heritage people gasped with shock, dismay and distress. The hotel was an icon of Johannesburg, it achieved the status of being Johannesburg’s oldest surviving hotel, although by the late 1980s it was no longer run as a hotel.
On Saturday 3rd August 2019 I delivered a talk to members of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation entitled ‘Blue Plaques - Heritage History and Blue Lining our City.’ The Heritage Portal has had requests for at least some of the “take-aways” from this talk to help guide other South African heritage bodies. I will be delivering a talk on blue plaques in October at the HASA conference in Tulbagh. Meanwhile let’s skim over the subject of blue plaques and their possibilities.
This week I dropped in to visit James Findlay’s bookshop situated in the basement of the Rand Club. If you have not yet visited the reborn Rand Club it is definitely worth it. Enjoy a coffee at the bar (or go for something stronger) and spend some time out in the bookshop. The Rand Club has come to life with a renaissance and reinvention.
If you are a Johannesburg enthusiast you will certainly be delighted to acquire four recent Johannesburg books. It seems like almost a deluge of titles on old Johannesburg. A fellow Johannesburg heritage enthusiast threw me the questions: well what is the difference between these books, which one is for me and is it really necessary to buy four books all on Johannesburg?
A few months ago it was my pleasure to lunch with Mr Walter Pon, of first Chinatown of Johannesburg and Brett McDougall (Chairman of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation). Mr Pon has a passion for the history of the Chinese community in South Africa. Lunch was a gastronomic route into Chinese culture and history - our meeting point was the Ming Woo restaurant (corner of Alexander and Commissioner Street) which started and ended with copious small cups of delicate green tea. Lunch was Dim Sum, a variety of enticing servings of Chinese delicacies. This unpretentio
The map above is of considerable interest as it shows the principal route of travel to South Africa and from the principal ports inland. By 1889 the railway had reached Kimberley from the coastal ports of Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and East London; and in Natal the railway went as far as Ladysmith. The Lorenco Marques railway connection went inland as far as Komatipoort. From the terminal points the traveller proceeded by coach.
On Saturday 16th February, Chinatown in Cyrildene put on its festive finery and glamour costumes. The colour red predominated and red symbolises happiness. The Chinatown in Cyrildene was celebrating the Chinese New Year in style with the biggest and best of street parties.
The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation has been given the generous gift of a delightful 1987 centenary calendar, celebrating the 100 years of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The Calendar comprises six prints of watercolours by the well-known artist of that era, Philip Bawcombe.
Ordinances of the Transvaal 1903, 1904 and Statutes of the Transvaal 1907. Whoever wants to look at old, dry, dusty, obsolete law books? Law books date, they take up space on shelves and laws are repealed. Legal language is precise and unemotional. The Transvaal ceased to exist in 1994 and today a completely different provincial government structure has replaced the pre 1994 arrangement of four all white driven apartheid provinces and the 10 bantustans.
Last weekend (Sunday 3rd February 2019) I joined ten heritage stalwarts of Kensington who came together to acknowledge history and pay homage to a remarkable war memorial and the men whose names once appeared on it. We gathered because during January 2019 the memorial had been extensively and probably irreparably damaged. Erica Lűttich had together with her students created an art installation by wrapping the memorial in cloth.
An advantage of book auction sales is that they renew the stream of collectable books coming onto the market and give a fresh spurt to book collecting. New book collectors are encouraged to join the book community. Old book collectors have the opportunity to acquire that elusive appealing title on the wish list. There is nothing quite like the excitement of bidding on an auction sale for a desired treasure, and the market deciding who will be the fortunate new owner.
Kathy Munro's three part series on the Yeoville Water Tower comes to an end with this piece (click here to view the series index). The article highlights the overall German contribution to early Johannesburg and suggests that the German connection to the Yeoville Water might be a reason why its origins were concealed in 1914/1915.
Below is Part 2 of Kathy Munro's wonderful series on the Yeoville Water Tower (click here to view series index). The piece takes an in-depth look at the historic blueprint and reveals the secrets of the water tower's origins. The article first appeared in the December 2018 issue of Architecture SA. Thank you to Paul Kotze for giving us permission to publish and to Gail Wilson for the use of some of her magnificent photographs.
