Month: October 2011

Top of the Carlton: 29-10-2011

Carlton Centre as built

Carlton Centre as built

The final part of my trip into the Johannesburg CBD was to venture to the Carlton Centre and go to the 50th floor. I had been there once before, possibly shortly after it opened, but that was years ago and I hadn’t been near the Carlton Centre in years. The demographics of this area had changed and I suspect most of the shops that used to be in here have long closed. My mother even worked at the Garlics store before it too shut its doors.
The Carlton Centre, was considered to be THE shopping centre in JHB, it boasted an indoor skating rink, 5 star hotel, 50 story office block and numerous shops and boutiques. Due for completion in 1971, a 5 acre hole was excavated, and over a million tons of rock was removed. Throughout the construction of the centre we were able to view progress at the site when we paid our periodic visits to the bioscope in town. At the time it was one of the biggest construction projects in the world

When I got to the Carlton I was shocked at how busy it was. If anything it was even busier now than when I was young, and the mix of shops was more realistic instead of a heap of high class boutiques and specialist dealers. Those had long departed to the rarified air of Sandton City and Fourways. It only cost R15 for an adult and a swift trip in that high speed lift and suddenly I was 50 storeys up.

I attempted panoramic shots, but the scope of the area in front of me was huge and I then decided to grab bite sized shots instead. It is much easier after all. The view in all directions is magnificent, and I felt a perverse pleasure when I remembered seeing this building with a helipad on top of it in the movie “District 9”. 

Looking West

Looking East

Looking East

The weather was quite hazy and not as clear as I would have liked, and naturally there was the problem of grimy windows, reflections and nose prints to contend with. But they are not insurmountable.

Looking North

Looking North

Looking South

Looking South

Then it was time to head off home. My tasks completed, 2 sets of batteries flat and 391 photographs taken. It had been a mammoth mission. 
I suspect many people will say “yes but….” 
There are many things I can say about Johannesburg. It is not the city of our childhood. It is a different city, but a familiar one. You can find new discoveries behind every corner, and old memories on every block. Traffic is still chaos, parking is still scarce and many buildings are bricked up. However, the oldies are still standing, many in beautiful conditions. The Main Street area is spotless, Beyers Naude Square is beautiful, the pavements are crowded, and taxis rampage up and down. But I feel an odd sense of satisfaction after my trip. It’s as if I visited an old relative that I hadn’t seen in 25 years and discovered that they are older, but still young, and after a few minutes it all came back to me. I do however suggest that you do venture forth in a group, because there is always safety in numbers and you can share your experiences, once you feel more confident you may even be able to venture boldly where you haven’t been in years. And smile, because the people will smile back.
I have images of parts of Johannesburg from the air in my gallery pages too.
DRW. ©  2011-2019. Images recreated 19/03/2016. 

Rediscovering Johannesburg CBD 29-10-2011

On the 29th of October I once again joined Past Experiences on a walking tour around Johannesburg. Entitled “Through the Lens: 125 Years of Johannesburg Photography“, it was a relook at some of the famous places and buildings of Johannesburg as they are today, compared to what they were before. The last real trip I did in Johannesburg CBD were quick in and out dashes to grab pics of specific places. This was the first time in over 20 years that I was going to see some of the places from my past.
Beyers Naude Square looking towards the Cenotaph

Beyers Naude Square looking towards the Cenotaph

Parking was at the Gauteng Legislature parking garage under what is now Beyers Naude Square. The last time I had seen this area properly was when it had the ridiculous sheds erected on either side of what was then the Library Gardens. Those sheds were a money wasting abomination that ruined this whole space. The library itself is being renovated but this whole area really looks great. I visited it in July 2012, and it was quite an experience. 
Johannesburg Public Library

Johannesburg Public Library

We then set out on our walk, heading towards the former City Hall. This magnificent old building had its cornerstone laid on 29 November 1910 and served as the centre of Johannesburg local government until it eventually was sold to the Gauteng Legislature. Sadly access to the building is almost impossible, so we were left to look at the decaying façade of the former Rissik Street Post Office instead.   
Rissik Street Post Office from Commissioner Street

Rissik Street Post Office from Commissioner Street

The post office (1895-1897) was originally a two storey structure but an additional storey was added as the building was found to be too small, this gave the building presence and this oldie, opposite the City Hall, dominated Rissik Street. Sadly, when the post office vacated the building it fell into disrepair and became increasingly more derelict as time passed. Inevitably a fire swept through the internal structure and only the shell remained. Today renovation is happening, but the building has become an eyesore and restoration is going at snails pace.  
Just across President Street, standing all alone is the now restored Barbican Building. For many years this beautiful structure stood forlorn and derelict, now it has been restored to its former glory and it is really looking magnificent. 
Barbican: Before and After

Barbican: Before and After

Behind the post office is the site of the famous Impala Stampede statue that used to have pride of place in the Ernest Oppenheimer Park. The park is very different today, the Impala have relocated to Main Street, and a new park has been developed, with proper facilities and interesting artwork. Its a proper fenced off space where the hawkers and their wares have been banished from.   As an acknowledgement to the past, a wrought iron set of “bokkie” sit on their concrete pedestal and gaze at the people who now use this as a recreation space. 

