In 2004 we had the pleasure of having our pictures and a related story printed in the Cape Argus Friday Afternoon addition for a period of 9 weeks.

  • 8th October
  • 15th October
  • 22nd October
  • 29th October
  • 5th November
  • 12th November
  • 19th November
  • 26th November
  • 3rd December
ForeShoreEdition Date: Friday 8th October 2004
Ref No: CP010 Titel: Foreshore - Late 1940's
MICHAEL MORRIS (Special Writer)

THE WAR is over; Cape Town is poised for rapid economic growth and a leap towards a promising modernity in this historic mid-1940s aerial photograph. The bare expanse of the recently reclaimed but undeveloped Foreshore also illustrates how growth-inspired development severed Cape Town's link with its defining littoral. The city gained a spanking new harbour, but the people lost touch with the sea. It would take some 40 years for that contact to be regained through the popular Waterfront project. Visible in the foreground of this picture are some elements of the old harbour that have been restored and retained in the ever-expanding Waterfront development.Among them are the Clock Tower, the Harbour Master's office, the old Union Castle building, and the sheds that have become, today, the home of Quay Four.

This picture is one of a collection of probably the earliest aerial photographs of Cape Town and other places in South Africa bought at a London auction by Sean Hormann. Most were taken between the 1930s and the late 1940s. The political regression that coincided with the development of the Foreshore - the Nationalists coming to power in 1948 on the unembarrassed segregationist ticket of "apartheid" - is not obvious in this image. However, there are telling tokens of the losses of the decades to come: on the right, the clustered density of District Six which, within three decades, would be all but erased and, in the foreground, the pitched roof of the innocuous building that became the embarkation point for political prisoners banished to Robben Island.
Edition Date: Friday 15th October 2004
Ref No: CP006 Titel: City Centre - Late 1930's
MICHAEL MORRIS (Special Writer)

CAPE TOWN has an appealing modesty of scale in its late 1940s form, although it might not have seemed so from the street, and not to residents of the time.
But what seems true of this image of the city, then, is that the arrangement and style of windows, the neatly packed sequences of squares and slits - and the absence of the bland, glimmering expanses of post-1960s' glazing - draws the eye to the bitty detail of individual buildings that all seem distinctive, that are not taken in at a glance, and require a more careful survey. The most striking instance here is the old station building, in the centre foreground, the roofed platforms feeding into it from the left.

Nothing nearly as grand as a Gare du Nord, a St Pancras or a Grand Central, the old station nevertheless has a gracefulness about it that its bulky replacement does not.
The old one reminds you that a good station should be capable at first glance of being mistaken for a classy, but unpretentious hotel. The old station building became the site, much later, of the Golden Acre, and the Strand Street link with the suburbs was refigured, as were the arrangement of railway lines. On a nearby site, the "old" - new, in the picture - Post Office is still under construction.
Edition Date: Friday 22nd October 2004
Ref No: CP032 Titel: Newlands - Late 1940's
MICHAEL MORRIS (Special Writer)

IN ESSENCE, Newlands was as Newlands is: the unmistakable rectangles of turf hallowed by generations of rugby and cricket followers, and the brewery - always more or less inseparable from the play, or the hoarse rooting for the players - forming this suburb's core in the 1940s when this picture was taken, as much as now. In the foreground, the Kelvin Grove club looks like a large farmstead at the centre of thickly hedged cultivation. The pretensions of gentility are misleading: what Kelvin assuredly was then was a bastion of waspish Cape Town's more brutish impulses - no Jews allowed. You cannot tell from the photograph, but it's striking that the modest suburban spread in the background was not a racially cleansed one.

