I recently read an article by Professor Kathy Munro about Clarendon Circle, East Avenue and Clarendon Place in Hillbrow, Johannesburg (click here to read). Readers may be interested to know how the name of Clarendon Place came about.
I have wondered for a while who the man behind the sauve and dashing whatsapp photo is. So, I called coffee, and discovered that heritage architect Brian McKechnie is a down-to-earth, relaxed bloke, passionate about the gracious old buildings in the city and still invested in one of them, Anstey’s in Joubert Street. He laughs when I ask about the photo, saying he was asked to model for Meghan McCabe, who needed images for her photography portfolio.
Harking back to Johannesburg's first gold mining boom, a rare stamp battery has been revived by a specialist restoration project. The centrepiece of an open-air mining display in central Johannesburg, this massive piece of mining machinery can be seen standing tall at the corner of Hollard and Main Street.
This article is about William English, (1875-1915), a miner originally from the North-East of England who through hard work became a mining engineer in the gold mines of South Africa. It is based on the website williamenglish.net which includes his journal, poems and additional commentary. Creating the website has been a project for William’s descendants, Hilary Norris and Larry Cunningham.
In July 1964 an International Congress of Surgeons was held at the Wits Medical School in Johannesburg. It was well attended by Surgeons from all over the world including South Africa.
At the time, I was a Registrar (a Surgeon in training and studying for a higher qualification) working in the Professorial Unit of the Johannesburg General Hospital just across the road from the Conference. It was a late Friday afternoon – July 24th 1964.
The article below forms part of Mike Alfred's series on Joburg personalities from the first decade of the 21st century. Click here to view Kathy Munro's fantastic introduction and here to view the series index. The stories were written in 2005/6. Please note that the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust transformed into the Johannesburg Heritage Foundat
Which of our city’s architectural treasures don’t receive the credit they deserve? During lockdown we explored Joburg’s most underrated historic buildings on our Instagram and Facebook pages, and we’re happy to share them here too!
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.
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie unpacks the long journey towards the restoration of the iconic Barbican Building in the Johannesburg CBD. The piece first appeared on the City of Joburg's website on 8 April 2011. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
After 16 long years of neglect, Old Mutual can take a bow for restoring the dignity of the splendid Barbican, one of the city’s iconic buildings.
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie reveals the rich history of the Old Fort and describes the restoration efforts of 2007/8. The article was first published on the City of Joburg's website on 24 January 2008. She also explores the old tunnels which will fascinate many a reader. Click here to view more of Davie's writing.
I hardly Knew Robin fee personally except shaking hands in a restaurant was a warm experience. But his presence in the profession was known over 3 decades & more: 1960-1990s. He embodied much of the complexity that characterised architecture over this period. Complexity?
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie unpacks the history and significance of the landmark Magistrates' Courts in Johannesburg. The article was first published on the City of Joburg's website on 7 June 2007. Click here to view more of Davie's writing.
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie looks at the restoration of the majestic old Reserve Bank Building in the Johannesburg CBD. The article was first published on the City of Joburg's website on 1 December 2005. Click here to view more of Davie's writing.
The Gauteng legislature got it for R1 in 2002, and now they’re spending R38-million on the building to restore it to its 1930s splendour.
I was very sad to learn of the passing of the architect Robin Fee a few days ago and especially sorry that I had not expressed to him in his lifetime my thanks for his role in the conservation of Joburg’s heritage.
I would like to pay tribute to Robin Fee for two extraordinary instances where he put Johannesburg’s old buildings above any profit he or his firm could make if they had upheld their clients’ demands for demolition.
The article below, written by journalist Lucille Davie, reveals some of the amazing discoveries that were made during the restoration of the Drill Hall in 2003. The article was originally published on the City of Joburg's webite on 27 June 2003. Click here to view more of Davie's writing.
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie reveals some of the history of the Jewish Community in Johannesburg. The article was originally published on the City of Johannesburg's website on 2 February 2007. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
The article below forms part of Mike Alfred's series on Joburg personalities from the first decade of the 21st century. Click here to view Kathy Munro's fantastic introduction and here to view the series index. The stories were written in 2005/6.
Heritage activists have reported that the Rotunda in downtown Johannesburg is being vandalised. The iconic roof is being stripped and if action is not taken soon the condition of the building will deteriorate rapidly. Passionate enthusiasts are trying to get the owners (PRASA) to allocate more security to the site.
