Liederkranz Club - Queens Hall
People:Theophile SCHAERER: Architect
26°11'57.44" 28°03'02.34" E Alt: 1750m
Queen's Hall in Claim Street, for many years a popular venue for wedding receptions, started life in 1904 as the German Club, being used for concerts, dances and other forms of entertainment. During World War I it closed, like many other German institutions, and suffered damage at the hands of anti-German rioters before being converted into a nursing home.
During the 1930s the building, with its large arched windows and solid-looking exterior, passed into the hands of the Jewish Reform Community. It was later sold to another Jewish buyer and made over to the Zionist Organisation who used it for a variety of functions until a new Zionist centre was built.
Queen's Hall was then bought by the Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal for use mainly for rehearsals and administration purposes.
The Friends of the Ballet Oct 1977 Newsletter:
At the corner of Plein Street and Claim Street in Johannesburg stands Queen's Hall, the home of the PACT Ballet Company. This building has had a long and colourful history and has been associated with the people of Johannesburg since the beginning of the century. The Queen's Hall story began just after the Boer War when the German community in Johannesburg purchased premises on which they planned to build a gathering place for the Liederkrans Club. Shares were issued at £10 each to assist in raising funds for the construction of the building, and an additional £8,000 was loaned to the club by the mining magnate, Sir George Albu. With the funding of the project assured, local German architects were invited to submit plans for the building. The designs of Th. Scherer were accepted and the construction work was undertaken by the firm of Otto Schluter. The Liederkrans Club opened the doors to its new premises in 1904. It remained the cultural and social centre for the Golden City's German community until the first World War when, in terms of a Government order, the club was closed. The building was badly damaged during the anti-German riots in the city in May 1915, and saw out the remainder of the war as a nursing home.
At the end of the war the building became the Freemasons Hall until 1933 when it was bought by the Jewish Reform Congregation as its first Johannesburg home. Services were conducted there until 1936 when the congregation moved to new premises in Paul Nel Street, Hillbrow. In that year Coronation Hall (the building was renamed to mark the coronation of King George VI) was bought by a syndicate as the headquarters of the South African Zionist Federation. In 1942 Coronation Hall, continuing its association with Jewish organisations, was taken over by the Eitz Chayim Hebrew Congregation, an international movement providing spiritual centres for Jewish refugees from Europe. On the high holy days, services were held in the large hall upstairs (which today is one of the rehearsal rooms used by PACT) and in a smaller room downstairs; gatherings comprised about 700 in all.
When Eitz Chayim vacated the premises in 1954, the building became popular as a venue for weddings and other functions. After 1957 it was occupied by a catering firm and its name was changed to Queen's Hall. In 1963 Queen's Hall became the headquarters of PACT Ballet. Queen's Hall, from the outside, lacks, perhaps, the elegance and spatial awareness achieved from a proper balance between scale and proportion; various structural changes have altered the original lines of the building but one can still capture the sturdy and imposing appearance of the old Liederkrans Club. Inside there is little to remind one of its many previous uses. The past 14 years have imprinted themselves on every corner of the interior of the building: notice boards carry rehearsal and performance schedules, studios are girdled with barres and sprung boarding covers the floors. The small rooms on the top story serve as the offices for the Artistic Directors and the administrative staff. Of the very little that remains of the original interior features, the ceiling in the upstairs studio is the most important. This coffered, finely detailed ceiling still carries the heavy chains from which the chandeliers once hung; in a hall now lit by neon strips, these muted chains are a mournful echo of earlier times. Plans have been drawn for a new ballet centre at Auckland Park and when the day comes that PACT Ballet must leave Queen's Hall, another chapter in the story of the old building will come to an end. Will it live on to continue to serve the people of this city, or will it, like so many legacies of early Johannesburg, make way for the new?
(Submitted by Fabrizio Genovese - current (2014) owner of Queen's Hall)
All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.
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