The Group Areas Act was some years away still and there were, throughout the bucolic southern suburbs, communities of people later forced out to the new "coloured" areas of the Cape Flats. In Newlands, their often humble cottages are today sought-after pads in a quarter that witnessed rapid gentrification after being declared a "white group area". At the time this photograph was taken, the railway line and Main Road were the only arteries linking Muizenberg and Table Bay, and the forested slopes reach deeper into the suburb. The Sports Science Institute has filled the old "B" field, the stands flanking the rugby ground seem puny and the cricket ground on the left looks impossibly unkempt, but really, it's the same old place.
Edition Date: Friday 29th October 2004
Ref No: CP023 Titel: The Old Pier - Mid 1930's
MICHAEL MORRIS (Special Writer)

SEASIDE towns, the record suggests, struggled against the gathering modernity of the 20th century to stay true to their gentler waterside beginnings. This photograph hints at a lingering Edwardian languor of mid-century Cape Town that was soon ended by the Foreshore reclamation project, undertaken in the name of progress and prosperity. It turned the defining seafront into a utilitarian zone. The Irish writer, James Joyce, once memorably described the pier as "a disappointed bridge", and it points to the intriguing idea of the pier as something between a destination and a means of transit. You can't be on a pier without being compelled to get to the end of it, and it seems a journey in itself.

For those who remember it, Cape Town's pier was a place of amusement and delight. Bands played, and the orchestra too, children licked ice creams, lovers idled, trysts were made, the more energetic rowed hired boats, the thoughtful paced up and down. But the pier also offered a perspective of Cape Town that was almost exotic: the view, in a sense, of the traveller, the new arrival, borne by sea, peering over the deck rail. It offered residents an opportunity for a sort of visual audit of their home town. And so it is in a way, for us, looking at the picture. It is hard to believe, for instance, that the tree-lined roadway in the foreground on the left is the lower end of Strand Street, and that the City Hall is the most dominant building. In time, romantics will no doubt wonder at the lost splendour of the Cape Town of 2004.
Edition Date: Friday 5th November 2004
Ref No: CP047 Titel: Peninsula - Early 1950's
MICHAEL MORRIS (Special Writer)

SOME of the most obvious elements of mid-20th century Cape Town are probably not, on reflection, the most telling. There's a charming suburban feel to Sea Point, with not a high-rise building to be found, and the look at least of a neighbourhood-by-the-sea, the grid of family homes reaching all the way down to the beachfront. Green Point common looks positively bare, and there's only a modest ribbon of development to define a Mouille Point that we know today as a chunky zone of steadily agglomerating development. The full extent of the Foreshore reclamation is starkly illustrated, leaving the city centre detached and incomplete somehow.

But the alteration of all these features - the densification of the Atlantic seaboard and the development of the Foreshore - can be explained chiefly by the more or less natural processes of population growth, urbanisation and trade, the agents of the organic evolution of human settlement common to all parts of the world for thousands of years. The same cannot be said for the portion of Cape Town's topography - here, between the docks and the slim band of the False Bay coastline - which, at mid-century, was sparsely occupied and held no special attractions for settlement. It was sandy and windy, and anyone settling there would have to trek a long way to jobs, schools and shops. Yet this landscape was steadily occupied, by decree, in a careless political experiment that created eventually one of the most telling socio-political features of the city.
Edition Date: Friday 12th November 2004
Ref No: CP039 Titel: University of Cape Town - Late 1930's
MICHAEL MORRIS (Special Writer)

THERE'S an Athenian quality to this mid-20th century view of the University of Cape Town. The augustness and the symmetry of the architecture of the campus expresses a classical ethos at the heart of the academy's self-image and its scholarly intentions in a rapidly modernising world after World War 2. The columned face of Jameson Hall provides a grand focus that is probably only slightly diminished in today's setting by the agglomeration of buildings behind it. The symmetry of the relatively modest campus has also been unsteadied by architecturally disparate elements added over the past half-century. In contrast to the dozen or so buildings that formed the academy then, UCT has since sprawled across the site and reached beyond it.

