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In 1943, the architect C. Grootewal was appointed by the owner of Erf 254, Troyeville. Mr. Van Den Hoogen to prepare drawings for a new apartment building. In a plan submission to the Johannesburg Council in November 1943, it was indicated that the building would be constructed at an estimated cost of £5,000.0.0 and an additional £500.0.0 for drainage. The drawings were passed in early 1944 with the building, called Parkzicht Mansions, being completed during the same year.
Grootewal had registered with the South African Institute for Architects in 1943. At that stage he was practicing out of 59 Victory House, Harrison Street, Johannesburg.
Parkzicht Mansions apartment block was designed with an L-shaped triple storied plan, and was clad in a golden-brown face-brick with a dark-blue face-brick plinth. The length of the building was divided into four equal structural bays which accommodated the apartments in various configurations.
The face-brick facades of the building were elaborated with the use of modernist steel windows with horizontal glazing bars, narrow horizontal continuous projecting string-courses over the windows, and groups of circular windows – the latter very much a feature of the 'deco-moderne' buildings of the period. The facades were further articulated with balconies provided to each of the apartments.
The original pedestrian access into Parkzicht Mansions – off Beelaerts Street – was at the east end of the building defined with a high-level projecting ledge below which the building name PARKZICHT MANSIONS was applied in raised plaster letters on a smooth plastered panel.
A small polished granite cornerstone was installed in the face brick wall adjacent the pedestrian entrance - with the following wording in Dutch:
A free translation of the inscription would be: "This stone was laid by Willem D. Veenhof 1.8.44". The identity and connection of Mr. Veenhof to Parkzicht Mansions has not yet been established. Of interest is that the names of the property owner, the architect and the man who laid the corner stone are all clearly of Dutch origin.
Residents of Parkzicht Mansions and their visitors climbed a short flight of stairs, then passed through a glazed timber entrance door and screen into a narrow foyer. The floor of the entrance foyer was finished with fine polished natural stone floor tiles – laid out in a basket-weave pattern with black squares at the intersections.
The main circulation staircase was placed in close proximity to the entrance foyer and was planned and constructed as a fan-shape – albeit that the proposed curved back wall of the landing was in fact constructed as a straight wall.
Access to the apartments was via a covered walkway on the south side of the building, which at the end of the return at the west side, gave access to the secondary (utilitarian) fire-escape stair. The secondary stair extended up to the caretaker’s flat at roof top level.
Internally, the living rooms of the apartments were provided with parquet floors, well detailed Art Deco styled electric fireplace surrounds, polished terrazzo window sills, simple plastered rosettes to the ceiling light fittings, and a moulded frame to the perimeter of the plastered ceilings of the Living rooms.
Bruwer, J and Martinson, W. Heritage Impact Assessment (Rev. 1) of the Proposed Development of the Properties comprising Douglas Village, (Wilhelmina, Beelaerts and Op De Bergen Streets), Troyeville, Johannesburg. Compiled for the Johannesburg Housing Company (Pty) Ltd, March 2018.
(Submitted by William MARTINSON, March 2018)