I recently came across the souvenir album Barnett's Views of Johannesburg and Suburbs. I photographed a panoramic view of the early town (in three sections) and thought I would share it. The book has no date but the look of the cover, very art nouveau design with floral garland, and the street scenes and buildings leads me to believe that it was published in the late 1890s or early 1900s.
The 100th centenary of the end of the First World War will be celebrated this Sunday 11th November 2018. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 the armistice came into effect; men still poised to fight one another were stopped in almost mid battle in France. Church bells pealed and the guns fell silent. The physical losses had been horrendous. The total number of casualties, through war, destruction, disease, revolution and famine is in reality unknown because the conflict was so widespread.
Markhams Building, located on the corner of Eloff and Pritchard Streets in Johannesburg, is a landmark of the city. It is striking because it has survived. Built in 1897, it is nearly as old as the city itself.
Many readers will have heard of the discovery of the original Yeoville Water Tower blueprint earlier this year. This discovery sparked a research journey which has culminated in a wonderful series of articles by Kathy Munro (click here to view series index). Below is the first installment which covers the early water supply history of Johannesburg and the origins of the Water Tower.
September was Heritage Month but here I was in October invited to spend a weekend at Kedar Heritage Lodge to join the celebrations for the unveiling of a memorial to Sir Winston Churchill. Why October? Why Churchill in the Bushveld? Then I remembered. Kedar is a modern reincarnation of President Kruger’s farm and country estate, Boekenhoutfontein (meaning Beech-wood Spring). Now located in the Northwest Province, it was once a jewel in the Transvaal Republic.
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.
A few weeks ago I was privileged to be invited by Clive Chipkin to join his Joburg tour for a group of visiting American students from Brown University, USA. The group of 22 postgraduate students spent a week in Johannesburg at the Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI) in Parktown. Hats off to Brown for devising a study abroad programme on the complexities of South Africa beyond 1994 and its transition to democracy.
Thirty Three Nostalgic Coloured and Monochrome Postcards - Johannesburg. (Edwardian). Published: Braune & Levy, Printers & Engravers, Johannesburg, Circa 1904-8. One postcard was used with postmark and stamp. The remaining 32 were unused and have been removed from an old album and carry slight paste marks to blank side. All postcards printed by Braune & Levy, Johannesburg. Thankfully photographed for an auction on Antiquarian Auctions.
I recently came across a remarkable set of 33 period coloured and monochrome postcards of Johannesburg (click here to view). The postcards date from somewhere between 1904 and 1908. They are photographic images and show street and architectural views of Johannesburg in the Edwardian period. They were published and printed by a company called Braune and Levy of Johannesburg.
This small handbook was literally a pocket filler. It was an annual Johannesburg City publication Vade-Mecum. The meaning of the word, Vade-Mecum, is the Latin expression "go with me". It is a small slender volume issued by the City Treasurer's Department and by 1949 was in its 19th edition. What a contrast to current glossy city reports and promotional books.
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.
Clarendon Circle was a landmark intersection of the north east route into Johannesburg. It was a circle of note located where East Avenue crossed Empire, Bruce, Twist and Klein Streets. There was an island on East Avenue separating the traffic lanes with an attractive line up of palm trees and shrubs.
On 26 July 2018 concerned stakeholders including representatives from the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation (Kathy Munro), the Kensington Residents Association (Isabella Pingle) and the Johannesburg East Joint Plans committee (Andre Marais) met with Eric Itzkin, Zoleka Ntobeni, Councillor Carlos Da Rocha and Cebo Mhlongo of the City. We paid a site visit to the Bez Valley War Memorial.
If you wish to depart this earth in a puff of smoke, Johannesburg has just the place for you. It has an excellent state of the art crematorium that has kept up with the times. Here is a heritage building with a difference. I have known about the crematorium since I was a child and attended a cremation service for the father of a friend.
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!
The Drum Café has established itself as the foremost entertainment destination in drumming. For more than a decade the Drum Café has successfully offered corporate team building drumming events and performances. Its shows have gone round South Africa and been taken abroad. Drumming has become something of a South African export.
On Saturday morning 16th June 2018, I attended a Johannesburg East Plans committee meeting. Our work is about heritage preservation while considering appropriate changes and new developments. Isabella Pingle, the representative of the Kensington Ratepayers and Residents Association, placed a photo before us showing the damage recently done to the Bez Valley World War I Memorial. The Memorial has effectively been destroyed despite the recent efforts of the local councillor Carlos Da Rocha and the community to clean the small park.
