Once the highest building in Johannesburg
Johannesburg was never a one horse town. The miners’ tents and tin shacks soon gave way to brick buildings. The first one was the gaol and it fell down. But within three years there were three storey buildings and the Gezondheitskomittee had appointed a building inspector.
The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation has grown from the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust which was founded at a time when the bulldozers were knocking down houses by the dozen in Parktown for the hospital, for the park, for the College of Education and eventually for the office blocks. Legislation changed and most heritage houses are protected now in Parktown and Westcliff. We have been widening our scope over the last 28 years and finally taken the plunge and changed our name to correctly reflect the work we do.
The City of Johannesburg has grown immensely and the task is huge, but there is a need for a proactive organisation ready to do battle and defend our City’s heritage. There is also a need to recognise that adaptive re-use is essential. We can’t hang on to every old building in this dynamic metropolis. Sometimes it will be Adapt or Die, but there are some places which are such treasures that it will be Beware! Treat it with the utmost care.
SUBMISSION TO THE PLANNING COMMITTEE ON THE REZONING OF THE RAND STEAM LAUNDRIES SITE 27TH NOVEMBER 2013.
JOHANNESBURG HERITAGE FOUNDATION
(formerly Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust.)
There is one aspect of this rezoning which needs to be addressed not because it opposed by the applicant, nor has it been opposed by the City, but because it has been opposed by the Provincial Heritage Resources Authority of Gauteng, the body entrusted with the duty of protecting the heritage of Gauteng.
According to the letter dated 26/07/2013 which appears in Section 1.45 of the agenda
The PHRA-G is of the view that once the buildings are demolished, the original character of and context either architecturally and significance (sic) is lost. It also loses its scientific heritage significance i.e. without proper documentation and the original materials.
Apart from the poor grammatical construction of this opinion the PHRAG has clearly missed the point. They just don’t get it.
I have been involved in residents and heritage matters in Johannesburg for forty years so I am no stranger to demolition. I ask you to examine the plan which appears in Helen Aron’s book printed in 1972 called simply Parktown 1892 -1972. This plan shows how ownership and use had changed radically from private homes to government and institutions. In most cases that involved the demolition of houses for the new uses. We lost 19 houses for the M1 motorway, 23 for the Hospital, 32 for the Pieter Roos Park and 43 for the College of Education. It took some years before the houses were demolished so when I started demolitions were the order of the day.
One year later when the Parktown Association was founded we lost more and more homes to rezonings to offices. There was actually no defence possible except the full declaration of a National Monument.
Then Councillor Oberholzer performed a miracle. He saved Markham’s for the people of Johannesburg. The Minister refused to use his powers and ignored the petitions of the public and an extensive newspaper campaign. Obie used the Johannesburg Town Planning Scheme.
So we did that too. Thereafter developers who wanted a rezoning on a property which included a valuable old house had to undertake to retain the heritage building and that was laid down in the Town Planning Amendment Scheme.
Of all the spots on the plan of Parktown 2013 which show old houses which have been kept despite a rezoning,. only one was saved through using heritage legislation. Mike’s Kitchen was saved by public outcry and subsequent declaration as a National Monument. All the rest are retained in terms of the Johannesburg Town Planning Scheme.
Thirty-four years later when the Rand Steam Laundries was endangered the legislation had changed, we had the National Heritage Resources Act of 1999 and we thankfully took that route. In 2006 we applied for provisional declaration and met various possible developers and discussed with them just what needed to be kept. That is how this drawing and list of buildings to be kept was drawn up i.e. for a developer who liked old buildings.
On 10th January 2008 when a reporter from Die Beeld newspaper called me to say there was a mechanical grab tearing down the buildings I couldn’t believe it . William Gaul and I drove down and before we could see the site we could smell the Oregon pine being crushed into firewood. That demolition was different from anything I had ever experienced in Parktown or in the City. This was being done in contravention of the laws of South Africa. We were watching a crime taking place and I was sickened as if I had been watching a murder. Thousands of other people felt the same way and the public outrage still calls forth letter to the press demanding the Chief Executive Officer make reparations.
There is a document which was submitted to PHRAG in May 2009 Annexure A
Heritage Management Requirements. It was part of a settlement agreement proposed by Imperial to the PHRAG through meetings which had been overseen by the MEC.
The document starts with a statement on the significance of the site:
A1.1 The significance of the site lies not only in its heritage value as it was when the Provincial Heritage Resources Authority declared the property provisionally a heritage site, but in the fact of the circumstances surrounding its demolition.
