Louis Botha Avenue is not known for its quietude. It is a bustling, dirty thoroughfare, largely devoid of beauty and charm. And yet, between Short Road and St Mary's Road there is a remarkable cluster of buildings associated with spiritual endeavours quite unlike anywhere in the City. Explore this remarkable stretch with us...
1946 North Eastern Congregation Hall
24 Carrots, a Marketing and Events company, now occupies what was built in 1946 as the North Eastern Congregation communal hall. The North Eastern Congregation started in 1923 in the home of the Sturisky family, in 9th Street in Orange Grove, but it expanded rapidly and by the 1940s a more permanent home was necessary. It is a beautiful example of post-War modernism.
1961 Pine Road Schul
The Jewish community along Louis Botha grew rapidly after WWII, and within 10 years of being built the once commodious 1946 North Eastern Congregation Communal Hall was no longer able to accommodate congregants on holy days. The architectural team of Abramowitz, Pinshaw and Schneider were commissioned to build a new schul just down the road, and they designed an attractive modernist building in the form of an Ark. Particularly noteworthy is the facade on Pine Road, which consists of a set of moulded terrazzo panels depicting the twelve tribes of Israel by the then relatively unknown sculptor Edoardo Villa.
Satyagraha House, as it is now known, was built to a design of Hermann Kallenbach in 1907 and occupied by him and his great friend Gandhi between 1908 and 1909. It was in South Africa, and more specifically in Johannesburg, that Mohandas Gandhi crystallised the philosophy of Satyagraha that would one day sweep British colonial rule from the Indian subcontinent. His leadership of a protest of 3,000 people at the Empire Theatre in Ferreira Street on the 11th of September 1906 against the impending Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance marked the start of a resistance campaign that ultimately became known as Satyagraha, or truth-force. Satyagraha House's design is unique for its time – a set of rondavels connected via a stoep to the main living area, and was undoubtedly influenced by Kallenbach’s and Gandhi’s commitment to simple living.
St Giles Presbyterian Church
St Giles occupies an honest and attractively solid building dating back to 1965, but the eye is soon drawn down the street to where Pine Road meets Oaklands Road, and the beautiful brickwork of the Good Shepherd Home.
The Good Shepherd Home
After the Anglo Boer War the Milner administration viewed the control of prostitution as a key priority, and approached clergyman on his ‘Morality Committee’ with offers of limited state aid to fund ‘rescue homes’ for ‘fallen women’. By 1904 there were two such institutions, the House of Mercy in Irene, Pretoria, and the Good Shepherd Home in Orchards. The home was established through the generosity of Sir Thomas Cullinan, and was run by a French Order, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.
Our Lady of the Wayside
As early as 1904 the Right Rev. Matthew Gaughran, Apostolic Vicar of Kimberley, was keen to establish a Catholic Community to the north of Johannesburg. The Church owned a site on the dirt track that would become Louis Botha Avenue, but a priest had to travel daily from Kerk Street to say Mass - quite a journey in those days! By 1936 the parish roll numbered 300. Pretoria-born Fr Philip Erasmé was given charge of the area and presided over an era of remarkable growth. The red-brick church was built under his watch in 1938.
The post-war influx of Italian immigrants joined this thriving community, and by 1954, the parish had outgrown the church. All four masses each weekend were overflowing and it became evident that a larger church, with a proper presbytery should be built.
The 1959 church, with its twin steeples, is a landmark, visible from as far as Linksfield and Melrose. Its most striking feature is the bold mosaic on the front elevation depicting Our Lady of the Wayside. This is the work of Armando Baldinelli, who brought mosaic art to South Africa after his arrival in the country from Italy in 1953. Our Lady of the Wayside is the patron saint of travellers, and Baldinelli’s mosaic at Maryvale is replete with a stop sign and a robot – very appropriate for busy Louis Botha Avenue!
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