Johannesburg from the air 1931

While I finish up the first part of the history of Braamfontein, here is some vintage aerial footage of Johannesburg showing some edges of Braamfontein.

Old aerial views of Johannesburg are hard to come by and sometimes tricky to pinpoint the location. The reason is that the city has been re-built so many times – the old demolished to make way for the new – that only a few historic buildings remain to act as reference.

This video from the recently released archives of British Pathe show a film taken from a plane in 1931 that flew over the city. I’ve managed to find a few old landmarks to help put some of the footage into perspective.

0.14 – This is Zoo Lake looking south-west across Parkview with the golf course in the middle and under-developed Emmerentia and Greenside just beyond. Further in the distance would be Melville Koppies, Rustenburg Road, Auckland Park, Cottesloe, Brixton and mine dumps. One doesn’t see the city in this shot due to the angle. My reference is the shape of Zoo lake and the position of the island as well as the triangle streets to the right which is where Parktown Girls is.

Aerial view of Zoo Lake. The shape and position of the island match the footage

Aerial view of Zoo Lake. The shape and position of the island match the footage

0.22 – The plane swings around and looks down in an easterly direction on the library building across the open circular area where the Cenotaph stands (unveiled by the Earl of Athlone on 10 October 1926). The open areas including the library and City Hall was the original Market Square seen in many old pictures of Johannesburg. Beyond that is the back of City Hall followed by the Rissik Street Post Office. Johannesburg’s oldest standing pub, The Guildhall, would be across the road on the right from the back of the open space where City Hall starts.

Cenotaph in what was once Market Square

Cenotaph in what was once Market Square

0.27 – The square at the bottom of the picture is the Union Ground looked on to the west. In front of the square at the bottom of the picture is the old Drill Hall. To the right beyond the railway lines but out of shot would be the Art Gallery and then Joubert Park. As the plane swings around one can see the Twist Street Bridge crossing the railway lines.

This aerial shot of the Union Ground is from the 1960s and shows the gallery and part of Joubert Park

This aerial shot of the Union Ground is from the 1960s and shows the gallery and part of Joubert Park

0.48 – The plane has swung around and now in the foreground is the original Wanderers Stadium right next to the Johannesburg Station with the Union Ground behind to the right just across the tracks looking east. It moves around focusing on the train station which in the 1940’s would take over the Wanderers. To the north (left) of the Wanderers is Braamfontein and specifically an area once know as Clifton.

Old Wanderers looking south toward railway station

Old Wanderers looking south toward railway station

0.57 – 1.10 – This appears to be a view of the city looking south with the Jeppe Street post office (the big block) and the Law Courts with the dome just behind it.

1.11 – Now looking just south of the Johannesburg railway station. The open park with a cross in it is Plein Park (also known as Atwell Gardens). This is where the old telephone tower once stood as well as the ‘tin temple’ which is where Johannesburg’s municipal offices were situated. They were literally a collection of buildings made out of corrugated iron. These were demolished in 1930 after the new City Hall (seen earlier) was completed (in 1915) and the offices moved. It looks as though it’s been transformed into a park post the ‘tin temple’ demolishing. The big building in front of it is the main railway station building (although it’s not seen in the picture below)

Plein Square from the 1950s

Plein Square from the 1950s

The Tin Temple with telephone tower before it was demolished

The Tin Temple with telephone tower before being demolished

1.24 – This looks like westward view to towards the Newtown area. Those long buildings look like the old potato sheds which were near the original abattoir.

Aerial view of Newtown form 1930s. The sheds in the bottom left are the ones seen from the opposite side in the film

Aerial view of Newtown form 1930s. The sheds in the bottom left are the ones seen from the opposite side in the film

1.28 – The shot moves south toward the Standard Bank building on Harrison Street with Commissioner Street running across the front at the bottom. At least I think so. I’m not entirely convinced this is correct.

Old Standard Bank building in Harrison Street

Old Standard Bank building in Harrison Street

Any corrections welcome!

 

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This entry was published on June 23, 2014 at 9:44 am. It’s filed under Johannesburg and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “Johannesburg from the air 1931

  1. Excellent work, Marc.It must have taken a lot of pauses and scrutiny to identify the various places. Thanks. This blog (once complete) should be marketed with your upcoming book as a flash disk or DVD as part of the package.
    I am keeping abreast of your updates by coming back here at least once a week.
    Barry Eslick.

    • Marc Latilla on said:

      Thanks Barry! Fortunately it wasn’t a long clip but finding the photo reference did take the best part of a day. Good idea on the flash/comic combo…I never thought of that.

  2. Anthony Bass on said:

    In the 1990’s at Aircraft Operating Company photos maps of of johannesburg in the thirties that were produce by AOC were sent away to have the silver taken out of the pictures. I was told that the city council survey department did also have copies of those maps. Maybe they are still buried at civic towers.

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