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Looking up at the Carlton Hotel and Carlton Centre

Memories From Joburg’s Carlton Hotel

The Johannesburg central business district (locals call it the CBD) has experienced tumultuous change over the past 50 years. Nowhere is that change more visible than at the once glitzy, now abandoned Carlton Hotel. The Carlton opened at the height of apartheid in 1972, when black South Africans in Joburg still had to carry passbooks. The hotel was grand, by all accounts, albeit with ugly (in my opinion at least) brutalist architecture. The Carlton had 31 storeys, more than 600 rooms, a rooftop pool, and several fancy restaurants and shops. Only the richest South Africans could afford to stay there. Less than 30 years later, in 1998, the Carlton Hotel was closed and mothballed as the CBD collapsed around it. The Carlton has never re-opened. This hulking skyscraper has been sitting empty for more than two decades, and as far as I know there is no plan to revive it. (It’s not alone, either. The old Joburg Sun Hotel, a few blocks away, suffered the same fate.) The Carlton is closed to the public and it’s not easy (or advisable) to get inside. But thanks to a gutsy friend who shall remain nameless, I recently spent a few minutes snooping […]

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A Crumbling Hotel in Paradise

I recently spent three days at the Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort and Spa, a perfectly maintained luxury hotel off the coast of Mozambique. I loved every minute of it, but my favorite part of the trip was the time I spent exploring an abandoned, dilapidated hotel that was crumbling into the sea before my eyes. The slowly disintegrating Santa Carolina Hotel. The Santa Carolina Hotel is on Paradise Island (formerly called Santa Carolina Island), which is a quick boat ride from both Bazaruto and the coastal town of Vilankulos. We took a half-day excursion there from Anantara. While my travel companions were lounging on the beach or walking around other parts of the island, I was creeping around the old hotel grounds taking pictures. One of the hotel buildings. Another building, perhaps a former staff quarters. Check out the stairwell on the side. Santa Carolina Island was a penal colony during World War II and was eventually developed as a resort destination in the 1950s. I’m not exactly sure of the history of the hotel. According to one post I found it was built in 1962 and abandoned in 1974, due to changing economic conditions and civil war. But I have a hard time believing that this […]

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Behind the Scenes: The Sheds @1Fox

Downtown Joburg enthusiasts are buzzing about the Sheds @1Fox. This is one of those quintessentially Jozi projects that make me love living in this city. In short: There is a complex of cavernous, historic warehouses where Fox Street dead-ends on the western edge of the city. These warehouses were formerly part of Anglo American and are now owned by the Johannesburg Land Company. Until recently, the buildings were slated to be torn down to make way for an office building. But a group of Jozi-lovers, including Gerald Garner of JoburgPlaces and Jan and Jay Roode of Happy.Me, are now working with the Johannesburg Land Company to develop the warehouses into an innovative “food, wine and lifestyle emporium”. The Sheds @1Fox are scheduled to open during the Joburg City Festival in October 2014. The buildings are currently empty except for some piles of rubbish, crude graffiti, and lots (and lots) of pigeon poop. Construction will start any day now. This week I got a behind-the-scenes look at what will soon become the Sheds @1Fox. I took about 1,000 pictures, knowing this was my last chance to photograph the place before everything changes. I suspect that the before-and-after comparison will be dramatic. In the meantime, here is the “before”: Gerald outside one of the warehouses. […]

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