Turffontein is one of the oldest suburbs in Joburg, and is today home to a racecourse, a lake and outdoor leisure area, and a diverse mix of residents in affordable housing
One of Johannesburg’s original farms, Turffontein was first registered in the name of Abraham Smit, and was subdivided over a number of years. Turffontein was one of the first suburbs of the city, proclaimed in 1889. At this time, surveyor Walter Casey allotted a section of Turffontein for a circular park which would become known as Rotunda Park.
La Rochelle, Regent’s Park and Kenilworth border the area and their proclamations followed suit in 1895, 1904 and 1907 respectively. They were destined for lower income housing with smaller stands usually between 500m² and 1 000m², in contrast to the north of the city where suburbs boasted properties more than 1 000m² in size.
Situated south of the Johannesburg CBD, Turffontein is rich in history with landmarks that speak for its heritage. One of the oldest buildings in the area, situated near Rotunda Park is the Turffontein Fire Station, built in 1910.
The Turffontein racecourse is another iconic landmark and is the Highveld’s leading race course. It boasts a picturesque parade ring and the lawns, flower gardens, shrubs and trees are meticulously maintained. The racecourse still boasts its elegant original buildings. A large dam was built and serves as a water source and bird sanctuary.
Founded as a tented camp during the gold rush years and viewed as a working class suburb, the area today has a cosmopolitan mix of residents.
Ana Santa, a corporate administrator and member of the Booysen’s Sector 3 CPF, has lived in the area with her husband since 2001.
She says during the South African War the area was taken over by the British and used as a concentration camp for Boer women and children. Around 5 000 people were held in the camps, of whom 700 died and were buried in Winchester Hills, on Piet Meyer’s farm, Kliprivierberg.
Joburg’s most notorious female murderer, Daisy de Melker, lived in the suburb from 1909 to 1922. She poisoned two husbands and her son and was hanged in 1932.
“One of the south’s most popular landmarks is the Uniao Cultural Recreative Desportiva Portuguesa, which has been in existence for 53 years. Many sport and cultural events and festivities took place at the club over the years,” says Santa.
Despite the historical significance, Santa says the neighbourhood has its challenges.
“This is still a residential area, but certain streets have been invaded by pop-up and overnight spaza shops. Leonard, Hay and Main streets house nightclubs that have now become a nuisance. The criminal element they have brought to our area is disturbing and frightening, from noise pollution to drugs, prostitution, drunken driving, disturbance of the peace and littering.
“People are renting out parts of houses they stay in to anyone willing to pay for the space. If they don’t have space many are now building extra rooms.”
She says Rotunda Park is today popular for soccer games.
Rowena Juelie, estate agent for Landstar Property Solutions, says the area continues to attract buyers.
There are empty stands as well as flats and townhouses. Currently she is marketing six buildings for one owner.
“People are attracted to the area because of the schools, lifestyle and retail facilities.
There is a public swimming pool, clubs and malls, including Mall of the South, The Glen and Southdale shopping centre,” says Juelie.
The market is not bad at all. We’ve got lots of buyers, but the banks are strict with lending.