Photoblog: Johannesburg – then and now

Posted on 7 June 2013

A few weeks ago, I did a photoblog of Cape Town as it looked back-in-the-day and as we see it now. (check out: Photoblog: Cape Town – then and now). Some readers asked me to do one of Johannesburg. At first I was a bit hesitant as I thought it would be a bit dull and boring. However I was knocked off my feet by the history Johannesburg hides beneath her steely facade of imposing apartment blocks, unsympathetic offices and colossal hotels. Now I can’t wait to visit there again to explore some of her past. Here are some images of Johannesburg then and modern Jozi as we know it now.

Doornfontein which was formed in the 1880s is the oldest residential suburb of Johannesburg by 1897 it was known as "Millionaire's Row" due to the developments in the area by mining tycoon Barney Barnato. Over the years Doornfontein was forsaken for the popular Parktown and was overrun with slum and industrial areas. Today the community theatre and arts centre, which was built in 1896, is one of the only remaining family mansions.

Image Source: Book Drum

The Turffontein Horse Race Track was opened in 1887 and the races was a feature of early city life in Johannesburg. The race-track still stands today as one of South Africa's premium horse-racing venues.

Image Source: Sansui Summer Cup

This open space was planned for the early Johannesburg CBD back in 1887. From the day it opened in 1906 this green space in the city has offered a respite from daily life in Joburg's hustle and bustle.

Image Source: Urban Space Interpreters

Johannesburg built its first government building in 1888 on Rissik Street. This was taken over by the post office and it still stands in the city today. During its time as the post office, many postcards (such as this one) with images depicting the building were sent out to loved ones.

Image Source: Joburg through the Lens and University of Pretoria

Prichard Street quickly became one of the main roads in Johannesburg along with Comissioner Street. It is often compared to the shopping streets of Bond and Regent in London.

Image Source: Google Maps

The old Wanderers Cricket Stadium in Johannesburg was open between 1895 and 1939 and it hosted 22 test matches during this time. Today it has been replaced with the new Bidvest Wanderers Cricket Stadium which is an iconic cricketing venue in South Africa.

Image Source: Theodora

In 1890 the gold industry was growing in South Africa, and the suburb of Yeoville was formed. Mr Thomas Yeo Sherwell, who established the suburb, heralded from the UK town of Yeovil. This popular up-market area offered its residents spectacular views over the city. Today this vibrant suburb is home to people from all over Africa and is undergoing some major upgrading projects after its serious decline in the 1990s.

Image Source: Bike Explorer

In 1890 on Braamfontein Farm, Edouard Lippert, built his historic Johannesburg home in Parktown naming it Marienhof after his wife. The farm was bought in 1916 and renamed Onder Kopjes but it was sadly demolished in 1969 to build the freeway. Today ruins of this historic house still line this busy Joburg road.

Image Source: Blue Plaques

Johannesburg's iconic City Hall has seen its share of history over the decades and plans to beautify this area are still underway in modern Johannesburg today.

Image Source: Blue Plaques and Heritage Portal

Historical images courtesy of Sky Scraper City

Ed’s note

I was having a conversation with our magazine editor Cameron Ewart-Smith about how Johannesburg has upped the ante as a travel destination and is not just a stopover for international travellers heading to the bush or the coast. Seeing these images from then and now has given me even more of a reason to go exploring in the big city. It’s inspired a vast collection of write ups from our bloggers on everything from things to do, places to eat, where to stay and a host of activities in and around Johannesburg (click on that link and scroll though the posts to see what I’m talking about, there’s a lot there). And remember, if you’re looking for a place to stay while you’re in Jozi you’ll find everything from affordable B&Bs to backpackers to luxury lodges in Johannesburg here.

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