History of Hillbrow Pt.2

Hospital Hill and History of Hillbrow Pt.1 are the other two parts of the research.

This quaint little fire Station, completed in 1912, was originally known as the Northern Districts Fire Station Hillbrow is still operational and known as Berea Fire Station. It’s located at the top end of Banket Street near Louis Botha Avenue and the Raandjeslaagte beacon.

Hillbrow firestation plans

Fire station plans from 1910

Hillbrow fire station 1936

The fire station in 1936

From the Wikipedia page c/o Bobby Shabangu: Designed by G. S. Burt Andrews, the foundation stone was laid on 15 October 1910 by Mrs D.W.Sims…who was the sister of Harry Graumann who was the mayor at that time, and the first Jewish mayor of Johannesburg. The first fire engines were horse-drawn and were later motorised. After World War 1,  petrol driven engines were used. The fireman’s quarters were rebuilt around 1960. The dormer windows and garages were later additions.

Fireman's quarters on Banket Street 2016

Fireman’s quarters on Banket Street 2016

Hillbrow firestation 2011

The fire station in 2011

Across the road from the fire station in Banket street is Ridgeview. It was designed by Charles Small in 1931 and is a 1920s post-Edwardian classicism inspired apartment block.

Ridgeview shortly after completion

Ridgeview shortly after completion

Also of interest and connected to Ridgeview is the architect Theo Schaerer. He designed the Traansvaalsche Bank on the corner of Fox & Sauer Street in 1905, the German church on Twist street and did the alteration plans for the original German school (further up in the post). He appears to have owned two stands on the corners of East Avenue (now Louis Botha Ave), Willie street and Banket street along with a certain G. Muirhead, and lived in one of the houses – Possibly the one bordering Louis Botha Ave. It’s not known when the houses were designed or built, but he designed new stables and a garage in 1913 and did some alteration to the residence in 1914. Ridgeview, built in the 1930s, is now on the one stand and it’s possible from the picture above, that Schaerer’s house (or stable/garage) is what is visible on the other stand on the right. Today a half-circular block of flats is on that stand.

Ridgeview in 2016

Ridgeview in 2016 with the fireman’s quarters in view

In 1966, for JHBs 80th birthday, the city engineers department straightened the northern end of Banket Street where it met East Avenue (Now Louis Botha Ave). The beacon was also renovated and given a new base. The plaque was unveiled on 4th October 1966.

Shot of the top o

View of the redesigned section from late 1960s showing the fire station and Ridgeview

Beacon from 1966

Beacon from 1966

Clarendon Circle (named after Earl of Clarendon, Governor-General 1930-37) was an experiment in traffic control. The circle was meant to control traffic at the intersections of Twist Street, Empire Road, Park Lane and East Ave (now known as Louis Botha Ave).

Clarendon Circle from 1938

Clarendon Circle from 1938

From the City Engineer’s 1932 report: “Gyratory traffic control is obtained by means of this circle, 100 feet in diameter, with a minimum width of a carriageway at any point of 28 feet 9 inches. A pathway 6 feet wide provided on the outer circumference of the circle is divided from the inner portion, which has been laid out in lawns, palms and shrubs, but a low wrought iron railing set on a brick kerb with tile coping. At night the circle and its surroundings are brilliantly lit, and kerb lights consisting of red arrows indicate direction of traffic”

View of the circle from now closed off Park Lane Road

View of the circle from now closed off Park Lane Road

Ground view of Clarendon Circle looking up Twist Street

Ground view of Clarendon Circle looking up Twist Street

With the further increase of traffic and installation of traffic lights throughout the city, it was 25 years later that the intersection was redesigned and modernised by Bernard Carlsson. The circle was causing traffic delays of up to 20 minutes during peak periods and needed 5 pointsmen to direct traffic. It also took up most of the road which compounded the traffic problem.

Clarendon circle before and after redesign

Clarendon circle before and after redesign

On the 6 May 1959 East Avenue’s name was changed to Clarendon Place. Interestingly Clarendon Place and Diagonal Street both line up with the western boundary of the original Raandjeslaagte triangle. I lived in the three-story art deco building (Brenthurst Place) in the picture above between 1988-1991.

The intersection from 2011 taken from the roof of Brenthurst Place

The intersection from 2011 taken from the roof of Brenthurst Place

Clarendon Place used to be the Twist Street Tram terminus where policeman ‘Smiler Smith’ would stand on a soap box and salute the motorists.

Majestic Mansions on Clarendon Place was built in the mid-1920s and designed by Cowin, Powers and Ellis. It was a distinctive four-story block of flats full of character. Each of the sixty flats were slightly different from each other.