The recent Jozi Walks weekend brought a new verve and vibe to Hillbrow. Gerard Bester and his team of extraordinary young people of Hillbrow showed off the good, the funky and the dramatic side of Hillbrow life. It was a Hillbrow experience of note! Both the Saturday and the Sunday tours were fully booked. It is a first for the Theatre Community Centre and for the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation.
I wrote about the Johannesburg Lithograph (circa 1937) below by Charles Ernest Peers in a recent article on The Heritage Portal - click here to view. Tracking down Peers’ presence in Johannesburg at this time led me in search of Peers, the artist. Peers was a notable and prolific artist in his lifetime. He is mentioned in the Esme Berman (1993) and has a biographical listing in Grania Ogilvie (1988).
This wonderful album was published by Paul Schaefer and Company of Cape Town, a well-known compiler of souvenir books. The cover photograph in the oval inset shows the original Park Station which came to Johannesburg from the Netherlands in 1896. The station was designed by Jacob Klinkhammer. It was the point of arrival for visitors to Johannesburg in the early 20th century so this image is an appropriate entry portal to the town.
On Saturday 7th April 2018, the excellent Joburg Collectable Book Fair at the Rand Club saw at least ten dealers displaying their books, antiquarian maps and prints. Many rare and unusual Johannesburg books were on sale. The event was a huge success with visitors able to enjoy tours of the Club led by Brett McDougall and Brian McKechnie, musical entertainment by Tony Bentell and Selwyn Klass and several interesting talks by Isabel Hofmeyr, Hamilton Wende, James Findlay and Kathy Munro.
My acknowledgement and huge thanks to Clive Chipkin, Marc Latilla and Alkis Doucakis who generously gave me their views and drove me to improvements and further research. Thank you.
Over the holidays I was given a unique Christmas gift by my friend, Peter Digby who shares my enthusiasm for Johannesburg heritage items. It was a single old yellowed newspaper page, dated 9th November 1965, from The Star Newspaper. The page was saved in a cupboard of the Digby home because it carried an unusual story. The headline was: “Fine old stone in a new wall“.
Drawing on a rare collection of souvenir photographic printed albums of Johannesburg, dating from the period approximately 1890 to 1910, we are able to build up a composite picture of Johannesburg's main thoroughfares, buildings and street life. These visual images show how Johannesburg's founding and growth coincided with the coming of age of photography.
An interesting collection of Johannesburg, Transvaal and South African printed photographic albums has recently come to light*. Kathy Munro was lucky enough to be able to photograph over four hundred images from the various albums including some from an 1892 volume on Johannesburg produced by the Davies Brothers. A few of these early images along with notes from Munro have been reproduced in the article below.
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).
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.
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.
Below is the first article in a series on the Brixton Cemetery by Kathy Munro. The piece begins by giving the reader a general understanding of the purpose, origin and meaning of cemeteries before delving into the history and significance of Brixton Cemetery. It finishes by highlighting the shocking current state of the cemetery and attempts by local groups to take action. Future articles will look at the epitaphs and symbolism of the Brixton Cemetery as well as stories behind the graves and family memorials.
In June 2017, the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation commemorated the 41st anniversary of the Soweto revolt and offered its members a tour of the Fort and prison museum complex at Constitutional Hill. The complex encompasses the Number 4 section prison, the original 1890s Fort buildings and cells, the Gandhi and Mandela exhibitions and the Constitutional Court with its impressive collection of artworks.
Johannesburg hosts many fascinating treasures. Did you know bookbinding is one of Johannesburg's oldest enterprises? A bookbinders appears in an 1889 photo of our town (see below). Impressed Craft bindery connects you to that past.
The weekend of the 24/25 June 2017 saw the launch of the Jozi Walks initiative of the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA). Individuals, community organizations, tourism companies and NGOs joined hands in offering a series of free and innovative walks through Johannesburg, north, south, east and west. It was exciting, fun and showed off Jozi at its best over a two day celebration of the Jane Jacobs walk my city philosophy.