1.2 The approach to the problem should result in the reconstruction of the cultural heritage as an indication of the over-riding will of the community to preserve the past by ensuring appropriate reparations are made to the community.
The City of Johannesburg adopted this attitude and has remained faithful to that approach. It can be found in the RSDF for the section covering Richmond which has been included in the agenda as well as in the recommendations of the Planning Department. The applicant understands that this has always been non-negotiable.
Now along comes the PHRAG - four and a half years later - to say they are taking legal advice about reconstruction and demanding an HIA although they have already pre-empted the findings of an HIA. That means it would be an academic exercise.
It is sad, but clearly the PHRAG doesn’t understand the fundamental issues which were laid down in May 2009. The City does, the applicant does, the objectors do.
We suggest that the PHRAG step back into the shadows where it has been all these years when it should have taken action. And now let the rest of us - the Applicant, the City and the objectors - get on with the healing process and develop the site as has been agreed.
Flo Bird 27-11-2013
Click here to read the RSL REZONING CONDITIONS
Member's Tour - 18 to 20 October 2013
See Events Page
FOURTH QUARTER'S PROGRAMME
4th Quarter Programme Oct to Dec 2013 - click to download word document else view it on-line under the Events section. Click to view the Newsletter.
Great step Forward: Handing over the assessments and data base for the heritage buildings in the Joburg City Centre.
GRADING THE BUILDINGS OF THE JOHANNESBURG CITY CENTRE
The first task the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation undertook after its establishment was to assess the buildings in the centre of town and publish these on our websites and, hopefully, also on the City of Johannesburg’s website.
Listing is the duty of the Provincial Heritage Resources Authority Gauteng (PHRA-G) but since they have shown no sign of doing this we have taken over the task. The City commissioned a number of excellent surveys on the City Centre, but they were never taken to next stage of assigning a value judgment on whether the buildings should be protected or not. We have used these reports by Dr Johann Bruwer as the basis for our assessment.
The ratings laid down in the National Heritage Resources Act are:
- Grade I National significance
- Grade II Provincial Significance
- Grade III Local significance
To distinguish the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation’s assessment from the official ones Grades A, B and C have been used instead of numbers..
A = Outstanding heritage value – historical and architectural value such as the City Hall which is now the Gauteng Legislature. This could also be one of truly exceptional buildings like Patidar Mansions. DON’T TOUCH OUR TREASURES
B = Fine building. Beautiful and probably a good example of a period or the work of an excellent architect, with historical interest. It may also have landmark value such as Stuttafords TOUCH WITH VERY GREAT CARE, AFTER CONSULTATION, AND DON’T EVEN THINK OF DEMOLITION
C= Good building, part of a significant group and probably contributes to street scene, but possibly only a façade. DON’T TOUCH WITHOUT CONSULTING JHF. CHANGES ARE POSSIBLE, BUT DEMOLITION WILL BE RESISTED.
So click to get to the listings. Search under street address or stand number and township. The entries cover names or names of building, architect, date, original owner, SG numbers and geographical co-ordinates. They also have additional information as to other forms of recognition – blue plaque or listing for the Johannesburg Centenary in the Johannesburg 100 and occasionally listing or declaration by the heritage authority.
Issued September 2013
Did you hear the Classic FM breakfast quiz this morning? A question was: name the lady who was a trade unionist, and who subsequently became the first woman City Councillor of Johannesburg.
The first caller suggested Gill Marcus. The second caller said "Flo Bird"!
(Yes, eventually someone did give the right answer, but it was the Last of the three questions to be correctly answered - obviously a tough
OK So hopefully all members got Mary Fitzgerald right away.
NOW The question is who was the one and only communist ever to be elected a ward councillor, standing as a Communist and not as a member of the ANC?
HERITAGE TODAY! - A programme for all those who care about out old buildings. They can now listen to the podcasts by clicking on the link.
Tuesday mornings at 10h45 Stay tuned.
197 minutes at Brixton Cemetery
Fire at Holy Family College formerly Parktown Convent
27 May 2013
The Beautiful art deco brickwork of the school hall is still standing. The stage was gutted. This is where MOIRA LISTER and Vanessa Cooke as hid Barbara Kinghorn and Sheilagh Hamilton.
23 May 2013
A fire broke out last night just before 9pm starting in the roof of the old Art Deco brick hall. The roof timbers and blue slate had collapsed by the time I got there and we watched it rage on the Oxford Road end where the stage was. It burned more slowly at the other end where the timber gallery still hung in the air. Gradually the flames consumed the beams and we thought the gable wall would fall, but it was still standing when we left. So was the statue of the Virgin in the niche.
