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Friday Jul 15, 2016

Joburg's first 'skyscraper' converted into apartments

The historic 1893 grand dame of the CBD, the Stuttafords building in the Joburg city centre, has been restored to its former glory.

The entrance to the newly refurbished Stuttafords building.

The building has been converted into residential units by the Affordable Housing Company (Afhco) but its heritage has been maintained.

Situated on the corner of Pritchard and Rissik streets, the building has a rich heritage. It became the hub of fashion at a time when Pritchard Street was fast becoming a popular shopping destination.

According to F Gill, author of The Story of Stuttafords: Commemorating the first Centenary of Stuttaford and Company Limited, the shopkeepers lit their windows after business hours and on Saturday nights when the miners hit the town to spend their wages and Pritchard Street blazed with light.

"A tremendous boom was now sweeping the goldfields," she writes .

In 1894, the Stuttafords catalogue exceeded 700 pages, offering everything from ladies' fashion to bicycles and cameras.

Author CM Chipkin, in his book Architecture and Society 1880s-1960s, writes: "Pritchard Street with its brilliantly lit windows and gay Chinese lantern illuminations, retained its prominence into the post-Edwardian age, when Eloff Street began its rise to prominence.

"A contemporary account of Pritchard Street on a Saturday night in the 1890s describes the night blazing with electric light from end to end, and the (goods) temptingly displayed behind the huge plate glass windows of the big emporiums... The attractions of this magically modern consumer street in the midst of the dark Highveld night became one of the wonders of this rising metropolis for gawking visitors from remote areas of the platteland."

An old photograph of Joburg's first skyscraper.

Across the road from the Stuttafords building were the original mine camps, the first mines that were developed in Joburg.

On February 19, 1896, a freight train loaded with dynamite exploded at a siding at the Braamfontein station. The force of the explosion caused the destruction of numerous buildings within the proximity of the station, shattering the Stuttaford building's windows.

It was almost impossible to get replacement glass at the time, writes Gill, because every shop in town needed new glass.

The glass was eventually sent from Cape Town.

In 1923, the Stuttafords family consolidated the building and built another wing to it, building a clothing store outlet and coffee shop.

The land on which the building stands was purchased by Thorne Stuttaford & Co from Joseph Apsey who bought the stand at the first public auction within the mining camp in 1886.

The property was sold in 1973 when Stuttafords relocated to Sandton.

Afhco acquired the building in 2007 and has worked closely with the Provincial Heritage Resources Authority Gauteng to maintain the valuable parts of the building during its overhaul.

Afhco has converted the building into a residential living space with 120 apartments. Most of the original structure has been maintained to preserve the heritage.

A study was also conducted for the refurbishment by Afhco by Dr Johann J Bruwer, which found that the building was of architectural, historical and cultural significance.

In addition, it made history as the city's first skyscraper.

City Watch
The Star


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