Ernest Oppenheimer Park today

Heading up into Rissik Street I discovered that Kerk Street is now a tree lined sheltered informal trading area, although all I really saw were heaps of shoes for sale in the various stalls. The once mad Rissik street is being dug up for Rea-Vaya construction and all I foresee are traffic jams for any unfortunate driving in this street. Yes, its true, the traffic in Johannesburg is still a major problem. I did a slight detour from where we were outside the former Tony Factors Centre (now Edgars) and went to photograph yet another building from my past. 
Ansteys Building

Ansteys Building

Ansteys Building has two tie-ins with my past. In the early 1980 I used to frequent Joy Music which was on one of the shopping levels. We used to buy all our records there and they had the best collection of disco around! On the same level was an electronics shop that we knew as “Jakes”, I have no idea why it was called that, but that was where we used to buy all our components for our many electronics projects that we used to make when I was still an apprentice.  Joy is long gone, but Jakes was still around at least 10 years ago in Selby.
Then it was onto Eloff Street, once described as “a main street disguised as a bus lane”. It was also the home of 3 more oldies. Markhams, Cuthberts, and the OK Bazaars.  All three of these are on the intersection of Prichard and Eloff. 

OK Bazaars Building from Pritchard Street

Children from my era all seem to remember two things about the OK. At Christmas it was decorated to the nines and a special trip was usually made into town to see it. And, the cafeteria (The Tempting Tray) that used to serve the most divine pie, gravy and chips! We used to buy our monthly groceries here when I was small, and then they stopped delivering! The OK Bazaars is no longer, the building is now a Shoprite.
Just over the road is the wonderful old Cuthberts Building. My father and brother both worked for Cuthberts at one point and their old building still exists, although Cuthberts has faded away into history. 

Cuthberts Building

Just across Pritchard Street is the magnificent Markhams Building with its wonderful clock tower, the clock of which is marked 1897. It still houses a branch of Markhams, which was THE gents outfitters when I was youngish, although it was always way out of my price range.


I made another detour at this point and headed across to the court to try photograph Captain Carl Von Brandis who now has a statue in his honour. Sadly he was vandalised in 2015. 

Captain Carl Von Brandis 1827-1903

The area around the courts used to be referred to as Von Brandis Square, although I knew it as the area behind the courts where the Johannesburg Sun was erected, there even used to be a public library there as well as a big parking garage.
Our next direction was south towards Commissioner Street with His Majesties Building, Shakespeare House and the old CNA Building. The latter both bricked shut. His Majesties, along with the long demolished Colloseum, were THE premier bioscopes in Johannesburg, and many an afternoon was spent dressed to the nines watching a film at the latter. sadly though, only this building remains.
His Majesties Building

His Majesties Building

Continuing on our journey down Commissioner Street, we stopped at the arcade that used to be between Market and Commissioner Streets. I remember this as a place of small specialist shops that sold things like stamps or coins. The arcades were handy shortcuts and really pretty spaces. Today this one is a wreck. It appears as if the owners are trying to demolish the arcade but one tenant is hanging on. This shop has been in here for 19 years and is barely surviving in this dark and demolished space. 

Thank you Marban Christian Shop for hanging on.

I was able to take a few photographs inside the arcade, but there is literally nothing left, just empty shells, no ceilings, no indication of what this space used to look like. I suspect this is the only arcade left and as such it’s worth preserving. 

The old Arcade from Commissioner Str

Back on Commisioner, we were now outside a Rea-Vaya stop, which blocked off the view of the building across the street, but I was able to shoot the street looking towards the Carlton Centre.

Commissioner and Rissik Streets looking east

The building on the left is the old CNA building, then an empty lot, then Shakespeare House. Turning West the next landmark is the Rand Club which opened in 1904 in Loveday Street. This wonderful old building has been ruined somewhat by one of the blue painted shop fronts on its ground level, but I believe it is magnificent inside, so hold thumbs that I can get in there one day; although not as a member. 

The Rand Club

Diagonally opposite The Rand Club is the former Mayfair/Crosby/Brixton/Homestead Park bus terminus as well as the one building close to my heart; The Union-Castle Building.