The article below forms part of Mike Alfred's series on Joburg personalities from the first decade of the 21st century. Click here to view Kathy Munro's fantastic introduction and here to view the series index. The stories were written in 2005/6.
In a test of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s reputation and approval rating in South Africa, a motion to remove the name and statue of the Indian leader from the city centre was debated in recent weeks by the Johannesburg City Council, the country’s largest municipality. The motion called for the removal of the bronze statue at Gandhi Square — sculpted by Tinka Christopher, it depicts Gandhi as a young activist lawyer in his legal gown — and the re-naming of the site after Sophie de Bruyn, a well-known anti-apartheid activist.
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie explores the fascinating history of a few of Joburg's Fire Stations. The piece was first published on the City of Joburg's website on 13 November 2003. Click here to view more of Lucille's work.
I returned to Johannesburg from Durban late in 1945 with my mother when the War in Europe was finally over. My dad would soon return from the Middle East after serving with the SA Medical Corps in Cairo at a military hospital.
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 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.
What do names such as ‘Astoria, Regal, Plaza, Victory, Pigalle, Empire, Roxy, Odeon, Vaudette, Regent, Apollo, Ritz, and Bijou’, mean to you?
Generation Z will probably think they are apps and Millennials that they are computer games. Generation X will think of them as names of men’s suits, restaurants or maybe small-town hotels. Only the Baby Boomers will recognise the evocative names of long closed and largely forgotten bioscopes.
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie unpacks the history of St Alban's Church in Ferreirastown and describes its restoration in 2012. The article was originally published on the City of Joburg's website on 19 February 2012. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
If you want to literally touch Johannesburg’s gold mining days, check in with James Findlay’s Collectable Books and Antique Maps store, recently re-located from his Saxonwold home to the basement of the Rand Club in the inner city.
The dignified old club is the perfect place for his collection of antique memorabilia. The grand Edwardian edifice is a bit of an antique itself: built in 1904, it was the third gentlemen’s club on the site and is rumoured to have been chosen by that now infamous capitalist and imperialist, Cecil John Rhodes.
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.
Many readers will be aware that the Joburg Cenotaph was vandalised recently. The City of Joburg's Heritage Department pulled out all the stops to ensure that it was cleaned before the hugely important National Remembrance Sunday Service on 11 November 2018. Below are before, during and after photos via The Heritage Portal and Sticky Situations.
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.
Johannesburg has dozens of remarkable staircases inside its houses, hotels, offices, churches, fire stations and apartment buildings. Some are well known while others are more obscure. Below are ten of my favourite. Enjoy! Feel free to send through pics of your favourites.
Stewarts and Lloyds Building / Marshdale House
In the article below, well known journalist Lucille Davie tells the epic story of the battle to save the Markhams Building from demolition in the late 1970s. The piece was first published on the City of Joburg's website on 15 February 2012. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
The recent devastating fire at Brazil's National Museum (which gutted 20 million items) and last week’s tragic fire at the Bank of Lisbon Building in Johannesburg yet again highlights how political and official neglect and maintenance cut backs are placing lives – and South Africa’s valuable heritage – at risk.
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.
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie tells the story of the creation of the Constitutional Court's iconic South African flag. The piece first appeared on the City of Joburg's website on 8 September 2006. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
The Constitutional Court has a new artwork – a beautifully beaded and embroidered South African flag, positioned above the judges’ seats in the courtroom.
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.
In the fascinating article below, journalist Lucille Davie explores the history of four landmark Joburg castles. The piece was first published on the City of Johannesburg's website on 23 July 2003. Click here to view more of Davie's work. Unfortunately, in 2018, the Three Castles Building has deteriorated significantly and remains endangered. Local heritage organisations are concerned by the lack of information about the state of the Kensington Castle.
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.
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.
In the remarkable article below, journalist Lucille Davie describes her tour of the Consitutional Court with Justice Albie Sachs. She delves into the history, art and architectiure of a hugely significant site. The piece first appeared on the City of Joburg's website on 6 August 2004. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
Anyone that has travelled in and out of the Joburg CBD recently will have noticed the massive MTN adverts covering Old Park Station, one of Joburg's priceless heritage structures. Not only has this been done illegally but it has shown an acute disregard for Johannesburg's heritage.
