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Sunday, April 8, 2018 - 18:20

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.

The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation unveiled the original 1913 blueprint of the Yeoville Water Tower. The blueprint recently came to light and provides the heritage community with the previously unknown technical drawings of the tower. Here we have the essential documentary evidence to date and place this iconic structure in an international context. 

The water tower came to Johannesburg from Germany. It was imported in prefabricated form from Dortmund. The design came from the well-known German structural engineering firm, Aug. Klönne. Klönne's design was state of the art technology at the time. He held a patent for cylindrical spherical shaped water storage tanks which were placed on top of an iron latticed framework that rose about 50 feet above ground. The water tank had a capacity to store 50 000 gallons. It was elegant, simple, cost effective and a powerful statement of engineering excellence. It was a water tower that fitted into Johannesburg's industrial landscape with its dozens of gold mine shafts, headgears and stamp batteries.


Kathy Munro standing proudly next to the blueprint

Prof. Kathy Munro presented a lecture on the tower and its origins. She revealed how we are able to compare and match our tower to other water towers of the same period in other parts of the world. The tower highlights the importance of the German contribution to the city's economic development. We also now know there is a twin matching tower tower in Ahlen, Rhine Westphalia. What is remarkable about the Yeoville Water Tower is that it is still standing, still useful and now a much loved familiar item of Joburg industrial archaeology.  Its purpose is to store water and improve the pressure of water delivered to the surrounding suburbs.

The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation decided that the best way to preserve the rare drawing and fund keeping it in South Africa was to print replicas in a limited edition series. Colour and size have been carefully matched to the original blueprint. The prints are poster size and become a beautiful artwork. The blueprint is an important Johannesburg record. This is like discovering an old family birth certificate or a jig saw puzzle piece in the Johannesburg story.


The first print of the limited edition (no 1 of 100) was sold by auction. The bidding was keen and John Clark became the fortunate purchaser.

The project to record the history of the water tower and preserve the blueprint is a JHF initiative. Every limited edition print comes with a 20 page brochure on the history of the tower. Copies will be placed at Historical Papers at Wits (William Cullen Library) and the  Johannesburg Heritage Foundation Research Centre.

Joachim Schonfeldt was inspired by the discovery and painted a beautiful oil painting of the tower framed within a circular antique Oregon pine hand crafted frame. The painting was also on display and much admired.

Anyone interested in purchasing one of the limited edition prints can place an order with the JHF - mail@joburgheritage.co.za or 011 482 3349. Each print is numbered and carries the stamp of authenticity of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation. Here is the price list:

  • 2-10: R1000 each
  • 11-20: R750 each
  • 21 to 50: R500 each
  • 51-95: R400 each

Kathy Munro is an Honorary Associate Professor in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand. She enjoyed a long career as an academic and in management at Wits University. She trained as an economic historian. She is an enthusiastic book person and has built her own somewhat eclectic book collection over 40 years. Her interests cover Africana, Johannesburg history, history, art history, travel, business and banking histories. She researches and writes on historical architecture and heritage matters. She is a member of the Board of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation and is a docent at the Wits Arts Museum. She is currently working on a couple of projects on Johannesburg architects and is researching South African architects, war cemeteries and memorials. Kathy is a member of the online book community the Library thing and recommends this cataloging website and worldwide network as a book lover's haven.


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