As a child I used to stand waiting for my bus here and staring at the cool efficiency of the travel agent inside with its nautical memorabilia, models, brochures and everything connected to the long gone Union-Castle Line. At one point there used to be a huge display model in the window and I oohed and aahed so many times at its detail. Then in the mid 1970’s UC ceased operations to South Africa, and eventually they vacated the premises and all that was left was a huge picture of the Windsor Castle at sea  on the wall of a dry cleaners that took over one of the shops. 

The former Crosby/Mayfair/Brixton/Homestead Park Bus Stop

I stopped catching buses here by 1985 as I moved up to Hillbrow and ceased coming to this part of town. Playing catch up after all these years brings back so many memories. A last nautical oddity is the lighthouse on the roof of Security House.  
Leaving my favourite corner, our tour ended with a visit to the Guildhall Pub which was opposite where we started off. This old gem was quiet, but we enjoyed a quick beer on its balcony, but sadly though, this venue did not have pie, gravy and chips on its menu so I left early and headed off towards Main Street for more photography.

The Guildhall Pub.

I had photographed this area before, but was really curious to see if any new additions had been made, and to photograph the Oppenheimer Fountains again. And, once again though the water at the fountain had been turned off so I was left with just images of dry Impala. 

The Oppenheimer Fountain, (Impala Stampede)

My next goal was the Carlton Centre. I knew the photography from the top would be stupendous, but wasn’t too sure as to how full it would be, how much it cost, or whether photography was even allowed. There was however, only one real way to find out….   More images of JHB CBD may be found at my gallery.
 DRW © 2011-2019. Images recreated, links corrected and posts merged 19/03/2016

Northcliff Ridge. 24-10-2011

In all my years of living in Johannesburg I have never been up Northcliff Ridge (aka Aasvoëlkop), although it has been on the back of my mind since I started taking pics on the West Rand. You can see it quite well as you go down Golf Club Terrace, although the hill at Quellerina tends to dominate the view as well.

Northcliff Ridge from Fairlands.

View taken from 14th Avenue area towards Norfthcliffe. (1500x498)

View taken from 14th Avenue area towards Norfthcliff. (1500×498)

I had originally planned to do the trip on the Sunday before, but changed my mind and set my GPS to the closest place I could find to the water tower and off I went. I was grateful for the GPS because getting up there is a real twist and turn route. At times I felt like I was heading away from it instead of getting there. Eventually “arriving at destination on left” was heard and I had arrived at the base of the 1939 built water tower, some adept parking and a short climb and I was on the ridge. Out of curiosity, Northcliff Ridge is the second highest koppie in Johannesburg (1807m) while Observatory Ridge where the Indian Army Memorial is , is the highest at 1808m.  
The view is spectacular, especially out towards Muldersdrift area, sadly though, only a portion of the ridge is accessible because the ever encroaching developments are slowly cutting away and restricting the view from here. I was not able to see South East towards Johannesburg from there with any real clear view, but had managed a view on my way to the top of the ridge at an open area of road.  Being Jacaranda season the tree canopy is spread with purple and its only here that you can really get a feel for just how many trees there are in the Johannesburg forest.
Jacarandas in all direction. Looking towards Fairlands

Jacarandas in all direction. Looking towards Fairlands

Looking East towards Sandton area

If I looked out towards the West Rand I was able to see the area where Golf Club Terrace comes down and where you can see this particular spot from. 
To get a real feel of the view, I did make some panoramic images of the view. They are not perfect but do give you some idea of what I saw (all open in a new tab/window)
Beyers Naude looking North. 1494x538

Beyers Naude looking North. 1494×538

Looking slightly southeast towards JHB 1494x445

Looking slightly southeast towards JHB 1494×445

Looking towards Hillfox and Weltevredenpark 1491×386

Looking slightly North of Sandton 1492×409

Looking downwards towards the base of the Koppie 1830×506

Looking up towards Northcliff Ridge 1491×373

Be wary, the files sizes are large. What amazes me is how much potential this has as a tourist attraction, if you compare it with The Peak in Hong Kong we could do so much more, but as usual these sites just don’t make it to the tourists, it is always assumed they just want to see shopping malls and Sandton. Of course the bad reputation that the koppie has does not help either.
Then it was time to try find my way home, again with a GPS or I would still probably be driving around. Unfortunately my car wasn’t too impressed with our destination and I had some problems with it on my way home. But, all in all the trip was worth it. My next destination is the Quellerina area, but I doubt if you could even get close to the top of it. I will see how it goes. All I do know is, it has been a scorcher of a day, and venturing out there is not a great idea.
DRW © 2011-2019. Images recreated 19/03/2016