A short distance from the entrance to the Market Theatre is the famous jazz club Kippies. In the article below, Joburg journalist and explorer Lucille Davie reveals the story behind the building and the man that gave it its name. The piece was originally published on the City of Joburg's website on 13 September 2002.
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.
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.
In the article below, well-known journalist Lucille Davie explores the rich social history of the Bantu Men's Social Centre and Dorkay House in downtown Johannesburg. Both buildings have received blue plaques since her article was first published on the City of Joburg's website on 2 November 2006. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
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.
The article below, written by journalist and Joburg explorer Lucille Davie, looks at the layered history and significance of Johannesburg's markets over the years. It was originally published on the City of Johannesburg's website on 9 January 2004. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
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.
I really enjoyed reading the piece by Lucille Davie on the Hillbrow Tower (click here to view). As with many others, I watched in awe as it went up. There was this orange plastic around the top bit where the concrete was being poured. The more concrete, the higher went the orange bit until it got to where the “double disc” is now.
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.
In the article below, well-known journalist and Joburg enthusiast, Lucille Davie, explores the layered history of Somerset House. The piece was first published on the City of Joburg's website on 7 November 2003. Be sure to read all the way to the end where Davie provides an inspiring 2017 update. Click here to view more of Davie's work.
In 1889, just three years after the founding of Johannesburg, the finishing touches were being put on a building that would become one of the city's landmarks for seven decades. It rose almost 30m into the sky and was the tallest building in town until the Markham's Building claimed the title in 1897. Considering it dominated the skyline, it is no surprise that it gained the nickname the 'Eiffel Tower of the Rand'.
Important editor's note: The initiatives mentioned in this article are only proposals. A thorough consultation phase with a spectrum of stakeholders still needs to take place before any plans are approved. The article was unpublished on 13 December 2017 following a request from the Johannesburg Inner City Partnership (JICP). On 24 December 2017 it was republished after the release of a similar article on BusinessTech.
We are honoured to post this wonderful article on the Hillbrow Tower written by journalist and passionate Joburger, Lucille Davie. It was originally published in the Saturday Star on the 4 January 2014. Click here to view more of Davie's writing. The Johannesburg Development Agency continues its work in the area and we're sure all South Africans can't wait until the Tower finally reopens.
Over the years I have photographed hundreds of plaques in South Africa and beyond. Most are easy to find as they are well documented and placed within easy view. Some, on the other hand, are a bit more tricky. Below is my list of five sneaky blue plaques...
1) Charles and Isabelle Lipp
This Heritage Month, the newly established Gauteng Heritage Action Group (GHAG) launched its 'Heritage Horror Stories' campaign. Sites that have been neglected for years have received 'black plaques' (the opposite of the prestigious blue plaque) with the aim of shaming owners into taking action. Many of these owners have made big promises over the years but have failed to deliver.
For many years, the heritage community in Johannesburg has been searching for a way to let property owners know up front whether they need to follow heritage processes before carrying out work. This Heritage Month, I am happy to announce that such a tool has arrived with the launch of The Heritage Register (click here to view).
On 21 August 2017, conservation architect Frances Woodgate delivered an outstanding speech at the pilot launch of The Station Market. Those lucky enough to be in the audience were treated to an in-depth look at the history, significance and future of one South Africa's great heritage landmarks. We are honoured to publish a full transcript of the speech below.
The following history of Johannesburg's early markets formed part of a much larger piece on the Market Theatre which appeared in the 1976 edition of Restorica, the old journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa). The name of the author does not appear which is a huge shame for such a well researched article. Thank you to the University of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish.
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.
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.
News broke recently that work on Africa’s tallest building has commenced (click here for details). Assuming it will be completed as designed, the Pinnacle in Nairobi Kenya will be 300m tall eclipsing the Carlton Centre by quite a margin. The fact that the Carlton has managed to hold the record of Africa’s tallest building for over four decades is remarkable.
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.
The news that the Ornico Group has moved its headquarters from a prime Sandton address to the Joburg CBD is making waves in heritage and property circles. Over the past year, the company has been refurbishing the historic Natal Bank Building and in recent weeks over 100 employees have moved in. This is a major psychological boost for the ongoing revival of the historic heart of Johannesburg.
