The suburb of Doornfontein was established in the 1890s, as a country retreat where Johannesburg’s wealthy Randlords built their offices and homes. However, within 10 years, Parktown was emerging as a more desirable suburb, and Doornfontein’s wealthier residents began to leave.
By the 1920s, Doornfontein had become a place of slum yards and factory compounds, with workers housed on site. Over-crowding was rife, exacerbated by sub-letting. By the 1930s, 143 of the 271 properties in the area were identified as slums that required demolition. Property owners, facing severe financial loss, agreed with the Johannesburg Council to convert their properties to commercial and industrial usage.