The shapes of inner-city Joburg shapes the inner-city Joburg.
A late afternoon drive down Harrison Street in the Johannesburg inner city helped me appreciate the beauty of the buildings that have been there since the 19th century.
Some buildings may look bedraggled and rundown but their beauty is still evident.
I don’t know which building is captured in the photos below, I searched the web and came up with nothing. I’m not sure if it’s Victorian or Edwardian architecture. It appears to be undergoing renovation. Che seems to this that it’s the City Hall but that is on Rissik Street.
Victory House (below) on the corner of Harrison and Fox Streets is a building “of great historical and architectural significance and is famous for having Johannesburg’s first ever lift…which had crowds gaping for weeks” and has stood since 1897.
“The lift was a technological marvel, complete with a safety apparatus; it also boasted a polished oak cage and an upholstered seat. The lift was supplied by R Waygood of England. An early letter to the lift firm references the employment of a caretaker and the purchase of a bag of coal to operate the boiler which worked the hydraulic lift. The total cost of the original lift, boiler and engine was 1020 pounds. The staircase was made of cast iron, also made in England it was the first fireproof staircase in Johannesburg” (Wikipedia).
88 Fox Street – I searched for information on this building and found a reference to it being the Equity Building but I’m not able to verify this right now. All I know is that it is in very good condition and the men’s outfitters, Lightbody’s, still occupies the ground floor. Che used to buy his pipe band gear there when he was in high school. This goes back a while, so Lightbody’s has been there, at least, since the 1980s if not longer.
Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa and is the economic hub of the country. It was established in 1886 when gold was discovered on the farm. It’s also affectionally known as Jozi, Jo’burg, Egoli, and Joeys to us locals.
This is the city I grew up in, live in and at different times, worked in, so I have a soft spot for it. When I was at university I used to get off the bus at the start of the inner city and walk all the way to the bus terminus square where I caught another bus home, just so that I could absorb the city’s energy.
The population of Joburg is currently over 4 million people and growing each year.
How apt that I took this photo yesterday and it fits today’s one-word prompt so well – Legacy.
It was taken from the 4th floor of the building I was in downtown Joburg. I found the preserved facade of the old building that used to stand there quite beautiful, contrasting with the glass and steel of the modern building which took its place.
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.
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.