Lost Braamfontein

Lost Braamfontein

by Marc Latilla                              Posted: 2014/09/29

Ever wondered what trendy Braamies used to be like? Our resident historian goes digging.

Braamfontein has been known by many names. Most are now long forgotten, but once 'Wanderers View', 'Clifton' and 'Argyle' were well established areas within the Braamfontein we know today and had their own charm and character. Also forgotten are long-lost buildings and houses in these areas and that made way for modern office blocks and civic structures. 

Here is a selection of 'Lost Braamfontein.'

Braamfontein Post Office  

This is one of three similar post offices designed by Sytze Weirda's Public Works Department (the other two were in Jeppe and Fordsburg with Jeppe being the only one still standing). Weirda was Chief of Public Works for ZAR and designed the Rissik Street post office, the Plein Street telephone tower as well as other government buildings in both Johannesburg and Pretoria. The Braamfontein post office (which was identical to Jeppe's) was built in 1898 on the corner of Biccard and De Korte Streets. It was demolished in 1966 to make way for a bigger and more modern post office building.

Dutch Reform Church

This church stood on the block bounded by Jorrisen, De Korte and Harrison Streets and dates back to 1897. A year later, a parsonage was added for the Rev. A. Martens, which was erected on the Harrison Street side. This addition was designed by Reid & Green.

Braamfontein Dutch Reform Church from 1905

Clifton Methodist Church

One of the last remnants of the name 'Clifton' was the Clifton Methodist Church on De Korte Street (designed by G. Fleming), which was also built in 1897. It was demolished in 1973 and is now  Damelin College.

Pirate Bottle Store

Just a few blocks away from the Methodist Church stood the Pirate Bottle Store on the corner of De Korte and Biccard Streets. It was owned by liquor merchants Jooste and Bryant, whose original building still stands in Jeppe (and is the only building left on Johannesburg with the iron lettering still on the roof). It was built in 1894 and designed by Charles R. Snell. In 1897 an additional warehouse/shed was added by Snell and Waterson. The store with its iron lettering on the roof can be seen vaguely in the middle of the picture below.

Freeman Cottage And Shops

This was diagonally across the road from Kitcheners. It was a cottage/shop designed by H.A. Goodman for Mr. Freeman and dates back to 1894. It was common for shop owners to live on the premises.

Shop plans

Clifton Hotel

This hotel was across the road from Kitcheners and built in 1899 for owners Bisschop, Mesdas & Co. There were many similarly designed hotels in the area of which Kitcheners and the old Devonshire are good examples.

Hotel plans

South African Hotel

This is another example of a typical hotel which was on the corner of Wessels and Juta Street across from the Braamfontein Cemetery. Braamfontein lost Graaf & Wessels Streets to the M1 highway in the late 1960s.

Devonshire Hotel

Official sites date this hotel to the 1930s but one can see from the early pictures that it was more likely to have been built around late 1890s or early 1900s as it is in the same style and structure of other hotels in the area with verified dates. The original building no longer exists.

Devonshire Hotel in the 1960s

Buildings And Houses Lost To The Civic Centre

In 1950, the need for a Civic Centre was established. Further planning was deferred until 1953 due to lack of funds. In 1954, the council started negotiating with the home and property owners in the land earmarked for development. This was completed by June 1960. Demolitions, road closures and site clearance followed. A design competition was held and the winner was picked in 1962. By 1967, excavations for the underground parking and basement levels were on track. Contracts for the two blocks were awarded (around some further financial constraints) and the Civic Centre was completed in 1971. The one-way system around the Centre (which still exists today) came under some criticism. It was explained that the purpose was to ensure that officials arriving to work late didn't collide with those leaving early... a light-hearted observation, I'd imagine.

Map showing the area where houses were demolished for the Civic complex

All Saints Clifton Parish Hall

This was a church built in 1906 and designed by Thomas Anderson Moodie. In 1933, an organ was added. It stood where the Civic Theatre Gardens are now.

Here are various examples of buildings, flats and houses that have been demolished over the years:

58 Ameshoff Street

Double story semi

Flats in Juta Street

Simmonds Street houses

And there you have it. The trendy suburb we all know and love, way back when. 

Visit for more history of Johannesburg by suburb.

Ever wondered what trendy Braamies used to be like? Our resident historian goes digging.


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