Business Insider Edition

This is what Joburg looked like a century ago, compared to now

Bombi Mavundza , Business Insider SA
 Aug 19, 2018, 11:01 AM
View of Park in Johannesburg's CBD. Photo: Getty

South Africa's biggest city, and one of the largest urban areas in the world, Johannesburg has a rich history.

The area was first populated by the San, followed by those from Sotho and Tswana tribes whose kingdoms stretched from Botswana, to Lesotho and the Pedi areas in the north. Many of the villages were destroyed during the Mfecane wars.

The area's identity changed with the discovery of gold in the late 1800s. Since then, Johannesburg has been shaped by mass migration and political developments.

With photos from the Getty Images archives, Business Insider South Africa tracked some of the city's changes since the 1900s.


Many came to the City of Gold in search of riches. As a result, people of many nationalities came to live together. Government-enforced separation followed. 

Housing in Soweto, circa 1969. Photo: Getty.
Houses in Orlando, Soweto circa 1960. Photo: Getty

The South-western Township (Soweto) was founded on the Klipspruit and Diepkloof farms in the early 1800 to early 1900s.

Shanties in Orlando. Photo: Getty

Black people were allowed to buy property in Sophiatown, which was established in 1903, as well as in Alexandra, built in 1912, and Soweto. 

Orland West


Originally part of the Waterfall Farm, it was bought by Hermann Tobiansky and named after his wife, Sophia in 1897.

Toby, Gerty, Bertha and Victoria streets are named after his children.

Photo: Getty

In 1955, thousands of black people were forcibly moved from Sophiatown to Meadowlands in Soweto. 

Photo: Google Map

Johannesburg CBD:

Eloff Street

Eloff Street in Johannesburg's CBD. Photo: Getty
Photo: Google Maps

Harrison Street

The Standard Bank and Harrison Street. Photo: Getty
Photo: Google Maps

The Standard Bank building can be seen on the left.

General Post Office (on Rissik Street)

The General Post-Office at Johannesburg on Rissik Street

The post office was built in 1897 and designed by Paul Kruger's architect, Sytze Wierda (Wierda Park in Centurion carries his name).

It became a national monument in 1978 and remained operational until 1996 when the South African Post Office vacated the building.

Commissioner Street

Commissioner Street in Johannesburg's CBD. Photo: Getty

Photo: Google Maps

Simmonds Street

Simmonds Street in Johannesburg's BD circa 1900. Photo: Getty
The old National Bank Building on the Corner of Simmonds and Albertina Sisulu Street. Photo: Google Maps

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