Original Majestic Mansions from 1970

Original Majestic Mansions from 1970

It was demolished in the 1970s and replaced with two modern and taller blocks of flats (it can be seen in the picture above of the intersection from 2011). Below is an early  drawing by Moross & Graff of the new Majestic Mansions from 1964. Some of the trees on the border dating back to the 1920s still survive.

Article on the Mansion's demolishen

Article on the Mansion’s demolition from 1971

Plans for the new building

Plans for the new building

On the corner of Clarendon Place and Caroline street is Christ Church. It was built in 1908 and designed by Gilbert St John Cottrill.

Church in 2014

Christ Church Hillbrow in 2014

Christ Church Hillbrow side view

Christ Church Hillbrow side view

The other side

The other side

History of Hillbrow Pt.1 featured Ingram’s Pharmacy. Another famous pharmacy was Milton’s Pharmacy in Kotze street (who eventually bought out Fred Ingram and many other others as the area declined in the 80s and 90s).

Milton Pharmacy Kotze Street

Milton Pharmacy Kotze Street

Below is an excerpt from ‘The story of a pharmacist in Hillbrow: 1955 – 1997’:

“At that time Hillbrow was a vibrant, thriving and exciting cosmopolitan suburb, peopled mainly by Germans, Italians, Greeks and Britons. With trams and afterwards buses frequently passing through its streets, it was easily accessible. Because of its many tall buildings, Hillbrow was regarded as the most built-up area in South Africa. Within its comparatively small limits were parks, hospitals, nursing homes, opticians, dental and medical practices, two tailors, restaurants, continental styled cafés and lounges, interesting stores including bakeries and delicatessens, cinemas, theatres, hotels and night clubs.

Cyril’s Wardrobe was the favourite store for those with money. Milky Lane pioneered fresh fruit juices and milkshakes. Exclusive Books first opened in Hillbrow and was the Saturday night haunt of those in and outside the area who browsed through the books on the shelves while listening to softly playing classical music. The Porterhouse pioneered T-bone steaks and was a great favourite. Lionel Korp the optician, at great cost to himself, fed the pigeons every day and from noon onwards the overhead wires, poles and balconies in Kotze Street were filled with thousands of birds awaiting their lunch. It became one of the sights of Hillbrow. For those who needed to swim in winter, there was the Hillbrow indoor heated pool. Dating couples had the choice of going, among others, to the Ambassador Hotel or the Chelsea Hotel, where discothèques provided music, to the upmarket  Summit Club, and to Fontana bakery at Highpoint which provided every kind of food for those still awake in the early hours of the morning.

Sam and his wife, along with other Hillbrovniks, made full use of the many cafés that made Hillbrow so attractive a place to live in. The Golden Ray Café was the first and oldest of them. Later, the Florian, Café Paris, Café Kranzler, Café Wien, Café Zurich and Café Pigalle enticed thousands to sit in their comfortable chairs on upstairs balconies or on their pavements and listen to music while drinking coffee, eating cake and reading newspapers from all over the world.

Nearby was the ‘Jo’burg Gen’ (later to become the Hillbrow Hospital when the Johannesburg Hospital moved to Parktown), and the Florence Nightingale Nursing Home.”

Pharmacists Gluckman & Rubin

Pharmacists Gluckman & Rubin

I remember both Sam Gluckman and Gerald Rubin from my teenage years in Hillbrow in the late 80s and early 90s as I was often visiting the dispensary collecting scripts for my hypochondriac mother.

Temple Israel Hillbrow still stands on the corner of Claim and Paul Nel Streets. This from their website: “According to The Star on December 28, 1933, the Liberal Jewish movement in South Africa… has purchased a site for the erection of a Liberal Jewish Synagogue in Johannesburg, the first in South Africa.  “The site covers three-quarters of an acre, and is situated in Empire Road, corner of Hillside Road, just a few minutes from Clarendon Circle and Twist Street tram terminus.”

Temple Israel, Hillbrow, synagogues

Temple Israel Hillbrow

The foundation stone of Temple Israel was laid by the then Mayor of Johannesburg, Councilor Maurice Freeman, on 22 September 1935, and the official opening of the shul took place on 23 August 1936.”  It was designed by architects Kallenbach, Kennedy and Furner.

