Parktown’s main attraction lies in its distinctive architecture, largely the legacy of Sir Herbert Baker. Baker’s arrival in 1902 heralded a style particular to this district, still evident today in the opulent mansions of the Randlords, the rich mine owners, lining the streets. The Parktown & Westcliff Heritage Trust runs regular tours, usually on Saturday afternoons, to some of the notable buildings in Parktown as well as to other districts in Johannesburg; and the Heritage Weekend (second weekend in September), also organized by the Trust, features more tours and special events around the Parktown mansions and city centre.
High walls make viewing the buildings a little tricky on an independent visit, though most now have blue plaques with information outside. A good place to start is the area around Ridge Road, just north of the Randjeslaagte beacon, which marks the northern point of old Johannesburg. The Sunnyside Park Hotel here is a massive complex that Lord Alfred Milner used as his governor’s residence from 1900. The best of the houses nearby are Hazeldene Hall, built in 1902 and featuring cast-iron verandas imported from Glasgow, and The View, built in 1897, with carved wooden verandas and an elegant red-brick exterior. To the north of Ridge Road, York Road curves to the left into Jubilee Road, with several palaces on its northern side; the neo-Queen Anne-style Emoyeni, at no. 15, built in 1905, is especially striking. At the corner of Jubilee Road and Victoria Avenue stands Dolobran, a weird and impressive house, also built in 1905, with a perfect veranda, wonderful red-brick chimneys, red Marseilles roof tiles and hallucinatory stained glass.
Crossing the busy M1 onto Rock Ridge Road, you’ll reach the Northwards Mansion, built by Sir Herbert Baker in 1904 and home of the Parktown Trust. Unfortunately, there’s no access along the road to Baker’s own residence at no. 5. On the parallel Sherborne Road, you can see Baker’s attractive St George’s Church and its rectory, which mix Kentish and Italian features and were built in local rock.