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Saturday, September 15, 2018 - 11:24

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. It was with great sadness that we reported the loss of this fine heritage home to fire in July 2018 (click here to view report).


The remains of Le Tholonet (Kathy Munro)


The plan I have located is an old blueprint and is important as it proves that this was a Gordon Leith design. Close study of the plans shows elevations and sections, materials to be used, what the original home would look like and all the technical details relating to vents, waste water, chimney and flue etc. There were later alterations but the house remained essentially true to the ideas of Leith.


Proof that it was a Gordon Leith design (Kathy Munro)


Old photo of Le Tholonet (Homes of the Golden City)


Original plans always become invaluable guides for rebuilding and reconstruction. I certainly hope this happens. The design was an elegant neo-Cape Dutch gable style long barn of a design with a strong core with two wings extending from the main central entrance, beneath the gable. The complete mastery of style and materials by the architect was shown in the balanced positioning of windows and the lovers first floor balcony. The roof was thatch. 


Another shot of the blueprint (Kathy Munro)


And another (Kathy Munro)


There was charming romantic touch of whimsy to this home. Leith understood his materials and what he could accomplish. He had a great sense of the classical but also the vernacular look. There was nothing modern about this house and yet it had a South African timelessness about it. A simple home meant to be loved and lived in. 

The landscape of Parktown changed through time with gardens sliced by motorways and the nearby roar of heavy traffic disturbing this Cape idyll on the highveld but the house remained. This home endured and was enjoyed for nearly a century.


The home endured for almost a century (Kathy Munro)


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 and is well known for her magnificent book reviews. 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.


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