Hillbrow’s alleys have always been seen in a negative light due to them being magnets for criminality. These alleys were originally sanitary lanes and were part of the planning of the suburb when it was still just residential homes. Examples of these sanitary lanes in their original setting can still be found in older suburbs like Brixton and Parktown North. Introduced by Samuel Goldreich who later regretted the error, the alleys were narrow lanes that ran through the blocks at the back of the houses where horse-drawn night soil wagons would collect and empty the household toilet buckets. This was all before waterborne sewerage systems. When Hillbrow and Braamfontein were being redeveloped in the 1940s – 1960s, these lanes remained even as high-rise flats and buildings took the place of the original suburban houses. I recall when living in Hillbrow that garbage trucks could drive through them and many buildings and businesses would have their bins at easy access for the trucks in the alleys. It kept the rubbish away from the pavements and building entrances. Many are now simply blocked off or access controlled as they are still security risks.

Typical Alley in Hillbrow

Typical Alley in Hillbrow

Below are pictures of some surviving buildings and flats:

Art Deco flats in Quartz Street

Art Deco flats in Quartz Street

Clarendon Court at the top of Banket Street across from the fire station

Clarendon Court at the top of Banket Street across from the fire station

Goldreich Court

Goldreich Court

Ilkley Chambers in Klein Street

Ilkley Chambers in Klein Street

Murray Flats Klein Street

Murray Flats Klein Street

Old warehouse on Pietersen Street

Old warehouse on Pietersen Street

Old apartments on Edith Cavell Street

Old apartments on Edith Cavell Street

Old Flats in Banket street close to Nugget Hill

Old Flats in Banket street close to Nugget Hill

Millbro Court on Pretoria Street (the old No.58)

Millbro Court on Pretoria Street (the old No.58)

Although I don’t normally focus on anything past 1920, I do feel the need to add some later pictures of Hillbrow. As described earlier, it served as home for many people in its heyday between 1960-1990 and there seems to be a great demand for old and new pictures from this era. I’ve collected a whole lot (below) from various sources including John Stewart’s album on Facebook. Do visit the Facebook group ‘Who partied in Hillbrow between 1975 and 1990?’ for more and other Hillbrow groups. I lived in Hillbrow from 1987 – 1995 and do feel some level of nostalgia.

Hillbrow postcard

Hillbrow postcard

Hillbrow in the 1980s

Hillbrow in the 1970s

We frequented places like Café Three sisters, Café Wien, Café Kranzler, Golden Egg, Hillbrow Records, Look & Listen, Exclusive Books, Estoril Books, the underground Flea Market with Cosmi-Comics, Total Chaos, the gaming shop run by Alan Melville and the tattoo shop where I got my first – the Einsturzende Neubauten man with my (still) wife’s initials underneath. There was also the Mini Cine where we watched Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’, Clockwork Orange, Unbearable Lightness of Being, various Monty Python films and moshed upfront to ‘The Great rock n Roll Swindle’.

Hillbrow underground flea market

Hillbrow Underground Flea Market poster 1973

Cafe de Paris Hillbrow

Cafe de Paris Hillbrow

Cafe Zurich

Cafe Zurich Hillbrow (orange signage on the second floor)

Exclusive books, Hillbrow

Exclusive Books in Pretoria Street next to Hillbrow Records. The original store was in Kotze Street

Hillbrow Records

Hillbrow Record Centre Pretoria Street

Patrick Talmage RIP outside the original Look & Listen on Pretoria Street

Patrick (RIP) outside the original Look & Listen on Pretoria Street around 1989 or 1990

Estoril Books exterior

Estoril Books next to the Checkers on Pretoria Street

Original Estoril Books Hillbrow

Inside Estoril Books Hillbrow

Bimbos on the corner of Banket and Kotze.

Bimbos on the corner of Banket and Kotze.

Cafe Three Sisters with Andrew, Patrick and x

Cafe Three Sisters with Andrew, Patrick and Ulla corner of Pretoria and Claim street

Kotze side of Highpoint looking west

Kotze side of Highpoint looking west

Highpoint near Fontana

Highpoint near Fontana

Hillbrow medical centre corner Kotze and Claim streets

Hillbrow medical centre corner Kotze and Claim streets

I worked as a DJ at Bella Napoli downstairs from 91-93 and my wife and I lived in Kings Langley on Paul Nel street up to about 1995 until we eventually moved out of Hillbrow to Lauriston Court in Orange Grove.

Finally, here are a few views of Pretoria and Kotze street from December 2015. Most of Hillbrow, outside of a few well-known landmarks, is unrecognisable.

