On the very edge of old Doornfontein running North to South is End Street – so called because that is where town literally ended. What was to become Doornfontein on the right was then just grazing land. The top part of End Street running from the railway line right up to Saratoga and what we know now as Nugget Hill was known as the End Park. It’s the triangular collection of blocks to the left of the yellow line and was granted freehold status on condition it was ‘used for purposes incidental to and connected with the amusement and recreation of the inhabitants of the town’. In 1894 is had 3 tennis courts. The bottom part is still a park today.
Norman House stood in End Street with its entrance on Davies Street. Some sources indicated that it was built by John Dale Lace. Others say Barney Barnato lived there in 1897 with John Dale Lace purchasing the mansion later. A report by the JDA says “The extant mansion called Norman House (Dale Lace House or Norman Nursing Home) opposite Doornfontein Park and adjacent to the Irene Church with its front entrance on End Street, was built in 1893 by the JCI for its founding member Barney Barnato. This later became the residence, albeit for a short while, of José and John Dale Lace.”
The report is dated May 2005 and the home was demolished sometime between 2005 and 2013.
As the wealthy randlords moved north over the hill to the new and more exclusive suburb of Parktown in the late 1890s and early 1900s (Barney Barnato built Barnato Park in Berea and John Dale Lace built Northwards in Parktown), many of these Doornfontein mansions – being too big and expensive to own or run on a modest income – where torn down and the land subdivided on which new houses or buildings were erected to accommodate a larger middle class population.
One such example is the Herbert Baker designed S.A. School of Music built in 1906 on what was the former tennis court of “leading businessman” Mr. Morris Rosenburg situated at 96 End Street. Its foundation stone was laid by Lady Farrar, wife of Sir George Farrar, on 26 January 1906. The building also served as a macaroni factory from 1926 before it was restored into the Adam Leslie Theatre in 1967. At one time, it was the only unplastered brick gable building in the Transvaal.
On 20 Augut 1976 it became MANDYS – a nightclub (in two incarnations under the same name) that saw through 70s disco and the 80s HI-NRG eras. In the late 80s it turned into IDOLS (with Larry manning the door RIP).
I went to Idols a couple of times in 1989/90. It was a two blocks away from THE JUNCTION which was more my thing (and the club that would have a lasting impression on my music taste and DJ career). Sometime later in the 90s after IDOLS, it became another popular dance club called ESP. Again, a legendary place and famous for going on non-stop right through to Sunday night. All three clubs were icons in their respective scenes and are fondly remembered by all who went there. I have a 90 minute tape from one of the nights at IDOLS and a bunch of old disco records with the MANDYS stamp like the example posted above. But I digress…
A stones throw from 96 End street stands Caledonian Hall
It was formerly the headquarters of the Johannesburg Caledonian Society up until 1939. It’s foundation stone was laid by Caledonian Chief A. Dickson on September 2, 1905 and it’s said that every brick and stone was brought over from Scotland. The building is in the Scottish Baronial style and was designed by Leck & Emley. It has served as an entertainment hall, catering establishment (Ginsberg Caterers), a warehouse, a carpet business and was also a popular nightclub in the late 80s or early 90s called Club Babylon which featured three floors all playing different music. I recall that it may have even been a club called IT in the mid-90s. I’m trying to verify this and will update the post when I do.
The building was unfortunately destroyed in a fire in March 2012. It stood up until 2014 as there was a possibility of a restoration. The facade was in an okay condition, but the roof was destroyed and the floors had all collapsed. As of 2015, what was left has been demolished.
Some general views of Doornfontein:
The source of the water was known as Natal Spruit. It ran down to a marshy area (which later became Ellis Park Lake) where Ellis Park stadium is today. Then it meandered through Jeppe at the dip, which was known as Natal Camp in the first years of Johannesburg, and made its way south over the main reef. There was apparently a small waterfall roughly where the M2 highway would have crossed the stream.
Special thanks to Andrew Wood for the old comps. He has scanned and shared many old comps, flyers and club-related newspaper articles from the 70s and 80s from his extensive collection.