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Protecting Joburg’s Past

Protecting Joburg’s Past

The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation has come up with its own rating system for buildings: find out all about it here.

The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation  (JHF, formerly known as the Parktown Westcliff Heritage Trust) was founded in 1985, when bulldozers were knocking down houses by the dozen in Parktown for the hospital, for the park, for the College of Education and, eventually, for office blocks. The trust has ensured the longevity of most heritage houses in Parktown and Westcliff, and today the Parktown Ridge Heritage Area protects the ridge of Rockridge Road above and the Valley Road below. There are 16 Provincial Heritage Sites in Parktown, and blue Heritage Plaques have been placed on many more sites in the area. Fortunately, the suburb of Westcliff has not experienced the same commercial pressures, and the attitude of the owners is overwhelmingly in favour of conserving the heritage, both built and natural.

Protecting Heritage

Parktown Westcliff Heritage Trust chairperson, Flo Bird, explains that it was necessary to change the name to reflect the role that the trust has been playing for many years – protecting the heritage of greater Johannesburg. The first task the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation undertook was to assess the buildings in the centre of town and publish these on their website.

Listing a heritage building is the duty of the Provincial Heritage Resources Authority Gauteng (PHRAG), but the JHF has taken over the task ‘since they have shown no sign of doing this,’ says Bird, who explains, ‘The City commissioned a number of excellent surveys on the city centre but they were never taken to the next stage of assigning a value to determine whether they required protection.’

The JHF Ratings System

The JHF has assessed several buildings and come up with its own ratings system, laid down as follows:

  • A: Outstanding Heritage Value. 

Of historical and architectural value, such as the City Hall, which is now the Gauteng Legislature. This could also be one of the truly exceptional buildings, like Patidar Mansions. Don’t even consider touching these treasures.

  • B: Fine Building.

Beautiful and probably a good example of a period or the work of an excellent architect, with historical interest. It may also have landmark value, such as Stuttafords. Touch with very great care, after consultation, but don’t think of demolition.

  • C: Good Building.

Part of a significant group but possibly only a façade. Don’t touch without consultation, but changes are possible. Demolition will be resisted.

Weekly Tours

For a richer understanding of Joburg’s heritage, take one of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation’s, weekly tours, which include unusual places and spaces that are off the tourist route. Consult for a list of heritage sites in Johannesburg, including sites of political interest, such as David Webster’s house in Troyeville.

Contact Details

Text: Jocelyn Warrington and Andrea Vinassa

Photographs: Elsa Young, Supplied

Find out more about the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation at

Find out more about Johannesburg heritage sites at

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