Pretoria Street looking east with Harrison Reef Hotel on the left mid picture

Pretoria Street looking east with Harrison Reef Hotel on the left mid picture

Similar angle to teh above picture from 1970s with Castle Inn on the left and Harrison Reef Hotel further up

Similar angle to the above picture from the early 1970s with Castle Inn on the left and Harrison Reef Hotel further up

Chelsea Hotel from early 2015

Chelsea Hotel from early 2015

Chelsea Hotel in the 1980s

Chelsea Hotel in the 1980s

Corner of Banket and Kotze looking west down Kotze 2015

Corner of Banket and Kotze looking west down Kotze 2015

Old post office at the base of Hillbrow Tower 2015

Old post office at the base of Hillbrow Tower 2015

Summit Club from 2015

Summit Club from 2015

Site of the old Mini cine and underground flea market Pretoria Street 2015

Site of the old Mini Cine and underground flea market Pretoria Street 2015

Site of the old Cafe Zurich and Mi Vami 2015

Site of the old Cafe Zurich and Mi Vami 2015

Corner of Twist and Kotze looking east toward Highpoint

Corner of Twist and Kotze looking east toward Highpoint

Old shops on the corner of Klein and Kotze Streets

Old shops on the corner of Klein and Kotze Streets

Clarendon Circle 2015

Clarendon Circle 2015

Pretoria Street site of Bella Napoli

Pretoria Street site of Bella Napoli (Ackermans)

Outside Bella Napoli 1980s

Outside Bella Napoli 1980s

 

The following sites provided additional reference for the Hillbrow posts:

 

http://www.dsj.co.za/en/about/history.html

https://adcockhistory.wordpress.com/

http://www.jewishgen.org/safrica/newsletter/SA-SIG-NL-2007-06.pdf

http://www.jda.org.za/index.php/latest-news/46-news-2008/january

Clive Chipkin’s ‘Johannesburg Style’ was extremely useful especially for old building pictures and the explanations of Hillbrow architecture from 1930- 1960.

Johannesburg: The cosmopolitan city by Laurence Hughes for some of the 1970s photos

Thanks to Andrew Wood for the Look & Listen and Three Sisters photos

 

 

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This entry was published on February 9, 2016 at 10:08 pm. It’s filed under Johannesburg and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

17 thoughts on “History of Hillbrow Pt.2

  1. Wow. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
    I lived in various parts of JHB including Hillbrow from about 1970 – 1985 and used to jol at Bella Napoli and other places. Also often used to go to Bimbos and the Golden Egg and the disco at the Chelsea. And I’ll always remember the Three Sisters because they had a restaurant upstairs where I went for my 18th birthday, was feeling very adventurous and ate sheep’s brains as a salad!

  2. Thank you for your fascinating article, Marc. When we were first married we lived in Hillbrow in the early seventies and have happy memories of life in the suburb in those days. In the late sixties Exclusive Books was situated in much smaller and more intimate premises in Kotze Street before moving to the bigger store next to the Hillbrow Record Centre.

  3. Fred Craandyk on said:

    What a pity that Hillbrow has gone down the drain completely. Nothing of the charm it once had has been left. Than comes the question, why this massive destruction ????

  4. Thank you for all of this! It’s a trip down memory lane for my father who is in his late 60s now! He moved to South Africa back in 1972, so seeing this brings back so many happy memories to him! You wouldn’t believe how one small picture could brighten up his whole day 🙂

  5. Great work Marc. It was lovely meeting you on Ish’s Doornfontein walking tour a couple of weeks ago. Keep up the good work and look forward to seeing more!

    • Marc Latilla on said:

      Thanks Eli and great meeting you! I’m still updating all my Doornfontein posts with the new information and pictures I got from Ish’s tour.

  6. Linda Naidoo on said:

    Wow! A trip down memory lane, I mentioned to a colleague that I used to live in Hillbrow in the early 90’s, then went online to look for the Sentinel on van der Merwe Street, -unrecognisable. I don’t recognise modern day Pretoria Street at all. I remember the OK, I bought my first bed there. I remember Cafe Three Sisters and Golden Egg…..NOSTALGIC AFTERNOON!

  7. In 1993, we used to live in no 77 The Sentinel. Had loads of fun there (our first flat away from home), but sadly left the area in late 1993 when things started getting a bit rough. Used to drive my mom dilly when we used to go up to the roof and “hang” (bend) over the top wall near the washlines – she used to freak out! Amazing views from the rooftop – I took some stunning sunset photographs from there.

  8. billy shields on said:

    Having known Hillbrow and surrounds from 1962-1998 like the back of my hand.What lovely memories of the buildings,clubs shops alleys etc.I knew them all

  9. bruna dessena on said:

    loved the article, I was training as a paramedic in the early eighties, and worked Hillbrow for 17 years , even published a book” tales from my stethoscope”. best training any medic could receive at Joburg Gen, Hillbrow hospital and Bara. I got to know so many of the old beautiful buildings in and around the city centre, with their old checked black and while tiled floors and brass lifts!

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