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Main Post Office - Jeppe Street
Johannesburg, Gauteng

Francis David STRONG: Design Architect
PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT: Architect

Date:1933-1935
Type:Post Office
Status:Extant

 


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Coordinates:
26°12'05.25" S 28°02'42.88" E Alt: 1769m

Cumming-George - 1934

THE building now being erected in Jeppe Street will be the central depot for all postal matters within the City. At a later date the existing Telephone Exchange and old Fire Station buildings will be demolished and new buildings erected which will flank this block and thus form a huge Governmental centre including the new Law Courts building at the rear.

Work on the foundations was commenced early in 1932, and it is hoped to have the main block completed by the middle of 1935, together with the new wing to Smal Street.

The building rises to a height of six storeys together with a basement and part sub-basement, each floor being allocated as follows :—

SUB-BASEMENT:

Entrance to tunnel for despatching and receiving mails.

BASEMENT:

Power Room, Battery Room, Boiler and Pump Rooms, Empty Bag Cleaning Rooms, and various Cycle Stores, etc.

GROUND FLOOR:

The whole of the front portion is reserved for the public concourses, giving well over 200 feet (61 m) of counter space for the use of Europeans [sic]. Adjacent to this counter, but with a separate entrance, is the non-European [sic] office.

The back portion of this floor is the Parcels Office, while to the east is the loading platform for 'collection' vans, garage accommodation is also provided off this yard.

The main vestibule, in which the posting boxes are situated, and the public concourses, rise up to a height of two storeys. The wall surfaces, together with the counters, are covered with white marble, the skirting and capping being of black marble. The ceilings are coved and are finished with an acoustic plaster on expanded metal.

Fixed round the main halls are mural paintings by well-known South African artists.

The doors, windows, grilles, writing-tables, etc., are in stainless metal with a scratch finish, while the working sides of the counters are of sheet metal stove-enamelled The floors are in terrazzo tiles.

FIRST FLOOR:

The whole of this floor is given over to private boxes and public telephones, the east-wing houses, the Telegraph Delivery Office, and Messenger Boys' Club Room. The boxes are ranged round this floor and are very accessible, having four approaches from the ground floor.

The walls are lined with a South African travertine inter-mixed with slate bands.

SECOND FLOOR:

The second floor is the key floor to the postal side of the building, for on it is housed the Circulation Branch. Here sorting takes place for incoming and outgoing mails. Large uninterrupted floor areas are given — the columns being reduced to a minimum.

THIRD FLOOR:

The front portion accommodates the administrative offices while the back portion is allocated for the use of postmen.

FOURTH FLOOR:

The whole of the fourth floor has been reserved for the use of the Telephone Department. The rear of this floor is entirely given over to the Automatic Exchange - a large room entirely sealed and with its own air-conditioning plant. The front portion is allocated to the Manual Exchange. This room has been specially treated from a noise-abatement point of view with a South African made acoustic board. The effect is pleasing to the eye and is highly satisfactory from the acoustical point of view.

FIFTH FLOOR:

The Central Telegraph Office is situate on the rear of this floor together with the Phonogram Room. These rooms are also treated acoustically in order to make working conditions more comfortable for the staff.

To the front is the social section complete with dining-room, kitchen, etc., roof garden, lounge, and library The treatment of the social rooms is modernistic in its best sense.

GENERALLY:

The main elevation to Jeppe Street is modern in feeling with classical proportions - it is of freestone and granite.

The structure itself is of reinforced concrete.

South African materials have been used wherever practicable, even the steel partitions being manufactured in this country. The joinery is in Kijaat and is a change from the usual teak work associated with large Government buildings.

CONVEYOR BELT SYSTEM:

To facilitate the working of the various branches in the Post Office, a comprehensive system of conveyor belts and chutes has been designed.

The new building is linked up with the Railway Station by means of a tunnel so that incoming mail bags can be discharged direct from the platform on to conveyor belts and transported underground to the sub-basement of the Post Office. At this point they are discharged on to inclined belts and rise up within the building to the Third Floor From this highest point they are sent to the Circulation (second) floor or to the Parcels (ground floor) Office.

From the Circulation Branch, other conveyor belts take the mails to the private boxes, etc., for distribution.

The posting boxes are placed in the front vestibule of the mam concourse, and the letters drop into skips which work automatically. These skips rise to the second floor ceiling and discharge on to belts which convey the letters, etc., to the stamping tables. Post-box collections are discharged from vans on to the loading platform already referred to. On this platform is located the Checker's Office into which the bags are taken. By means of a vertical conveyor the bags rise to the second floor for sorting, etc.

Parcels taken at the counters are dropped on to a belt underneath the counter and conveyed to the Parcels Office.

Outgoing mails are discharged on to a return belt m the sub-basement by means of a chute and thence by tunnel to the Railway Station.

The Telegraph Office will also have a conveyor belt system from the tables to the Dispatch Section.

Pneumatic tubes will be used extensively for domestic work and for communication with outside business firms and Stock Exchange.

Non-Slip Alundum Mosaic and Aggregate for Terrazzo Stairs and Floors: Salt River Cement Works
Pipes and Fittings for Sanitary Work manufactured by City Engineering Works (Pty.) Ltd.
Electric Clock System: Rogers-Jenkins & Co (Pty ) Ltd.
Birmabright Doors, Grilles, Windows, Hand-Railing, Post Boxes, etc F Sage & Co. (S.A.) Ltd.
Joinery and Mouldings in Kijaat: Corio Saw & Planing Mills Ltd.
Metal Work (architectural): Birmabnght
Marble: European Marble and Granite Co (S.A.) Ltd.
Electric Light Fittings: British General Electric Co., Ltd
Plastic Relief and all Glazing and Stained Windows: Herbert Evans & Co
Tunnel Lighting: Rice & Diethelm Ltd.
Tiling and Marble Work: Central Agencies & Import Co (Pty.) Ltd.


Writings about this entry

Chipkin, Clive M. 1993. Johannesburg Style - Architecture & Society 1880s - 1960s. Cape Town: David Phillip. pg 138-139 ill
Cumming-George, L. 1934. Architecture in South Africa - Volume Two. Cape Town: The Speciality Press of S.A. Ltd.. pg 33-34
Postmaster General. 1935. The Post office, 1910-1935 : being the Postmaster-general's annual report for 1934-1935, embodied in a resume of development since the year 1910. Pretoria: Government Printer. pg
van der Waal, Gerhard-Mark. 1987. From Mining Camp to Metropolis - The buildings of Johannesburg 1886-1940. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council. pg 183 ill