By 10.45 the fire seemed out and we left. It had gutted the hall but not spread to the old building. The Museum and Chapel are intact and it was nowhere near the Research Centre.
Hugh Solomon Building on Klein Street, Hillbrow Health Precinct. Val Hammerton, retired Theatre sister who trained here unveiled the plaque on 10th May just ahead of International Nurses Day on 12th May.
HUGH SOLOMON BUILDING
Designed by Gilbert St. John Cottrill in 1904, this was the first Nurses’ Home for the General Hospital. In 1926 a new wing was added, and in 1936 a new hall and dining-hall were completed by Gordon Leith. It was named after the Chairman of the Hospital Board from 1930-1955. Dress regulations, training and deportment for the nurses were very strict. In 2006 it was refurbished as the headquarters of the Hillbrow Health Precinct.
Impressive entrance doors Hugh Solomon Building – the old Nurses’ Home.
Johannesburg's first operating theatre
The Colin Gordon nursing Home in Esselen Street designed by Wilhelm Pabst now part of the Hillbrow health Precinct
Lovely laundry chutes on the Ronald Mackenzie block of the old Johannesburg General Hospital. Designed by Gordon Leith. The building is in shocking condition, but that doesn’t conceal the outstanding architecture.
LAUNCHING THE JOHANNESBURG HERITAGE FOUNDATION ON JOHANNESBURG'S BIRTHDAY
On 4th October 2012 which is the City’s 126th birthday we’ll be launching the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation with a bus trip. We start at the Sunnyside Park Hotel (1896), one of the most historic places in the City and move to Pritchard Street, the heart of the retail centre to unveil a plaque at the Markham’s Building. We pay our respect to Captain von Brandis, the first Landdrost, travel down to Gandhi Square to see the statue of Gandhi who practised law here, look at the new billboard explaining Herman Charles Bosman’s association with the High Court Building and then drive down to St. Alban’s Church which has been restored under the auspices of the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust thanks to the generosity of two sponsors.
Then back over the Mandela Bridge past the Fever Hospital, Berea Fire Station and Randjieslaagte Beacon recently enclosed and protected by the University of the Witwatersrand and return to the Sunnyside Park Hotel.
Johannesburg Coat of Arms
The small jam pot in our letterhead is not without meaning or to bring sweetness into your life.
It is the stamp which appears on the earliest Johannesburg Coat of Arms - the actual foot of the crusher which pounds the rock . There were different size stamps 6 pounders or 10 pounders.... the noise was simply unholy but the crushed rock went through the process and became golden sand on the mine dumps.
These tiny stamps are used on the escutcheon plates of the old City Hall and a stylized version is used to number the routes through the city.
So this is a tiny bit of Johannesburg we chose to decorate our logo.
LOOKING AHEAD: SPECIAL PROJECTS
SPEED-RATING OF THE BUILDINGS IN THE CITY CENTRE.
- Excellent surveys of the City Centre were commissioned by the City Of Johannesburg and three areas have been completed. Now JHF is rating the buildings to clarify that heritage value has been attributed to them. At present most are protected by Section 34 of the National Heritage Resources Act which applies to all buildings and structures over 60 years old. We can’t change the law but we can make it easier for owners, developers and the officials to decide which ones are important. The Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust has already rated Parktown and Westcliff, Jeppestown, La Rochelle and Yeoville. So this work is going forward as the first step in conserving this heritage.
- Erecting Heritage Plaques which provide the public with information on the buildings. A number of Art Deco buildings have already had plaques erected and this work will continue. JHF will need to raise funds as not all owners are willing and able to pay for the plaques. The plaques are another step in protecting Joburg’s heritage.
- Commemorative paving block:
We have approached the Provincial Legislature for permission to lay commemorative paving blocks in the paving around the Legislature’s precinct. This is a way of reminding people of important events in Johannesburg’s past.
- On-going research into the old suburbs of Johannesburg to identify the heritage buildings and places which need to retained and especially to be considered in the development planning of the suburbs. Heritage sites make an important contribution to the sense of stability and of growth as well as increasing pride in the community.
“A city without a past is like a man without a memory” warned Professor E.W. Mallows
We need our old buildings to remind us of our roots and to measure our progress.
Contact us on: 011-482-3349 Weekdays (Mornings only)
e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
WE HAVE MADE A START
We’ll be updating people on the issues as we get the news on heritage and what is happening in the City. We have already started Speed Rating the buildings in the City Centre. Surveys have been done but we’ll be asserting what rating we set on them and publish this on the website. We’ll be proceeding with plaques for places of special interest. But most importantly we will try to assist with heritage problems.
