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Living Heritage – Salisbury House

 

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Sometimes it appeared as though the project was just a series of endless obstacles with no light at the end of the tunnel, testing patience, faith and endurance. However it has emerged victoriously and bears testimony to the endeavour and efforts of the many people who have contributed through their skills and hours of labour to make this restoration a reality. This building has now been imbued with a new lease of life for the next generation to enjoy.

 Architect, Christine Schubert Meissner, member
of the School of Practical Philosophy

 

Salisbury House

 

Home of the School of Practical Philosophy

 

Salisbury House was originally built as the business premises for Mr P.Chat in 1903. The building is a fine example of Victorian era architecture with Edwardian overtones, which was adapted for the South African lifestyle of the time. The ground floor boasted three open plan shops with large glazed shop fronts. The upper floor provided living quarters with two separate entrances and a central room and common balcony.

In 1923 it was owned by Alexander Anderson, a pharmacist. The corner shop housed Anderson’s Chemist, which until perhaps the early 1970s was the oldest surviving practising pharmacy. There is a story that Mr Anderson renamed it Salisbury House, after he married Miss Kate Salisbury, an immigrant bookkeeping teacher at St. Mary’s Diocesan School, which was then opposite Salisbury House.

As with many other buildings in the area, deterioration became a problem. In 1977 the City Council of Johannesburg eventually bought the property and let it to a firm of building renovators, Gordon Verhoef and Krause; nevertheless vandalism continued. In August 2001, the School of Practical Philosophy finally entered into a new lease agreement.

However, there was much preparation and planning. To ensure that the restoration process would follow an approved process and plan, and was true to the original building design and decoration, a conservation policy was drawn up in accordance with the guidelines of the internationally recognized Burra Charter, for the conservation of sites of significance. Both the Provincial Heritage Resource Agency Gauteng (PHRAG) and the South African Heritage Resources Authority Agency (SAHRA) approved the conservation policy. Funding was a huge problem, but was eventually provided in various parts by the Johannesburg Property Council (JPC), The Living Heritage Association (LHA), the School of Practical Philosophy and more recently the National Lottery.

Refurbishment eventually began in January 2004. However, vandalism and accidents continued at an alarming rate: a car drove into one of the cast iron columns of the pavement verandah, and the column itself vanished minutes after the accident. Phase 1 had almost been completed when a vehicle accident caused the collapse of the entire east balcony. The building had a 24hr security guard on duty, but one day during the security guards’ strike, the guard who was on duty was abducted. Thieves posing as municipal electrical inspectors, let in by the guard on duty, removed all the electricity meters. At different times during construction, three different contractors suffered heart attacks. The basement was periodically flooded with rain water due to the blocked up or inadequate storm water drainage in the street.

There was many a time when thoughts of giving up were entertained, such was this test of endurance! However, the School finally took up residence in December 2006. Its beautifully restored interior is a delight, and students love the peace and tranquillity felt in the rooms.

 

 

 


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t: 0861 66 6688
e: sppgau@practicalphilosophy.org.za
a: 420 Marshall Street, Belgravia, Johannesburg

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