Post box sign in Jeppe Post Office

Inside Joburg’s Historic Jeppe Post Office

There are sections of downtown Joburg where things are so chaotic and colorful and slightly scary that I find it hard to focus on any one thing. Such is the case at the corner of Jeppe and Kruis Streets, home of the Jeppe Post Office.

Look here — a clothes shop entrance lined with dozens of curvy mannequin legs in tight-fitting jeans, packed so close together there’s hardly space to walk through. Look there — the hood of a car spread with 100 pairs of colorful flip-flops.

Look here — a trolley piled high with oranges selling for a rand each. Look there — a man pushing a shopping cart full of bloody cow heads.

Look here — a highjacked apartment building spilling garbage from every window. Look there — a newly restored, gleaming white office block with shiny black glass windows.

Spaza shops, hair salons, honking taxis, muscular police vans, and a hundred people squatting, standing, walking every which way.

Corner of Jeppe and Kruis StreetsA quick glimpse of Jeppe and Kruis Streets.

My eyes dart from one thing and one person to another and my brain considers what or who I should or shouldn’t photograph, or whether I should even take my camera out of its bag at all. I have a million thoughts at once. Hence, I miss things.

I’m on this corner with a bunch of journalists and tourism professionals and university media students, on a tour organized by the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) and Laurice from the Johannesburg In Your Pocket Guide. I’m standing on this corner because we’re about to visit the Jeppe Post Office, about which I’ve been brimming with excitement for days. But even though I’m standing in front of the post office, a hulking behemoth of a building, I barely see it amidst the chaos.

Looking up at the Jeppe Post OfficeLooking up at the Jeppe Post Office.

Inside the Jeppe Post Office

I never knew the Jeppe Post Office existed before this tour, which is crazy. Unlike the older and more famous Rissik Street Post Office, which has been closed for years, the Jeppe Post Office is still operating. The post office will continue to operate into the future, as I understand it, although Afhco has purchased the building and the upper floors are set to be redeveloped into residential apartments.

The Jeppe Post Office is filled with beautiful and weird Art Deco fonts and fixtures and frescoes. And it’s huge. This post office has 15,000 PO boxes (only a few thousand of which are currently occupied), including one box that is reportedly still used by the Oppenheimer family.

Jeppe Post Office main hallThe busy main hall of the Jeppe Post Office. Check out that incredible light fixture on the ceiling.

Lastly, get this: The Jeppe Post Office, which served as the main Joburg postal depot after it was built in 1935, has a now-defunct conveyor belt system that moved mail through underground tunnels linking it to Park Station and other post offices around the city. Those tunnels still exist, and the JDA is working on a plan to redevelop them for pedestrian use.

Basically, this building is freaking incredible and I’m going to show you the all the pictures.

Clock in Jeppe Post OfficeThe beautiful clock in the front entryway of the post office.

Person at post office getting mailAn actual person getting mail! Apparently people still do this in South Africa, although I stopped trying long ago. My local branch doesn’t have the Jeppe branch’s staying power; the Melville Post Office closed without notice more than a year ago and never reopened.

People in post officeCheck out the super-racist, giant-white-alien fresco above the windows.

Inside post officeSpeed service. And another creepy fresco.

Post Office box signsRad font directing people toward the PO boxes. Afrikaans above and English below.

Jeppe Post Office boxesA few of the 15,000 Jeppe Post Office boxes.

Looking through the PO box holesLooking through a PO box into the back of other PO boxes.

Person getting mail from a PO boxAnother person getting mail. Incredible.

Underground at the Jeppe Post Office

Finally, our tour group had the chance to go downstairs and see the mysterious postal tunnel we’d been hearing about. The post office’s basement is pretty interesting in itself.

Jeppe Post Office tunnel
Creepy basement hallway.

Beware conveyor beltsBeware conveyor belts.

Jeppe Post Office conveyor beltThe conveyor belt we must beware of.

Sign in Jeppe Post Office tunnelI don’t understand what this sign means, in either Afrikaans or English.

Jeppe Post Office tunnelThe tunnel, complete with creepy person-with-cellphone shadow. Note the tree roots growing through the ceiling. There wasn’t much to see in the tunnel and it only extends about 50 feet before being blocked off by a brick wall. Nonetheless, it was cool to go in and imagine what these tunnels might eventually develop into over the next several years.

It will be interesting to watch how the Jeppe Post Office transforms as Afhco and JDA proceed with their plans. In the meantime, if you find yourself on Jeppe Street I recommend popping in to check out the Art Deco signs and creepy frescoes, and maybe also to send some mail because it seems that mail miraculously still works here.

Thanks to Nomalizo from JDA, Johann from Afhco, and Laurice from Johannesburg In Your Pocket for this illuminating tour.

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31 Comments

  • Reply GoingSomewhereSlowly (@AnjeRautenbach) March 16, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    Dude! Photos, stories and everything; love this uhm… post 🙂

    • Reply 2summers March 16, 2017 at 10:21 pm

      Aw, thanks Dude.

