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Welcome to the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation


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.



1st Quarter Programme - Jan to Mar 2015 - click to download word document else view it on-line under the Events section. Click to view the Newsletter.

Johannesburg Heritage Foundation Constitution


Radio Today

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.



Letter to City of Johannesburg from Flo Bird       19 November 2014

The owner of this property has erected a building wrap which completely encompasses the property on the boundary walls facing Jan Smuts Avenue and Loch Avenue.

It is a complete disgrace to the heritage house behind and highly offensive to the residents of the area.

The owner/ occupier is in serious breach of the advertising by-laws.

The property is zoned SPECIAL and is abutted on all sides by Residential 1 which prohibits advertising hoardings.

The Hunter’s Beer wrap is totally illegal.

Please take action on this. I would very much like to cut the monstrous ad down but with dislocated shoulders I can’t manage that.

Kind regards,
Johannesburg Heritage Foundation.

It came down 5 days later after concerted pressure from the Parktown Association and neighbours as well.


Book you may wish to acquire ......Architectural conservation ... Copies available in Johannesburg

New publication edited by Albrecht Herholdt
ARCHITECTURAL CONSERVATION In South Africa since 1994: 100+ Projects:
   a book for the more serious minded readers. For more information click here


St Mary the Less

Joburgheritage - The Sanctuary at St Mary the Less with the stained glass windows. Joburgheritage - Lancet window for St Mary the less Joburgheritage - Matching lancet window
The Sanctuary at St Mary the Less with the stained glass windows.
Lancet window for St Mary the less
Matching lancet window
Joburgheritage - Lancet window incorporating the old windows St Mary the Less Joburgheritage - Last minute work on St Mary the less
Lancet window incorporating the old windows St Mary the Less
Last minute work on St Mary the less
New shingles on bell turret
Plastic down pipes replace the metal ones which were stolen
Spikes on air-vents restored

New foundation stone for the Old Fort.



Mpanza's lions back home in Pheeli Street



On Sunday  7th September the oldest church and also the oldest building in Johannesburg  was filled with members of the congregation, several of whom had been christened and married here together with priests from other Anglican churches, heritage friends and sponsors come to celebrate the birthday and admire the restoration of the church. Seen in this photograph is Father Morgan Ellis the parish priest  who was the founding headmaster of Saheti School and then of Bishop Bavin School. Bishop Steve Moreo, Bishop of Johannesburg,  was the celebrant and the Methodist organist and choir of Bedfordview added music and great joy to the occasion.

The stained glass windows donated by the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation  were in place recording their origin in the home of Henry Bettelheim in Doornfontein which was built in the same year as the Church. Mrs Mackenzie and her daughter Mrs Jane Paumgarten representing the Mackenzie family Trust which has sponsored the restoration of the church attended the service.

All that remains to be done are the two turrets which need new shingles. They will only arrive at the end of October and then St Mary-the-Less will be almost good as new. Designed by Arthur Reid the church was built in two stages. The Foundation stone was laid by Mrs John Darragh on her wedding day 10th September 1889.  She had come to Johannesburg as Miss Mary Ross, the first principal of St Mary’s Girls School which is now in Waverley.

In 1896 the walls of the little church showed signs of giving  way and had to be buttressed. The following year the church was extended eastward.

The bell which rang out several times during the service, was the second one to hang in the west turret tower.  The first had been sent to England to be re-cast in 1916, but lies now at the bottom  of the Atlantic because the ship in which it was returning a year later, the Alnwick Castle, was torpedoed. So this bell was replaced by insurance in 1918.

Bishop Steve preached the sermon from the pulpit donated by Mrs Julius Jeppe and Deacon Keith Rankin read the lesson at the handsome brass eagle lectern donated by Rev John Darragh. Father Ellis had beautified the entrance porch for the great occasion, enhancing the much loved little church.




Museum Africa

Presby Church Noord St
St. Margaret's De Villiers St
Synagogue Joubert St


Michael Fleming, Sarah Welham and Brigid
Grosskopf enjoying the Building Plans in Museum Africa's archives

Here is a list of the architectural drawing held by Museum Africa

Click here to open the Plans List in Excel - MA Plans List


An astounding collection at Museum Africa

Brigid Grosskopf holds up her gloved hands in joy as she examines beautiful drawings of  Park Synagogue This was a very special occasion for which white gloves were essential.

The special project has involved cataloguing and listing the collection of architectural drawings held by Museum Africa. For years the collection has been safely stored, but completely inaccessible because it could not be catalogued - no staff. So we sponsored the museum specialist, Linda Chernis, who has been working through the collection of thousands of drawings, cataloguing them for the Museum AND at the same time listing them for our research and to enable us to publish the list in Excel for other researchers to use.

