Windybrow

I discovered two more out of print books today on Johannesburg. Both pointed to a few buildings/houses in Doornfontein that I may have missed – Doornfontein being my next planned set of post.

In the meantime, here are some pictures I took of Windybrow. I was kindly allowed access inside. It is the last remaining example of a stately mansion in Doornfontein built in the late 1890s.

A quick history:

Windybrow was designed by William Leck in the pseudo-tudor style and built in 1896 on several acres of steep rocky ground at the end of Pietersen Street and the north end of Nugget Street. It was the second home for industrialist Theodore ‘Teddy’ Reunert and named after the poet Robert Southey’s home in the English Lake district. Reunert was born in Leeds in 1856 and came to Kimberley in 1879. It was there that he met Otto Lenz. In 1887 they started the engineering firm Reunert and Lenz. He died in 1941, aged 85 and during his lifetime was involved with the establishment of many schools (Jeppe Boys and Girls and KES) and as well as being one of the people responsible for establishing the observatory. He was also chairman of the Public Library and a promoter of SA Association for the advancement of Science as well as being its president from 1902 – 1905.

Windybrow was then considered ‘far removed from the traffic of the town and remarkably quiet’. As an aside, Reunert’s first home was called ‘Swallow’s Nest’ and was where Joubert Park is now. It was also considered out-of-town and had an uninterrupted view of Bez Valley.

Windybrow with Hillbrow in the background early 1930s

Windybrow with Hillbrow in the background early 1930s

Windybrow had one of the first open air swimming pools in Johannesburg, a tennis court and a view of the Heidelburg Hills some 40kms away. The decor was Anglo-Moorish with ingle fireplaces, carved woodwork and lustre tiles. It boasted a billiards room and a drawing-room with a oregon pine dance floor laid on rubber washers.

Wood paneled fireplace

Wood paneled fireplace

Tiled fireplace in a downstairs room in Windybrow

Tiled fireplace in a downstairs room in Windybrow

The family lived in the house for 25 years. It has subsequently been used as a British Officer’s mess, a boarding house, a museum and is now a theatre. It was declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on 4 July 1975.

Windybrow front exterior

Windybrow front exterior

Carved wood on exterior staircase

Carved wood on exterior staircase

The words carved into the woodwork are from Shakespeare “Welcome ever smiles and farewell goes out sighing”

Shakespear quote carved in the interior of Windybrow

Shakespeare quote carved in the interior of Windybrow

Exterior of Windybrow

Exterior of Windybrow

Wood panelling and glass interior Windybrow

Wood panelling and glass interior Windybrow

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This entry was published on March 27, 2011 at 8:12 pm. It’s filed under Johannesburg and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

4 thoughts on “Windybrow

  1. Sharon on said:

    Sterling job you are doing. Please keep me posted. I adore the architecture of early Johannesburg and the stories of the families that go with the homes of days gone by.

  2. Am I the only person who can,t read your opening paragraphs, through the dark grainy sepia background used for all your fascinating suburbs? Would so like to be able to. I,m sure I am missing the most important parts. Gillian Nel

    • Marc Latilla on said:

      Hi Gillian,
      Could you please e-mail me (marc.latilla@gmail.com) a screen shot so I can see what you are seeing? I haven’t had any complaints yet but will see what I can do…thanks

  3. I remember Windybrow in the ’70’s when it was dilapidated and had all the windows and doors boarded up. We would go exploring in the ‘Nugget Hill Haunted House’

    Any pictures from that era, before it was re-vamped?

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