  • Reply autumnashbough March 16, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    Great photos! The tunnels belong in a horror movie, though.

    • Reply 2summers March 16, 2017 at 10:24 pm

      Hahaha. The photos make it look creepier than it really is.

    • Reply 2summers March 17, 2017 at 2:06 pm

      Haha. I might have even said that myself when I was down there.

  • Reply Margaret Urban March 16, 2017 at 11:53 pm

    I’m also super excited to see what happens with the PO tunnels.
    And I want to let you know that I have had a PO Box at Darras Centre in Kensington ever since I came to Jozi in 1992 and … I get mail there (usually account statements and magazines but also the occasional post card from a family member) and even the occasional package!

    • Reply 2summers March 17, 2017 at 2:05 pm

      Haha, well I’m glad to hear that. I think the postal service in my area is just particularly bad so I gave up on it.

  • Reply Lani March 17, 2017 at 8:01 am

    I love historic buildngs and any chance to see it behind the scenes or underground is AWESOME. I could totally see myself hanging out here.

    And I must say whenever I talk to Saffas they always say they do not like Jozburg, so there must be something special about you to just dive right in and see what others seemed to shun.

    Thanks again for the tour 🙂

    • Reply 2summers March 17, 2017 at 2:04 pm

      Well, South Africans living overseas are always the biggest Jozi haters. We’re used to it here. You’d love this building – it’s so much more amazing in person.

  • Reply Lesley Mallows March 17, 2017 at 8:08 am

    Fascinating as always – x

    • Reply 2summers March 17, 2017 at 8:21 am

      Thanks Lesley!

  • Reply Gail Scott Wilson March 17, 2017 at 9:10 am

    Memories, as we used this Post Office when I worked in town many years ago. I need to pop in on my next visit to the city. I could not agree with you more that, that area is buzzing with things to look at and photograph.

    • Reply 2summers March 17, 2017 at 2:00 pm

      I find that I’m never happy about what I shoot because I’m always focused on all the shots I missed 🙂

      • Reply Gail Scott Wilson March 17, 2017 at 7:28 pm

        Right I was right there on Saturday and never thought of taking a photo of the Post Office and we walked right past the newly refurbished John Orrs building and I did not take a pic of that either.

  • Reply michael abrahams March 17, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    Fantastic!

    • Reply 2summers March 17, 2017 at 1:59 pm

      Thanks Mike.

  • Reply Jessica March 17, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Was enjoying the article till I read”racist white alien..” and then I realized you are making fun of Afrikaner history. Lost all respect for you in a heart beat.

    • Reply 2summers March 17, 2017 at 9:21 pm

      Hi Jessica. I’m sorry I offended you. But…I looked carefully at that fresco again and I have to stand by my original characterization.

      • Reply Jessica March 18, 2017 at 10:21 am

        Visiting countries is respecting the people’s culture and history. How will you feel if I make fun of the Lincoln memorial or Mount Rushmore? Taking a photo of a historical site, you must familiarize yourself with all the dimensions in which it was created before you make derogatory remarks about them. The painting style of the fresco was prominent for that period of time. Respect just shows a certain level of maturity

        • Reply 2summers March 18, 2017 at 10:45 am

          I have a lot of respect for Afrikaans culture and heritage – I’ve written about it more than once – and for the architecture of this building. I don’t feel that the comment about that fresco reflects any derogatory feeling about Afrikaans culture as a whole. However, I do feel that the image portrayed in that fresco (depicting a larger-than-life white man pointing toward a very tiny black man) is extremely racist and I won’t back down from my characterization of it as such.

          • Jessica March 18, 2017 at 11:28 pm

            Im so interested in your opinion on how to create depth in a painting?

    • Reply Lesley March 22, 2017 at 7:26 am

      I was initially taken aback by the statement but after zooming in on the pic it made sense and also having followed this blog for a few years now, I know it’s not the heart of Heather….. I’d refer to the place as enchanting rather than creepy though 😉

      • Reply 2summers March 22, 2017 at 8:52 am

        To me, the post office was both enchanting and creepy in many different ways. That’s what makes it so interesting 🙂

  • Reply Vivi March 18, 2017 at 5:55 am

    I remember my aunt and mom being told to drive to Jeppe Street PO urgently to post off serious letters my grandfather had written proposing various deals. I would run in with the letters while they found parking. Lovely memory, thank you

  • Reply Richard Goller March 18, 2017 at 11:27 am

    Remember this building very well. Joburg CBD has so many beautiful, history-rich building. Great pics! R

    • Reply 2summers March 18, 2017 at 11:28 am

      Thanks Richard!

  • Reply Lesley March 22, 2017 at 7:21 am

    This used to be the post office of Impact Hub Joburg from 2010 – 2012 when our space was downtown Joburg. I always felt like it was going through a time capsule with every visit. The building fascinates me and the service was quite good around that time.

  • Reply Gary Walker March 23, 2017 at 8:24 am

    I Remember taking postal orders to this Post Office when working for Barclays Bank Harrison street in the early eighties. I use to be accompanied by the commissioner of the branch

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