Visiting Dolobran, Joburg’s Quirkiest Mansion

by | Nov 8, 2023 | Arts and Culture, Johannesburg, Museums and Buildings, Tours | 6 comments

Last weekend Thorsten and I visited Dolobran, one of Joburg’s oldest, quirkiest, and most mysterious mansions, on a tour with the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation (JHF). Dolobran is unique among Joburg’s “Randlord” mansions (other examples of which include Villa Arcadia and the View) in that it’s privately owned, still occupied by descendants of the original owners, and almost never open to the public. Saturday’s tour was open only to JHF members and photography wasn’t allowed inside.

Dolobran sketch by Thorsten
Sketch of Dolobran by Thorsten, a.k.a. @theThinking_Hand. Thorsten was charmed by those little blocks along the ridge of the roof, which are meant to discourage roosting birds.

Dolobran, on Jubilee Road in Parktown, was built in 1905 by architect James Cope-Christie for a wealthy (and flamboyant, at least in his architectural/design taste) accountant named Llewellyn Andersson. The inside of the house is spectacularly insane — completely over the top, stuffed with original antiques from the early 1900s — and has the most beautiful stained glass windows I’ve ever seen in a private home.

Dolobran outside
My (outside) photo of the mansion. The stained glass windows are on the far left side. (There is also some smaller stained glass around the front door and the upstairs windows.)

I was devastated that I wasn’t able to take indoor photos, and wasn’t sure it was worth writing this blog post without them. But luckily sketching inside was allowed (or at least not explicitly forbidden), and I have Thorsten’s pen-and-ink interpretation of the entry hall.

Sketch of Dolobran's entry hall
Sketch of the ground floor entry hall, which has a striking, oval-shaped cut-out to the mansion’s first floor. The hall is filled with crazy taxidermy and old guns and beautiful (albeit rather ostentatious) antique furniture. Unfortunately drawing takes a lot longer than photographing and Thorsten didn’t have time to sketch the other rooms.

Joburg historian Lucille Davie wrote a brilliant and comprehensive story about Dolobran with everything you need to know, including the interesting story of how Andersson rejected star architect Herbert Baker’s original plans and chose Cope-Christie to design the house instead. Please read that article if you want to learn more. In the meantime, here are a few more (outdoor) photos and sketches.

Garden roses
Dolobran roses with a hint of late-season jacaranda.
A slightly different angle.
Compensating for the lack of indoor photos with too many outdoor photos.
Thorsten sketching the house
@TheThinking_Hand at work.
Thorsten sketch of the house and wall
The scene he was sketching.
Tour group outside
Touring Dolobran’s grounds.
The turret, topped with a flamboyant onion dome and weather vane, is inspired by an architectural style called “folly”. The hexagonal-shaped turret creates stunning, light-filled alcoves in the ground-floor library and the first-floor master bedroom above it.
The back of Dolobran
The back of the house faces a lovely garden. Unfortunately it also faces the very noisy M1 highway, which was built in the 1960s amidst a lot of contentiousness.
Back of the house sketch by Thorsten
Thorsten’s sketch of the back of the house and the fish pond.

If you want to see the inside of Dolobran with your own eyes (trust me, you do), I highly recommend joining JHF so you’ll be ready for the next members-only tour, whenever it happens. An annual membership only costs a few hundred rand per year and you’ll receive access to several members-only tours like this one, as well as discounts on the regular general-public tours. Also you’ll be helping to preserve Joburg’s heritage. (FYI, I pay for my own JHF membership. This post is #NotSponsored!)

See you on the next tour.


  1. dizzylexa

    I showed Kathy, Thorsten’s very impressive drawings this morning, she was in awe as am I. Great photos of the exterior. The interior is sure stuck in a timewarp.

    • 2summers

      Yeah it’s pretty wild.

  2. Ms. Nancy Anne McDaniel

    Looks wonderful. Sorry you couldn’t take photos but HOORAY for Thorsten’s wonderful sketches! Is this in the neighborhood (Park something?) by all the Baker houses?

    • 2summers

      Yes! Sorry I should have mentioned that. The house is in Parktown.

  3. Justin Chamblee

    Looks amazing Heather. I know that in the New England states in the US you seem to have so many more of these old Colonial homes and mansions that have been kept well and preserved for all time.

    • 2summers

      New England is definitely big on colonialism!



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