The Joburg skyline (or at least hints of it) can be viewed from hundreds of places around the city. There are some spots that provide such an exceptional view and experience that they must be shared. City enthusiasts will be aware of these and many more not mentioned. Please add your favourite spots in the comments section below.
The Hill above the Dutch Reformed Church, Cottesloe
While browsing through the book Seventy Golden Years (published by the Johannesburg City Council in 1956 to commemorate the city's 70th birthday), I came across a wonderful advert for Stewarts and Lloyds of South Africa. The company proudly announced that the hitching posts it supplied to the fashionable Athenaeum Club in the early 1900s were still in place over fifty years later. This was despite the Athenaeum being demolished and the reality that horses were no longer the major means of transport.
Charles Thrupp arrived in South Africa from the United Kingdom in 1882 and made his way to King Williams Town to take up a job with a local wholesaler. As the gold fields of the Rand began to boom, the firm called on Thrupp to open and manage a store in Johannesburg. After a few years of solid trade, the branch hit hard times and had to close its doors in 1892. For most employees this would have meant looking for another job but Thrupp saw Johannesburg's potential and acquired the grocery side of the ailing business.
Johannesburg’s Roman Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King is an impressive landmark located on the corner of Sarotoga Avenue and End Street in Berea. It was built in the late 1950s when Johannesburg was one of the fastest growing cities in the world and opened in impressive style in 1960. Below are a few edited passages (from an article that appeared in the 1961 edition of South African Panorama) that provide a wonderful description of the architecture and craftsmanship that produced the stirring structure.
The discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand in 1886 started a gold rush that surpassed the Californian (1849), Victorian (1851) and Barberton (1885) rushes and the initial boom created the city of Johannesburg, which was literally and figuratively built on gold. The initial boom lasted for three years as the mining companies followed the sloping reef into the earth’s crust and then in 1889 the bust happened, as the gold appeared to suddenly run out which in turn caused a pall of pessimism to hang over the diggings.
This article originally appeared in the do.co.mo.mo journal and on an earlier version of The Heritage Portal. Thank you to the authors for giving us permission to republish. Click here to view the article as it appeared in do.co.mo.mo journal 48 2013/1.
In 1961, South African Panorama ran a special article bidding a sad farewell to tramcars in Johannesburg (the tram had dominated the transport scene for seven decades until the rise of the trolley-bus led to its demise). Below are a few excerpts and photographs from the wonderful piece.
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.
Over the last few months, Mayor Herman Mashaba has been communicating his vision for accelerating the rejuvenation of Johannesburg's inner city. He has met with business people and property developers and challenged them to turn the CBD into a construction site. He has committed to tackle corruption and improve the enforcement of the city's by-laws. He has said all the right things about harnessing heritage sites and reusing old buildings. As a result inner city enthusiasts (and I'm sure many residents and workers as well) are feeling a new wave of optimism.
In June 1954, a new building was completed at 80 Albert Street to the east of the Johannesburg CBD (just south of the Barclays / ABSA precinct today). It was designed as the head office of Johannesburg’s Non-European Affairs Department (JNEAD) and became the nerve centre for controlling the lives of black people in Johannesburg for over three decades. Despite having great cultural significance, the building’s controversial and complex history remains relatively unknown outside heritage circles.
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.
[Originally published in June 2015]. By the end of the first quarter of 2016 work on the landmark Stuttafords Building on the corner of Rissik and Pritchard Streets in central Johannesburg should be complete. The building is being transformed from abandoned retail space into upmarket residential units (approximately 120). We are ecstatic that this project is underway after a series of false dawns in the last few years.
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.
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.
In the 1991 edition of Restorica, significant space was dedicated to the debate over the Civic Spine project. The overview of the controversy has already been published on The Heritage Portal (click here to view). In this piece, the voice of the architects is brought to the fore. Thank you to the University of Pretoria and the Heritage Association of South Africa for giving us permission to publish.
From 1989-1991 a major project unfolded in the historic centre of Johannesburg. It was known as the Civic Spine Project and aroused considerable debate. Below is an article from the 1991 edition of Restorica which looks at arguments on all sides of the controversy. Thank you to the University of Pretoria and the Heritage Association of South Africa (HASA) for giving us permission to publish.
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.
The Three Castles Building is a landmark historic structure in downtown Johannesburg. It started life as a factory for the production of 'Three Castles' cigarettes with the facade becoming a powerful marketing tool for the brand. Initially 100 female workers were employed to roll the cigarettes but by the late 1890s this role was taken over by machines. According to John Shorten in The Johannesburg Saga, the factory was unable to keep up with demand despite producing over 300 000 cigarettes a day!
