Walking tour through 125 years of Joburg’s history

Saturday morning we joined a walking tour of Joburg’s inner city. “Through the lens: 125 years of Johannesburg photography” was a fascinating trip through the city’s history using collected photographs as a guide. A city walk takes on new meaning when you take its history along with you, making comparisons between its past and present on every block. It’s an interesting way to track a city’s progress or the lack of it, to get back to what the planners intended or how they got it all so wrong.

Using historical photos as a guide also creates anticipation – Was that beautiful building replaced by a parking lot or now a derelict burnt-out shell or will it have been appreciated and better yet, restored? Joburg is not fond of history. And for much of this mining camp’s life it has spent more time taking things down than shoring them up. It’s a place often lacking in nostalgia.

Market Square in 1895. farmers from as far away as Potchedsroom and Middelburg brought their crops to sell. From Johannesburg One Hundred.

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Rissik Street post office in flames

#164. Lament the passing of the historic Rissik Street Post Office that was almost all but destroyed by a fire on Sunday night. I was in Cape Town at the time admiring the Stellenbosch winelands, thinking about the Dutch and how lucky they must have considered themselves when they landed in some of the most beautiful landscape on earth. Joburg doesn’t make the news in that city.

Rissik Street Post Office by Victor Dlamini for The Daily Maverick

Risski Street Post Office by Victor Dlamini for The Daily Maverick

SA’s newest smart online news source The Daily Maverick (still for people with brains and money) captured some dramatic images of the building in flames. To see more of them click here.

Said to be “the second to oldest building” in the city  according to Joburg’s website — the Rissik Street Post Office goes back to 1897. It was designed by designed by Sytze Wierda, President Paul Kruger’s architect. It has been vacant since the Post Office left the building in 1996.

Ironically I came across a great article on the architectural history of  the post office that carried this intro on August 11, 2008: “Is there finally light at the end of the tunnel for the Rissik Street Post Office …” It’s alight alright.

The city has been reporting that the fire destroyed the building just days before a scheduled meeting into tenders for its redevelopment.