Phase one of the post office rebirth almost done

JOHANNESBURG – Clearing and salvaging of Johannesburg’s gutted Rissik Street Post Office is nearing the end of phase one, the City of Johannesburg said today.

The post office in the centre of the city was completed in 1897 on a design by Hollander Sytze Wierda, but closed for business in 1996. Various plans, which included being taken over by the Gauteng legislature, or being turned into a boutique hotel were not followed through.

Since then, it has been systematically stripped of fittings such as brass handles, balustrades, the hands of the clock, the bell, and its brass dome. Whatever was left was destroyed in a fire and contractors have worked painstakingly to clear the debris and sift through salvageable remains.

Kululwa Muthwa of the Johannesburg Property Company said that during this work, contractors and assessors found that some of the interior walls were unstable so clearing work had to be stopped so that walls could be braced before workmen could continue.

This process was near completion and once the full assessment had been completed, work would begin on reconstructing the roof to protect the building from rain, she said at a meeting of the Inner City Charter Partnership Forum chaired by the mayor, Amos Masondo, in Johannesburg.

This was expected to start in December. The costs to be recovered by the city from insurers would only be known once the full assessment of phase one of the restoration process was completed.

Then the city would know how much it would need to raise from its budget or for a possible public-private partnership to fund the full restoration. The completed project could take up to two years since special building methods and special timbers and materials needed to be sourced while work was given oversight by heritage specialists to ensure proper restoration.

The future of the building would be decided once work was completed but it would be restored for heritage purposes and for the public interest.

The city was also working on restoring Chancellor House, where the former law practices of Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo were situated near the Johannesburg Magistrates Court. The city had earmarked R10 million for this.

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