The Fairlambs have information about Montrose Avenue and a house on Jan Smuts Avenue.
The early beginnings of Montrose Avenue, Craighall Park
Did you know that 6 Montrose Avenue was originally the Craighall Methodist Church? Information about the church was obtained by the Higgins family who had a large home on Jan Smuts Avenue in the 1920s (more of that below).
It was residents such as the Higgins family who helped raise funds for the construction of the church. An article which appeared in the Sunday Express on 7 August 1949, described the church as being constructed of “corrugated iron and wood. Inside are eight pews on each side, a small organ and a piano. The church is 33 ft long and was built long before the present suburb of Craighall Park was thickly populated.”
Yalvo Higgins, in a letter to the Rand Daily Mail in 1949, wrote, “I can well remember the struggles and self-sacrifice of the Craighall Women’s Auxiliary Committee, the Rev J B Webb, our first circuit minister, and later the Rev J A Gurney to help in establishing the little church. In time the church became the centre of the community’s cultural life as well as our spiritual home. We were a much poorer and less populous community then, but I can remember the little church packed to capacity during the harvest festival season, when all and sundry came to rejoice together and give a portion of what they had to the church which gave them so much.” The wedding of his sister, Iris (now 83), took place at the church.
Sadly, by 1949, the congregation had dwindled to a handful and the fortnightly services sometimes attracted only four or five people. A new Methodist Church was subsequently built in Ferndale and the one in Craighall fell into disuse and became a residential property.Today it is the home of the Fairlambs, residents in the area for over 30 years.
376 Jan Smuts Avenue, Craighall
‘Tipperary’ was the name of the house at 376 Jan Smuts Avenue where the Higgins family spent many happy years. Verna Maddison, one of the seven Higgins offspring, recollects that her father built the house himself. They had a morgen of ground and boasted the only tennis court in Craighall at the time.
The family left there in 1943. We don’t have any information about what happened to the house between then and 1982. What we do know is that in 1982 a restaurant called ‘Bewteen the Chains’ opened there. The Star newspaper’s then critic ‘Lucullus’ was interested to learn that the restaurant’s name referred to the old-time practice of trading after hours outside the stock exchange. The market was officially open only from nine to noon, and after that dealers spilled out on to the sidewalk to continue trading ‘between the chains’. Lucullus described the restaurant’s premises as a “neat conversion job which has turned a rather nondescript old Craighall house into a snug and cosy little hideaway, a place of ‘interesting nooks and crannies with the original embossed ceilings remaining and much of the wood-tiled floor.”
Verna was stung into writing to the Star, saying “…that ‘nondescript’ house was really a loving home.” Click here for a copy of her letter.
The house appears to have accommodated several restaurants. For a while there was a ‘quasi Spanish eatery’ and then in 1988 it became the premises of ‘Frog’, a restaurant that was well known in its day. Within a year of its opening it was voted as one of Joburg’s top 10 restaurants in the Style Annual Restaurant Awards. It was forced to close its doors in 1992. According to a piece in the Star of 28 February 1992 by Noel Barham, “…the lease on the quaint farmhouse in Jan Smuts Avenue expires on 3 April and the anticipated renewal option did not materialise. The landlord [unnamed] seems to have opted instead for developing the prime site which means that both the restaurant and the historic old house will permanently disappear from the Johannesburg scene.”
No wonder that we as a residents’ association need, more than ever before, to keep a continual watching brief on what happens in our area and make every effort to preserve the important parts of our suburban history….