Return to Jeppestown’s City Hall

by | Apr 13, 2022 | Johannesburg, Johannesburg City Centre, Markets/Shopping, Museums and Buildings | 17 comments

Almost ten years ago, I did an exhibition of photos I shot in Maboneng and Jeppestown, two adjacent neighborhoods in downtown Joburg. I had nearly forgotten about this exhibition (which you can read about here). But then a week ago I received an Instagram message from Abdullah Dajee, owner of a men’s clothing and shoe shop in Jeppestown called City Hall (which is also known as City Outfitters or City Hall Outfitters).

City Hall in Jeppestown, April 2022. The shop has been here since 1931. The top level of the store, which was designed to look like an old Joburg City Hall building (not the current one) was added on in the early 1990s..
City Hall is Jeppestown, November 2012
City Hall in Jeppestown, November 2012. I took this photo early in the morning before the shop opened.

Abdullah and his family own several shops and buildings in Jeppestown, including a block-long trading strip on Marshall Street called the Jozi Mall. Abdullah remembered I had photographed the Jozi Mall for my exhibition in 2012, and wanted me to see the upgrades he’s been making to the building this year.

Jozi Mall mural in 2012
The Jozi Mall photo that appeared in my 2012 exhibition. The mural depicts what the same block looked like in 1896.

I’m ashamed to admit I hadn’t been to Jeppestown for years. The area has been neglected by the city over the past decade, and was hit especially hard by the violent unrest that broke out in South Africa last July. But as soon as I saw Abdullah’s new photo of the Jozi Mall, I knew I had to go back for a visit. Also Thorsten wanted to check out the shoe selection at City Hall. So last Saturday the two of us braved an early autumn cold snap and headed across the city to Jeppestown.

Jeppestown’s City Hall

The Jeppestown block where City Hall is, on MacIntyre Street, looked exactly the same as it did ten years ago. Abdullah was still behind the counter and the shop was full of customers, including one man trying on a sport coat who saw me taking photos and proudly announced: “My grandfather used to shop here!”

Inside City Hall in Jeppestown
Inside City Hall last weekend.
Shoes for sale at City Hall in Jeppestown
City Hall and City Outfitters specialize in well-known, imported brands from the United States and Europe.

Although I met Abdullah several times in 2012 and took lots of pictures of his buildings and shops, I realize now I didn’t learn enough about the history of City Hall back then. I was too busy trying to document the entire neighborhood for the exhibition. I’m really glad I finally went back (a decade late) to learn more about this special Joburg landmark.

The City Hall memorabilia wall. Among other things, the wall includes various permits and licenses Abdullah’s family had to apply for to trade as an Indian-owned business — both before and during apartheid.

We had a lovely chat with Abdullah. He showed us a big scrapbook about the history of his family and business and told us about his grandfather, Ismail, who traveled alone from India to Africa (first to Mozambique and then to South Africa) as an orphaned teenager in 1915. Ismail began his retail career as a street peddler. City Hall/City Outfitters opened in 1931 and flourished under the management of Abdullah’s father, Mohammed, who was tragically killed in 2009. Abdullah, who originally trained as an optometrist and ran his own optometry shop across the street from City Hall, took over the clothing business after his father died.

Abdullah Dajee shows us a scrapbook of his family's history
Abdullah shows us a scrapbook of his family’s history.

The Re-imagined Jozi Mall

Abdullah also walked us around the corner to the Jozi Mall, which he recently opened up in the front to allow for street-side traders. (The indoor “mall” concept was no longer working, he told us.) Abdullah had to remove parts of the historic street-front mural as a result. But he is also painting the beautiful Victorian gables along Marshall Street in bright, primary colors (with a touch of florescence), which gives that entire block a huge punch of cheeriness.

Jozi Mall in 2012
The Jozi Mall in 2012.
Jozi Mall in 2022
The Jozi Mall (from the other end of the block) in 2022. I need to go back soon and photograph it from the 2012 angle.
Another angle on the Jozi Mall in 2022
Another angle. I love the detail on that corner gable.
Jozi Mall, Jeppestown, corner of McIntyre and Marshall Streets
Abdullah kept as much of the mural as he could, while also opening the front of the building for street trade.
Painted gables at Jozi Mall
I love this section.
Corner detail at corner of Marshall and MacIntyre
Abdullah isn’t finished painting this section yet (although that colorful detail on the top corner is fabulous). I love this photo so I have to share it anyway.

This visit to Jeppestown raised my spirits and made me feel hopeful about Joburg’s future. I’ll definitely go back soon to document the Jozi Mall once the paint job is complete (and maybe to buy some Doc Martens from City Hall).

City Hall is at 45 MacIntyre Street, Jeppestown. Call 063-499-6782.

17 Comments

  1. Jozi.Rediscovered

    Nice post! Love your images, as always. What an interesting outfitters…

    Reply
    • 2summers

      They are so interesting!

      Reply
  2. dizzylexa

    Thanks I haven’t been in that area for the longest time, I’ll have to look through my photo’s for the wonderful sign that I’m sure was for Abdullah’s optometrist business. The Jozi mall looks wonderful.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      The one with the glasses? I also have several shots of it 🙂

      Reply
      • dizzylexa

        Yes just spotted it in your other blog on “The story behind the Exhibition photo’s” – is it still there, I love that sign.

        Reply
        • 2summers

          I actually forgot to look. Need to go back!

          Reply
        • A M DAJEE

          Hi, unfortunately it’s no longer there… a victim to scrap metal thieves. It was a replica of the vintage optian signs of the past

          Reply
          • 2summers

            Ahhh, that’s too bad 🙁

  3. AutumnAshbough

    Those gables are gorgeous. Of course you wanted to feature them.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yes, I really couldn’t wait.

      Reply
  4. davidjbristow

    Three cheers for Mr Dajee (I’d say give the man a Bells, but that’s probably inappropriate).

    Reply
    • 2summers

      He definitely deserves an award of some kind.

      Reply
  5. Derek Smith

    Hasn’t one of those shops got a carousel horse inside? Bought a pair of Loake of London shoes there some years ago – The shop had a real bespoke range of shoes.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yes it does! I photographed the horse but just wasn’t happy with it.

      Reply
  6. Marshal Morgan

    Heather: Greetings from Puerto Rico! I have been admiring your beautiful photos for the past year now and clearly the apple does not fall far from the tree. I particularly love how you take the mundane and make it pop. I was finally compelled to send you a “Reply” here at 2summers as the colors from this post in particular remind me of Old San Juan. I get excited when I receive an email notifying me of a new post to 2summers. Keep up the great work.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Hi Marshal, thank you so much for commenting! It’s so cool to hear from you – I’ve heard a lot about you – and I hope to meet you someday in Old San Juan. (I’ve never been.)

      Reply
  7. Marshal Morgan

    If you’d like, ask your dad for my contact info so we can touch base outside this post. Or if you have a better way to do that, just let me know.

    Reply

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