Here is an interesting story. Sometimes paper finds, or ephemera, happen in a serendipitous way. A friend bought a book at a recent Johannesburg monthly book auction at Westgate Walding. As he opened the title page, the document below fell out into his hand. Of course all sorts of things are used as bookmarks in old books – I have found bus, airline and parking tickets. There have also been pamphlets and city maps. I have even found out of date bank notes.
This last week brought a spectacular media scoop to Steve Humphrey of the BBC when an anonymous tip off (presumably telephonic) led him to a bell shaped parcel left at the entrance to the Swanage Pier in Dorset, England. The BBC team was on hand to film the careful unwrapping of the parcel to reveal a ship's bell with the word “Mendi” deeply etched in capital letters on the side (main image from Steve Humphrey and BBC TV South). The bell of the SS Mendi, lost in World War 1, had been found.
Most commentaries on Johannesburg of the decade of the thirties takes 1936 and the city's fiftieth birthday as the year for reflection and anticipation. See, for example, the Star Newspaper's popular history, Like it Was. Johannesburg A Sunshine City Built on Gold (1931) is an unusual publication that takes us back to the start of the decade to discover Johannesburg.
Following my earlier post on T D Ravenscroft (click here to view), I have delved a little further into a couple of online archives and printed bibliographic records.
I was recently given four photographs of early 20th century Cape Town. They are all in sepia brown shades. The dimensions are 8.5 x 11.30 inches. The edges of the photos are in poor condition but the main scenes are clearly visible. I would love to date these photographs.
They are clearly from the photographic studio of TP Ravenscroft and the one of Sea Point has a stamp on the reverse TD Ravenscroft.
Da Gama Park is a little known, underused and under appreciated Johannesburg park. It is a rare beauty spot because it is located on spectacular open high ground bordering Observatory Extension, Cyrildene and De Wetshof (click here to view on google maps). It has the feeling of open, unfettered common land where your dogs can roam freely across tufty African grass. There are no fences and no playground equipment.
The recent discovery in the cellar of a home in Saxonwold, Johannesburg of an old discoloured, brass plaque is a heritage opportunity and opens space for reviewing the motives and outcomes of the Royal Visit to South Africa in 1947.
Johannesburg celebrated its 50th Golden Jubilee in 1936, a worthy year to recall as this year, 2016, is the 130th anniversary year. Johannesburg was called the Wonder City, the City of Achievement, the Golden City. The pride pulsates in the tourist and promotional literature. The Empire exhibition at the Milner Park showgrounds of the Witwatersrand Agricultural society was an enormous and ambitious celebratory event.
“Be quiet and calm, my countrymen, for what is taking place now is exactly what you came to do. You are going to die, but that is what you came to do. Brothers, we are drilling the drill of death. I, a Xhosa, say you are all my brothers, Zulu, Swazis, Pondos, Basutos, we die like brothers, for though, they made us leave our weapons at home, our voices are left with your bodies.”
Johannesburg celebrated its 130th birthday on 4th October 2016 in great style with a memorable happy event organized by the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation (JHF) under the direction of its incomparable founder Flo Bird. The executive mayor, Herman Mashaba, as first citizen of Johannesburg was guest of honour at the birthday party held at Museum Africa in Newtown. Johannesburg city Councillor, Nonhlanhla Sifumba, member of the Mayoral comittee responsible for Community Development was also a guest of honour.
This month it was my pleasure to visit Sappersrus. The occasion was a gathering of the tourism association of the Hartbeestpoort Dam/Magaliesberg area to meet and learn about Sappersrus and its history and attend a small memorial ceremony. We enjoyed excellent hospitality and a lunch in the well-designed lapa close to the water. I was asked to deliver a short talk on the Battle of the Somme, Delville Wood and memorialization. Our hosts were Irene Small and Ashley Williams, who run the Sappers facility and Foundation.
1922 is often seen as the year that South Africa teetered on the brink of civil war. Fighting broke out across the Rand following a dispute between mine owners and workers. The crisis only ended after martial law was declared and bombs fell from the sky. If you are ever looking for something to do on a Saturday afternoon why not take a drive and recreate a few of the scenes from this turbulent time. The following driving tour was created by the team from the Johannesburg Historical Foundation (now defunct) in the 1990s.
