Monday, November 2, 2009

Death to the old Post Office building...

Last night the old Rissik Street Post Office burnt down.
This was the big news needing following up this morning, as apparently last night while the grand old building went up in flames, few experts were available to comment.
And at 6am this morning this remained the case. But I gave it my best shot. And it turned out to be one of those hectic situations where people are happy to spout all kinds of information out "off the record", but not so happy to have their names associated with the whole debacle.
First off I got hold of the city's heritage expert. I felt so sorry for him because his absolute sadness at such loss was palpable, he couldn't spout his true opinion, I would imagine, without risking his job as a council employee.
And so I turned to property investors, city developers, architects and heritage site experts. At the same time my colleague Diva was sent back out to the fire site, tasked with tracking down witnesses.
I discovered that while the council owns the building, it has been left derelict for the past 10 years. Since then, enterprising thieves have managed to swipe the hands off the clock and make off with the bell out of the tower. This in itself was no mean feat considering that the bell was a replica of the smallest bell in Big Ben and weighed over 1000kg. And then apart from wooden balustrades, light fittings and switches, thieves also managed to take each one of the cast-iron columns from the building. These columns were apparently about 5-metres high and it would have taken about 20 strong men to shift it, not to mentions trucks and cranes to move them. But our city thieves did indeed manage to do this.
In the meantime several developers have had their offers to refurbish and fix up the old building go ignored. The council apparently commissioned architectural plans of the building for R3.5-million only have the drawings ruled unusable.
The estimated cost of restoring the building before the fire ruined it completely was about R45-million - an amount that was not approved for years. Today the council announced that it will host this year's Miss World pageant in Jozi - at a cost of R49-million.
Diva returned with her insights gleaned from squatters who confirmed that some people had managed to break their way into the old post office, and were living there. They had stolen copper from somewhere and were trying to melt it down when the fire got a bit out of control and they feared being caught and arrested. So they ran away.
And the whole building went up in flames.
Despite it being situated only a few blocks from the inner city fire station.
As one heritage architect put it: it's an unspeakable disgrace.


  1. Well now they've got an excuse to knock it down. Yet another reminder of a more graceful era gone up in flames!

  2. It is sad. Its shocking that it wasn't looked after.