In a nutshell, Wikipedia gives this information about the suburb where I live:

“Parkview is a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa. It borders the suburb of Greenside and overlooks Zoo Lake, a park which lies on the opposite side of Jan Smuts Avenue from the Johannesburg Zoo. All of its streets are named after Irish counties.”

The ancient homes here wear stone masonry characteristic to this residential node; they have iron pressed ceilings (which probably contain an unhealthy lead content) and floorboards hand crafted from Oregon Pines. These houses are often inhabited by third-generation families. In fact, properties here come quite rarely onto the market.

Our own crumbling pile is one of the ‘new’ houses in Parkview, having been built as recently as 1942.

Locals vehemently oppose modernization and applications from people wanting business rights on their land are unanimously vetoed. Modern convenience stores are verboten and support of the ‘high street’ shops is a proudly upheld tradition. The quirky population live a ‘village life’ and have included many famous names throughout the history ofJohannesburg; writers, artists and the finest legal minds.

The architecture in the high street is testament to the cheap labour that was available early in the 20th century; shop windows expertly carved, thick beveled glass, intricate staircases…

It’s a fairly insular community and newcomers aren’t exactly welcomed with open arms. But, occasionally, a ‘foreigner’ will worm his way in; a building may come on the market as a result of a deceased estate, some little old lady with no grandchildren waiting in the wings.

This happened in 2011. One of the most historic of the buildings was bought by a nouveau riche cowboy who believes that a bit of a makeover is needed ‘to bring in some light and make the shops pump with action and bring in big bucks’. Your man gutted the building, demolishing an oak staircase older than a century. He brought in neon lights and ersatz travertine marble flooring.

It all happened so fast, we were too late to lodge an objection with the authorities to try and protect the building and our little patch of history. The bugger must have a heart of galvanized steel, concrete running through his veins.

It’s sad, really sad.

This is my (late) contribution to Sidey’s latest theme.



  1. The last photo looks like a depiction of a modern amenities block in the sort of place where piss-and-shit (I don’t feel like using genteel words!) is hosed out with high pressure fire hoses.
    Beyond sad. 😦

  2. Oh that’s really sad! I remember when the municipality decided to cut down big trees that lined our streets a few years ago. There’re all more than 100 years old…and it’s so sad. I love old towns with histories and with every little things that have memories in them 🙂

  3. We visited your neighborhood when we were in Joburg earlier this year. We both loved that your shops were on an old fashioned tree-lined street and not in a mall in sight.
    What happened to the wood from the staircase? Was that salvaged?

  4. How awful 😦 So inappropriate in your area! To quell the naysayers there are obviously some circumstances where so called “modernising” works but not where the beauty is in the history! By the by – wonderful “Noel 2011 redux” post 🙂 you are looking so well!

  5. That Philistine needs to be locked up in his puke palace until he takes to dribbling to himself and playing with what he finds in his nappies.
    Then he should be disposed of.
    I hope everyone is sensible enough not to take bucks of any size anywhere near the place. That soulless space cries out for being deserted and unobserved.

  6. Tasteless. You want to ask him, “So you destroyed THAT to make THIS?!” Nope, I rather prefer the M&B up the street and the cupcake stand 😦

    • “Genuine American Oregon seasoned timber comes from the floorboards and roofing trusses recovered from houses and buildings constructed in South Africa in the early 1900’s. Oregon imported from Canada and North America was used in this era because a suitable structural timber was required for floors and roofing, and there were insufficient South African indigenous hardwoods, like yellowwood, to meet the demand without destroying our natural forests.”

  7. Vile style, that last place – what’s it to be, anyway?

    What a crime to demolish an oak staircase – he could have at least had it properly removed and preserved for sale

  8. That last picture is akin to a level in Dante…modernizing is one thing, but to have complete disregard for the history and the flow of what is in ones environment is rude and well, RUDE! Cowboy, indeed, the design looks like the ugly malls of America ~

  9. Wow, the one store front, strip mall looking building may be shabbily constructed as you say…But, so reminds me of the New Orleans “French Quarter”

    Bless You…
    Hummm what’s that smell? Is someone cooking “Ox -Tail” again?

  10. There is a law in this country for this but like so many others it is not enforced.The Heritage Society also has no teeth.We have the same problem in my area where a lot of the houses (including mine)are over a 100 years old.

  11. This nouveau riche cowboy certainly reinforces the bit about newcomers not being welcomed with open arms, which is quite sad to start off with.
    Have a Happy New Year – my bubbly is already nicely chilled.
    🙂 Mandy

  12. Oh misery. i can understand how dreadful you must feel seeing that bland result. Destruction is so fast and so final. My immediate question was where is the staircase? I hope they did not scrap it.. ! Awful.. Bloody Cowboys! c

  13. one of the joys of following your blog Cindy is learning about the are you live in, its quaint village life — and I feel, with you, the desecration of a lovely old property . I wonder if amongst the writers of your village there are any short story practitioners

  14. It sounds as if you live in a magical fantasy land. One where that silly man does not belong. Your shops are so interesting and beautiful. All we have is bland strip malls and even blander big box stores. No character and charm whatsoever. I remember the old, old JC Penny store from when I was a child. It had a huge wide staircase in the middle. It wasn’t grand but it was more interesting than an escalator which by the way I despise. There was a quaint little dress shop on main street where my mom bought all of my clothes. Now that part of town is the “bad” part of town where no one wants to go. Main street in the town I live in now keeps trying to stay alive but really it’s no use. It was built for another time. The economy can’t sustain it any longer.

    Hope you have a wonderful new year. All the best to you and yours. 🙂

  15. Hi My Friend…am not getting your notifications…again.
    What a gorgeous suburb…I must explore Cape Town…wonder if we have something like that here?
    I notice you have not posted for yonks…have you been away?

  16. Ive just moved to Parkview from abroad. Bought an old bungalow and refurbished completely. I appreciate the history and character features of the homes here but a lot of these old houses are impractical and shabby. Tin ceilings with rust, unsecure single glazed rickety timber windows, poor insulation, crummy old fashioned bathrooms, suboptimal heating, crumbling old brickwork. There is a lot of property here now coming on to the market most in dire need of updating. Time to start welcoming outsiders ’cause they’re paying top dollar for these old, shabby homes, turning them into beautiful contemporary dwellings befitting of the beautiful surroundings and in the process improving the security and increasing the calibre and value of the whole neighborhood.

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