For all its modest scale, there is a sense of loftiness here that is probably chiefly the result of the university occupying a setting that, at first, seems rural. In the 1940s, the car was not yet dominant as Cape Town's primary means of transport and it is striking how dissociated the campus is in this picture from the rest of the city in contrast to the present. Two cars are visible here travelling along the single-lane road, skirting the university's sports fields, that in time became the four-lane M3 motorway, scything the campus from the rest of the estate on which it was built. Evidently, back in the 1940s, one of the virtues of the campus was that finding somewhere to park your car was not much of a headache.
Edition Date: Friday 19th November 2004
Ref No: CP020 Titel: Table Mountain - Early 1950's
MICHAEL MORRIS (Special Writer)

SEVERAL of the photographs in this series of aerial views of mid-20th century Cape Town have provided a graphic sense of the City Bowl and the nascent Foreshore at a time when the society was less obviously fragmented than it would become over the next few decades. This picture is perhaps the clearest illustration so far of the physical integration of the disparate communities occupying the basin formed by the mountain and the sea. This is the site of the contest of interests between the indigenous inhabitants and the sea-borne settlers who, "by the sword", as Jan van Riebeeck's diarist described it in 1660, established a permanent presence and spurred colonialism in southern Africa.

This contest, and the infusion of influences from elsewhere in Africa, the East and Far East and parts of Europe, has always been a critical, sometimes volatile, part of Cape Town's identity. And, in the geography of the city basin, it was District Six that seemed to encapsulate the messy, rich, violent, flamboyant, colourful identity of Cape Town. It is the district right at the heart of this picture, the dense settlement beneath Table Mountain that we know today as the grassy, windy swathe that's the subject of perpetual argument and more or less continuing developmental inaction. District Six has been much romanticised, but its razing under apartheid laws destroyed the cohesion of a community that was scattered across the Cape Flats and undermined the economy of the eastern quadrant of the city. Cape Town lives with the consequences still.
Edition Date: Friday 26th November 2004
Ref No: CP042 Titel: Woodstock - Late 1930's
MICHAEL MORRIS (Special Writer)

WOODSTOCK beach was a dazzling stretch of sand in the 1940s, and a short walk from Woodstock station -the platforms of which are just visible on the right of this photograph, midway up - or the Esplanade station, just below. The beach, of course - and the charcoal-coloured building that looks rather like a pavilion of sorts - is no more, having been absorbed by the Foreshore reclamation. Today, this section of Woodstock overlooks, across the N1 freeway, the Royal Cape Yacht Club and Sturrock Dock. But much is recognisable here. Though the old Castle brewery no longer operates at this site, it amalgamated with Ohlsson's in Newlands under the aegis of South African Breweries, the Castle building remains a Woodstock landmark.

The road leading into the photograph at an angle from the bottom left-hand corner, and bridging the railway line near the grain silos, is Lower Church, and is today the main access route into Woodstock from the N1 freeway. In the top left-hand corner, the two churches facing each other diagonally across Aberdeen Street are still there.Another recognisable feature, at the top of the photograph and more or less in the centre, is Mountain Road, the broad, steep link between Victoria Road - which, from neighbouring Salt River, becomes Main Road - and the upper part of residential Woodstock, at Palmerston Road, just below the N2 freeway.
Edition Date: Friday 03rd December 2004
Ref No: CP004 Titel: City Bowl - Early 1950's
MICHAEL MORRIS (Special Writer)

PUFFING steam trains leave their telltale traces at the edge of the city centre in this late 1930s or early 1940s panorama of Cape Town. It's a reminder that visitors to the Cape - those arriving by train anyway - and commuters coming in from the north or the southern suburbs, would have been drawn into the city centre with views of a glimmering Table Bay on one side and the city and mountain on the other. In contrast to the eight photographs in this series published so far, this shot is not an aerial picture, but was taken from the slopes of Signal Hill. It offers the chance to spot landmarks that still exist, and single out features and buildings that have since made way for modernity. Some elements are easier to see than others.

The City Hall is its old dominant self in this picture, but less easy to make out is the old neo-Classical steeple of St George's Cathedral. Near the right-hand edge is another neo-Classical form, that of parliament, although it seems very modest tucked in between other taller, squatter blocks. The evolution of the city centre as a central business district still had some decades to run when this photograph was taken. It was quickened by the Foreshore development, but even in the older city, the shift to commercial use claimed several venerable department stores and tea rooms that were very much a part of Cape Town life. It is fascinating, now, spotting the buildings that have been, or are being, re-formed as luxury residential blocks in Cape Town's newest bout of self-reinvention.