[Originally published in 2015] I recently acquired a fascinating item of Johannesburg Africana. It is a pamphlet publication of the 1913 strike and disturbances on the Witwatersrand and Johannesburg. It's a slight document of 32 pages including four pages of period adverts published by the Central News Agency. Was it a newspaper insert or sold by the CNA? Coverage includes the story of the strike, a casualty list, a Johannesburg central district map of the "area of disturbance" and 14 pages of contemporary black and white photographs.
[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.
The unearthing of the programme and proposal to save the Colosseum in the early 1980s led me further into a sleuthing foray. At the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation research centre I presented the 1980s papers. Mary Boyeasse, a keen researcher, then said ‘we have that one already’ but five minutes later she reappeared with a rare original souvenir programme of the 1933 opening of the Colosseum. The 1982 prospectus takes on a new look because the design was based on this original souvenir programme.
A Joubert Park visit has been on my to do list for some time and here was the perfect opportunity. A few weekends ago, the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation (JHF) offered a talk on Joubert Park by Professor Louis Grundlingh of UJ, access to the wonderful Johannesburg Art Gallery and a guided walk around the Park. I had been nervous about visiting Joubert Park on my own but with safety in numbers one felt comfortable and at ease. Actually all my anxieties were groundless as the people of today's park were caring, welcoming and ready to engage in conversation.
I am happy to share a remarkable unfolding story. I wonder how many readers are keen frequenters of antique shops, junk shops, old trading stores and charity shops? The appeal of this category of shops is that you never know what you will find or where a connection will lead you. I adore such shops for this very reason.
Who remembers the Colosseum in Johannesburg? This theatre belonged to the collection of theatres built for pleasure and entertainment when one went to the movies in style and cinemas attracted audiences of thousands watching a single block buster grand epic. With its orchestra pit the Colosseum was versatile; it was a large venue for movies, concerts, and stage shows. It closed in 1985 and was demolished, it transitioned to “Lost Johannesburg” in a flash.
Johannesburg is a gold mining city and, through the decades, there have been a number of disasters related to the industry. A walk through Johannesburg's cemeteries offers a visual history of premature loss through mine related explosions. The granite memorial in the Braamfontein Cemetery erected in memory of those who lost their lives in the great dynamite explosion of 1896, is still moving and offers a unique insight into Johannesburg history.
Above is a postcard of an SAA Airways or Suid-Afrikaanse-Lugdiens DC-7B aircraft. This post card came my way when it fell out of a book I bought recently. The reverse is blank, so it was never sent and simply says "with the compliments of South African Airways” (in English and Afrikaans). The interest to me is the backdrop of Johannesburg viewed from the air. The challenge is to date the photograph. The central iconic building is Escom House (completed in 1937 and demolished /imploded in 1984) and the view is in a westerly or north westerly direction.
The topography of Johannesburg is distinctive with the rocky mountainous ridges and the line of koppies that runs from east to west. These are the quartzite ridges of the famous Witwatersrand. The geology is unique. Viljoen and Reimold (An Introduction to South Africa’s Geology and Mining Heritage) make the point that this is one of the few localities where the evolution of the granitic crust of Southern Africa has been preserved and can be viewed.
Last year I was privileged to join a guided tour of the photographic exhibition on show on the mezzanine level of the Wits Art Museum, led by the photographer himself, Graeme Williams. It comprises 50 choice photographic works of Williams, who is the third winner of the prestigious Ernest Cole Photographic award. The award gives photographers the opportunity to produce an exhibition and to publish a book. A fine hardcover book of photographs accompanies the exhibition and includes a reflective essay on Johannesburg by Leon De Kock.
In 1961 the "new" Johannesburg Civic Centre was being conceptualised. The City of Johannesburg invited architects to submit their plans for the new landmark building in an open competition. As part of this process the City issued a folder labelled Architectural competition / Boukindige Prysvrae containing a locality plan and detailed site plan.
In searching the archives or trawling through book finds, one sometimes encounters two items in different places that have a relationship and a natural belonging. This happened recently when I discovered a cache of Johannesburg photographs decked out to celebrate the coronation of Edward VII in June 1902. Some months later in a batch of recently purchased pamphlets I found the official Programme for the same 1902 coronation celebrations in Johannesburg. Putting together two quirky and chance survivals opens up a window on the world of Johannesburg in 1902.