Wednesday Windows #3: The Three Castles Building

During the recent fire evacuation from the office building I am currently located in, we were led to a safe area a couple of blocks away, where I was startled to find a burnt out Three Castles Building.

I must admit that I had never been past, even during its heyday. The slow degradation of buildings in the Joburg CBD is controversial and subject to much discussion on blogs and forums.

The edges of the Johannesburg CBD have been fraying for a while now. The rejuvenation of the city is happening in clusters and is not generalised – for example, the area around the Standard Bank and ABSA Precincts look great. The Newtown Precint is beautiful and is subject to many photo walks by amateur and professional photographers alike.

These are some of the few areas that have been rejuvenated, spearheaded and financed by the big organisations (mainly mining and financial services) that have retained their headquarters in the CBD rather than relocating them to Sandton, like many others have done.

This commitment to the inner city is commendable and quite frankly, awesome! The ask now, is for them to help rejuvenate historical buildings situated around their precincts.

I googled the Three Castles Building (I did not know what it was and entered “burnt out castle building on Marshall Street”) and found a bit of its history.

It is an historical landmark, built in 1894 for the Acme Cigarette Co which manufactured Three Castles cigarettes. The building was opened by President Paul Kruger in 1899. You can read more about it via the forum discussion thread here.

The history of South Africa is a painful one and perhaps it is because of this that historical buildings are not cared for. It is such a shame, because to simply erase history “1984-like” is to deny the current and future generations of this beautiful land the learning that comes from knowing about the good and the bad of the past. If we simply erase the past, the present and the future generations will not learn from it, to make sure South Africa never again descends into the abyss.

Knowing and acknowledging are two different processes and to know about the past means that the good and the bad of it needs to be acknowledged by all. This has been happening, and again, it is a painful process which has been controversial at best.

On this day, the 20th anniversary of South Africa winning the rugby world cup, Nelson Mandela walked out onto that field of play to award the trophy to the Springboks wearing the Springbok rugby jersey in a show of reconciliation so powerful that it galvanised a nation divided by colour. That was twenty years ago. It is my opinion that it is our responsibility, every single South African, to make the next twenty years, and the next twenty after that, and the next, and the next…a place we can all be safe, prosper and call home.

One of my favourite of Nelson Mandela’s quotes is:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Education starts at home, South Africa. That is a huge task in itself. Perhaps a small starting point could be to preserve our historical buildings.

Three Castles Building 1
Three Castles Building, Marshall Street, Johannesburg
Three Castles Building 2
Three Castles Building, Marshall Street, Johannesburg
Three Castles Building 3
Three Castles Building, Marshall Street, Johannesburg

Welcome to Wednesday Windows. I will be posting a photo (or photos) of windows (the ones you look out of, not the ones that are prefixed by the word “Microsoft”). I seem to take a lot of them wherever I go, so it must count as a fascination or maybe just plain obsession.

You are welcome to join in the feature – there is no theme other than “windows”. If you do join leave the link to your post in the comments below. As you can see this is by no means a professionally run weekly feature or challenge. I’m doing it to indulge my fascination, so if you have one too, please do join.