Areas and Places

Westcliff properties among the most sought after in Johannesburg

Westcliff is one of the oldest, most magnificent parts of Johannesburg. This prestigious area is home to many of the grand and colourful old mansions of South Africa — some of which were specifically built for the powerful, affluent mining magnates who came to live in the City of Gold from 1892 onwards.

Through the years the area has retained its sense of grandeur and exclusivity. This is, in part, attributable to the fact that the imposing family homes situated on Westcliff Ridge are seldom sold as they are generally passed on from generation to generation.

There are a number of homes developed in the early 1930s on an equally grand scale that are dotted around the area. One such Westcliff Ridge property, designed in the Prairie Style of the well-known American architect, interior designer, writer and educator, Frank Lloyd Wright, was recently placed on the market by Pam Golding Properties (PGP).

The home is described as an absolute jewel by PGP property agent and Westcliff area expert, Kimberly Dods, who says that she feels privileged to be marketing a property of such stature. “The views from this home with its 90m of frontage are spectacular and have few equals in Johannesburg. Properties of such calibre, offering these splendid vistas of the city seldom come onto the market,” she says.

The double-storey four-bedroom house, which is on the market for R38.5 million, is the ideal family home. Originally built in 1936, it was later extensively remodelled and could easily be further developed by owners who have their own specific requirements.

“This spectacular 5229 sqm northern view site is ideal for the discerning buyer who seeks to own a distinctive luxury home in Westcliff,” adds Dods. “Westcliff properties remain among the most sought-after addresses in Johannesburg. This is not surprising, as the homes here tend to be large and steeped in history, with beautifully manicured gardens and unparalleled views of the city. An added bonus is that Westcliff is very centrally situated.”

She points out that the suburb is a few minutes from the Johannesburg city centre and is close to major arterial roads. It is also nearby to Rosebank and Killarney with their superior shopping and entertainment facilities. The colourful and vibrant Parkhurst with its many excellent restaurants, sidewalk cafes and coffee shops, is a heartbeat away.

For those with children, some of Johannesburg’s finest schools are within easy striking distance including St John’s College, The Ridge, St Katherine’s, Parktown Boys’ High School, Parktown Girls’ High School, King Edward VII School (KES) and Roedean School. Excellent private healthcare is available from Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre, Netcare Park Lane and Netcare Milpark hospitals.

On entering the home, one cannot help but be captivated by the grand foyer and feature staircase. This is a home that will be appreciated by those who enjoy entertaining lavishly. With its formal living room, hidden bar, wine room and double doors opening onto an informal lounge, this home has literally been designed for entertainment. The lounge in turn leads to an enclosed sunroom, which allows one to take full advantage of Johannesburg’s wonderful climate.
For those serious about their work and/or intellectual and creative pursuits, a fully fitted study and a hobby room awaits. The attractive dining room has a wooden ceiling and wooden wall panelling while the eat-in kitchen has a scullery and pantry attached. Beautiful parquet flooring is evident throughout much of the home.

With its generous bedrooms, windows offering extended vistas from every room, feature wood panelling and high ceilings, upstairs is no less impressive than downstairs. The spacious main bedroom has an en-suite bathroom, a dressing room, private study and access onto a patio with glorious views. There is a double children’s bedroom and guest bedroom with a dressing area plus a full family bathroom. A further room with a private patio can serve as another study or bedroom depending on the needs of the family.

The gardens, with their eye-catching stone terraces, are mature and are home to some impressive old trees. The swimming pool has northern views and the tennis court comes with vistas of the Magaliesberg Mountains. There is also a sauna. With an alarm and cameras, security is a priority on the property.

It is thought that the original home was designed by Douglass Cowin, son of the founding partner of architectural firm, Cowin and Ellis. Cowin Senior belonged to a group of architects who were known as the “Transvaal School” and was considered one of the most outstanding young architects of that group. Douglass Cowin did a few designs for the firm before abandoning architecture for citrus farming and then left South Africa for Canada.

“The shallow pitched slate roof, wide battened eaves with concealed gutters, and the steel windows which rise up to the underside of the eaves, are some of the elements Cowin used here and in his own house Casa Bedo, and were derived from the prairie-style house,” observes Flo Bird of the Westcliff Heritage Society. “The use of a pitched roof instead of the flat roof was a practical consideration, as well as an aesthetic which Cowin clearly preferred. The squareness of the structure, use of steel windows flush with the walls, steel tubing for balustrades and porthole windows are elements of the Modern Movement, which existed from 1925 to 1950 and which was a departure from the more traditional forms of design.”

Bird says air conditioning was included on the original drawings of this home, which was possibly a first in Johannesburg. This is not surprising since AE Baker sold air conditioning systems.

“This Westcliff home is ideal for a family looking for a quality South African lifestyle or can be developed into an architectural signature property using the strong foundations of the residence,” adds Dods. “It is not often that such a property becomes available in this highly sought-after suburb,” she concludes.

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