The drawings belong to the Museum. We don't have them, but we have the list which you can consult.

it is an important record of early joburg - architecturally, genealogically, socioligcally - they show so much more than just buildings, they give a whole feel for each area and the socio-economic reality of turn of the century Joburg.
It's also a fantastic record of the important architects and landowners of the time, where different ethnic groups/immigrants lived, which areas had indoor plumbing, the kinds of public facilities available, entertainment available etc.  There is an amazing amount of history that is implied by these drawings.

Linda says " It's almost like being an archaeologist digging beneath the surface and finding a whole new civilisation!"

The funding was raised through donations and we had a really happy morning donors and researchers together at the Museum pouring over the lovely drawings which date back to 1892. Some are truly exquisite, some are a lot simpler, but they do give a picture of Joburg when Noord Street boasted the poshest row of houses and the government buildings were very handsome including the dreaded Pass Office and Marshall Square Police Station.

To look at the list press............... and note they are arranged under township,  stand numbers, dates, street addresses, names of architect (if
any) and  name of the client for whom the building was designed. .........
To actually look at the drawings you have to make an appointment and go to Museum Africa which is in Bree Street, with plenty of  open and safe parking across the road in Mary Fitzgerald Square.

You can e-mail Museum Africa on................ but don't expect an instant reply. There is ONE curator who is also the acting director, where 20 years ago there were 9. 

This is a wonderful project for the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation since it is certainly a major contribution to the city and its architectural legacy. We need on-going funding to keep working and because we hope to persuade the City to allow us to move the building plans of demolished buildings from the Metro Centre to the Museum.

My photographs don't convey how beautiful some of the drawings really are. 

Flo Bird




The most recent edition is available by going to that page on our website. I enjoy the journals because this is all primary material  with touches of unconscious humour only time can add.

  • The 1918 Motor trip to St Lucia is almost unbelievable compared with today’s luxury travel.  Who dares to grumble about a pothole after reading this?
  • Sarah Welham has wickedly recounted an expedition into darkest Africa – the north-east side of Town – where we found not only traders and friendly people, but some fascinating buildings we would never have imagined had survived. St Margaret’s School by Baker and Fleming for the Sisters of East Grinstead! The Old Cinerama with the Eduardo Villa panel on the side. We didn’t go inside to check on the Cecily Sash – we had totally forgotten that.
  • Then William Gaul’s Melville Memories. I do hope it will inspire other old Melvillites to send us photographs and stories.
  • I loved Café de Move-on by Costa Phitidis about his grandfather. Searching the Museum Africa Archives Linda found BUILDING PLANS for two of these eateries on wheels. They were clearly taken very seriously indeed.

So enjoy reading it on line opr if you are very old fashioned and want a hard copy please e-mail Eira  on 011 482-3349 and arrange to collect one. Theyw ill definitely be avialable at the AGM. They cost R35 each.

Click here to open Journal V4


Berea Fire Station

A small item, but one which needs attention because this is a fully declared Heritage Site.

The steel dormer window clearly replaced an earlier timber window. The old photographs show that this was originally a sliding sash.  We would like to restore this so that the lovely timber windows are all matching and consistent.



Member's Tour - 18 to 20 October 2013

See Events Page




Members' Tour to Kimberely



Hand Over

Great step Forward: Handing over the assessments and data base for the heritage buildings in the Joburg 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

Click here to open Johannesburg Listings in Excel


Anyone altering a building over 60 years old needs help. So we have drawn up a list of consultants whjose work we have seen and which we cite so people can check for themselves whether they have done a good enough job.
Click to find them:





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.



Did you know that:


To help you  in this process we have compiled a liust of architect for whose work in the heritage field we can vouch.

Click here to find our list of recommended architects to assist with Heritage Work.

We have been sent the Latest requirements from PHRAG for permits and for nominations for heritage sites.  PLEASE CLICK on the Form below to down load  these. BE SURE TO USE THESE AS THEY ARE THE MOST UP TO DATE VERSION AND WILL SAVE DOING ANOTHER SUBMISSION

PHRAG Application Requirements or PHRAG Nomination Form


 “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 : mail@joburgheritage.co.za 


"We have made a start ...!"

Introduction to Listings and Assessments

Click here to open Johannesburg Listings in Excel




The Northwards Trust


picBarrow Construction






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 : 09/01/2015






Once the Highest Headgear in the World



Man Made Mountain - Mine Dumps



Sky Scrapers Johannesburg

Dorchester Mansions - Astor Mansions - Castle Mansions









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