Egoli Heritage Foundation condemns the destruction of historical Pageview school

It is with dismay that the Egoli Heritage Foundation (EHF) has noted recent developments in Pageview. At the time of writing, the former sites of the Queenspark Grounds and the Krause Street Primary School, were being consolidated into a large parking lot for buses owned by a company called Gauteng Coaches. A number of historic structures at the school site have been demolished – it is strongly believed without the necessary heritage approvals.  While the City of Johannesburg has issued a stop order, appeals to the Provincial Gauteng Heritage Resources Authority Gauteng (PHRAG) to take action against the developer have fallen on deaf ears.

 

Furthermore, it is alleged that the ward councillor advised the owners that a permit from PHRAG was not necessary, despite the fact that this culturally significant building is over sixty years old and protected in terms of Section 34 of the ………(NHRA). If true, this badly considered advice is a matter for grave concern.      

 

The Krause Street School is thought to date back to 1894 along with the founding of what is today known as Pageview, where coloured and later Indian people could occupy land. Together with neighbouring Vrededorp, the area became known as ‘Fietas’ – a vibrant commercial and multiracial community. In light of the introduction of the Group Areas Act, it was declared a ‘whites only’ area. From 1964 to the early 1980s residents of colour were evicted or forcibly removed and large sections were bulldozed. This makes Pageview as significant as District Six in Cape Town but it has not been afforded the same protection and recognition by the authorities.

 

“We bemoan the destruction of Sophiatown and District Six, but in Pageview a sizeable piece of heritage was left intact after 1994 – only for the present administration to turn a blind eye to the destruction of this legacy’, says EHF and Heritage Monitoring Project chairperson, Jacques Stoltz.   

 

The school has served as a learning facility for over a century (most recently occupied by the Task Academy). The EHF feels strongly that a perfectly useful structure with cultural significance, which could still function as an inner city school or social amenity, falling within a development corridor, should not be sold by the City of Johannesburg to eventually end up as a parking lot for buses.

 

“Yet again, government has scored an own goal through short-termist thinking. A perfectly good school in a strategically well-located area and within a densification corridor in need of social and educational facilities has ended up as a massive parking lot”, Stoltz says.   

 

Adjacent to the school is a cluster of religious and educational buildings that all have historic, social and cultural significance particularly within the context of the struggle against apartheid. These include the Tamil Hall (1941), the Jaibhay Memorial School (1931), St Anthony’s Presbyterian Congregational Church dating back to the early 1900s and former Parish of Father Sigamoney (the ‘Fighting priest of Fietas’), as well as a Methodist church.

 

Gauteng Coaches currently also occupies the former premises of the first Indian girls’ school in Johannesburg. The proposed parking lot cuts across what used to be the Queenspark Grounds which played an important role in the history of black cricket, rugby, tennis and football in the city. The development of a parking lot will irreparably destroy a significant historical cluster of institutional and religious buildings. The harsh surfaces of the parking area and walling that Gauteng Coaches have erected also greatly detract from the historic open space qualities of the Brixton cemetery and the Phineas McIntosh Park.      

 

In 2016, Pageview was placed on South Africa’s most endangered heritage list by the Heritage Monitoring Project. Clearly the judges of the endangered heritage campaign had grounds for concern. According to activists in the community, the situation has worsened. Meanwhile, by failing to act the PHRAG is complicit in the destruction of Pageview. 

 

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