In the middle of August 2016 employees from South 32 began the move from the landmark 6 Hollard Street in downtown Johannesburg to offices in the Worley Parsons Building in Melrose Arch. The move marks the end of a long and historic association that the firm (via its predecessors) has had with the Johannesburg CBD.
Diagonal Street is one of Johannesburg's iconic streets with an energy hard to find anywhere else. It is difficult to imagine a time when its very existence was threatened. The following compilation of sources provides an overview of the preservation of Johannesburg's most famous street scene. The details appeared in a survey conducted by Johann and Catharina Bruwer in the early 2000s. Thank you to the City of Johannesburg for giving us permission to publish.
If you visit the High Court in Johannesburg you will notice a massive statue on the western edge along Pritchard Street. The statue commemorates the life of Captain Carl von Brandis -the 'Father of Johannesburg'. In the following article, P. J. Edginton uncovers some fascinating biographical details. The article first appeared in the old Johannesburg Historical Foundation's journal Between the Chains.
To the west of Marshalltown along Main Street in Johannesburg lies the Anglo American Precinct. Anglo was one of the companies that remained committed to the inner city during the flight to the north in the mid to late 1990s. With a remarkable set of buildings telling the history of the company, city and country we understand why! The jewel in the crown is certainly 44 Main Street which was a landmark in its time and remains so today. The wonderful piece below appeared in the Anglo publication 44 News in the early 1980s.
In the article below, Oscar Norwich answers the fascinating question 'When did Johannesburg first appear on a map?''. Norwich was a prolific collector of maps and his priceless collection is now held by Stanford University (click here for a description). He was also the long time Chairman of the old Johannesburg Historical Foundation. The article first appeared in the 1984 edition of the Foundation's journal Between the Chains.
A few years ago we received a selection of magnificent late 1950s and early 1960s photographs of Johannesburg from Gordon Clarke (via 702). The significance of the photographs goes far beyond a snapshot of the City at the time as Clarke explains:
This fascinating piece was compiled by Janet Lee in 1993. She turned back the clock one hundred years to describe what life was like in Johannesburg in 1893. The article first appeared in the Johannesburg Historical Foundation’s journal Between the Chains.
A lot has changed since Oscar Norwich compiled this piece about the famous Norman House in Doornfontein in the 1980s. Norman House was a grand mansion frequented by the who’s who of early Johannesburg. We are not sure when it was demolished. If anyone has any information please add it to the comments section below.
The 50th floor of the Carlton Centre was once known as the Carlton Panorama. It opened in the early 1970s as a whites-only facility in a vastly different context to the one in which it was planned. Tough economic times replaced the boom of the 1950s and 1960s and the apartheid regime was coming under increasing pressure - internally and externally - to implement reforms.
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.
[Originally published in mid 2015] Following a spate of attacks on colonial monuments around the country, paint was splattered on a post-apartheid statue on Gandhi Square in downtown Johannesburg. Eric Itzkin takes up the case of Gandhi and his bronze effigy.
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.
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.
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.
About five years ago I stumbled over weeds and litter to get a glimpse of the crumbling Edwardian Lavatory in Newtown. I wondered how many more times I would be able to visit the heritage gem before the forces of neglect consumed her. When Atterbury announced its plans for the massive Newtown Junction development I prayed that this would mean a second life for the historic structure. Thankfully my prayers were answered and the developers along with their heritage consultants kept the building safe and secure during three years of construction.
The Heritage Association of South Africa (HASA) is, with growing concern, following reports from heritage preservationists and activists about the crisis unfolding at Museum Africa – in our opinion custodian of one of the finest and most valuable Africana collections in the world.
In short, the crisis stems from critical staff shortages, in some cases, at least, two decades in the making, as important curator, educational, conservation, cleaning, facilities management and security posts have been left vacant.
A few years ago a wonderful collection of old documents was found in the basement of a Johannesburg inner city building while the tenant (Nedbank) was moving out. One of the boxes we looked at contained details of Nedbank's 50th anniversary celebrations (circa 1938). It was here we found a remarkable set of images of a few Town / City Halls around the country. It appears as though the photographs were taken in the late 1930s. Enjoy...