Done it!! Joburg listings for the 1st phase for this week.
A walkabout round First Chinatown was followed by an excellent lunch at the Swallows Inn which so many of us remember as the Little swallow, one of the oldest restaurants in the City.
Unveiling the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation plaque at the Transvaal Chinese United Club 6 Commissioner on Saturday 23rd February 2013.
Club chairman Mr. K. H. Lai recounts the history of the Club which dates back to 1909 and which held the pioneering Chinese community of the Johannesburg together throughout the years of second class citizenship, humiliating and costly registration and yet managed to raise funds for charity and community facilities.
"We have made a start ...!"
Introduction to Listings and Assessments
CROWN MINES VILLAGE IN FLAMES:
Shacks built alongside the derelict top row of houses in Langlaagte Deep Village burned down leaving 80 people homeless and bringing further devastation to what was a National Monument which we used to visit on tours of the mining history of Johannesburg.
Rand Mines Properties which changed its name to I-Prop refused to maintain this row of houses, evicting the tenants and allowing them to be vandalized of all metals. PHRAG in its usual wimpish way failed to impose a Compulsory Repair Order, but did at least refuse a demolition permit.
It is not really surprising how often in Johannesburg heritage buildings including fully declared heritage sites which were national monuments are partially destroyed by fire. Rissik Street Post Office, Marshall Street Police Barracks, the Drill Hall, Kimberley House, the Mine Manager’s house at Crown Reef North…..
So now our last mining village is under terrible threat. The new owner has cut off the proper access, demolished the crown which stood outside the Scout Hall, made for the visit of King George V1 in 1947 and transferred to the village when the original site was developed.
Heritage Day 2012
We celebrated Heritage Day in Midrand.
Two bus loads visited the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Sergius of Radonezk. Completed in 2003 it seems a transplant from the homeland. For those who are unlikely to get a chance to visit Russia it was a joy and a blessing to see the five golden domes against a brilliant blue sky. Gold is a very practical covering since it can be rolled so thin and it never tarnishes. Lovely material and Father Daniel estimated less than 1 kilo of gold was used to cover all five domes. The bell tower too has its own golden dome. The Church is relatively small and there are no pews. The congregation stands and stays awake! There is an iconostasis - the screen which separates the altar from the body of the church. Only the clergy may enter the doors of the iconostasis. But the doors were opened so we could see inside. There is also a choir loft and the Church has a renowned choir. The ceiling is covered in traditional murals. The characters represented by the domes are depicted on the ceiling blow each one: Jesus for the centre dome, and the apostles for the four smaller domes.
Then we drove towards the minarets and entered the great Mosque which has been modeled on the one designed by the great Ottoman architect, Sinan. He proclaimed the Selimiye Mosque built in 1575in Edirne his masterpiece, achieved at the age of eighty. The Nizamy Kullyes mosque in Midrand has been scaled down to 78 % of the one in Turkey. First we entered the great Courtyard with its central fountain and arcaded sides which house the art gallery, the offices and the ablution areas. Leaving our shoes behind we stepped onto the carpet and entered the prayer hall. It is not simply size which impresses all who enter, but the space, its volume and the lightness. Myriads of tiles adorn the columns and walls, stained glass windows light three levels below the dome, the ceilings are adorned with murals and the floor is carpeted throughout ensuing peace and quiet.
The project engineer and the Imam explained about the construction and the use of the various elements and the Deputy Imam recited from the Koran in Arabic – the story of Joseph (The amazing coloured dream-coat). It was quite magical listening and absorbing the scale and beauty of the place. Afterwards we were given water and Turkish delight. Wee received such a warm welcome and the Imam assured us we would be welcome at any time to visit and bring other visitors.
So we celebrated Heritage Day welcoming and being welcomed to appreciate two new buildings which bring centuries old traditional architecture to enrich the cultural experience of Johannesburg.
Many thanks to David Forrest who organised this tour and who has been invited to celebrate the opening of the Mosque by President Jacob Zuma on 4th October.
Click here to view the pictures
FRIENDS, CORPORATE MEMBERS AND SPONSORS
The Northwards Trust
Set up to retain the historic architectural heritage of Johannesburg Foundation Trust. The Trust tries to make this heritage accessible through tours of the buildings and the area, publications and special programmes for school children.
It is a fund-raising organisation and donations are most welcome.
Last Edit : 02/12/2013