With over six million trees in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, the city hosts the largest human-made urban forest on earth. On satellite photographs it closely resembles a rain forest. Many of these trees are in Parkview’s private gardens, pavements and surrounding green spaces of George Hay Park, Parkview Golf Course and Zoo Lake. The demand for wooden props to line underground mining tunnels saw the planting of over a million trees in the present-day Zoo Lake and Johannesburg Zoo areas in the early twentieth century. The old plane trees in Dundalk Avenue in Parkview are part of this original plantation.
When the western portions of the farm “Braamfontein”, owned by Louw Geldenhuys, were sold off to wealthy Randlords tired of their residential homes in the dustbowl that was Doornfontein, east of the city, these portions became the early northern suburbs of the city: Parktown, Parkview and Forest Town. The surveying of land in the suburb started in 1906 and sales followed in 1907. The buyers were mostly city engineers and people working in the mining industry. Parkview was originally a ‘garden suburb,’ where houses were set back on the property and open gardens were encouraged so that residents could walk around the communal spaces.
One of Parkview famous early residents was Major John Wesley O’Hara, who came to South Africa from Ireland in 1893, fought as a major in the South African War, and 1914 became mayor of Johannesburg. The major is also responsible for the Irish street names in the suburb: Kilkenny, Kerry, Westmeath, Kildare and Tyrone. His home is one of four ‘castles’ around Joburg. Nestled below the Westcliff koppie, the castle was built out of stone, with a stone fountain in the garden and a stone and plaster verandah. A Parkview landmark, on the corner of Kilkenny and Wexford, his home was based on his grandfather’s castle in Kilkenny, Ireland.
People are proud to live in Parkview and the suburb has a strong community spirit, created in part by a combination of the village atmosphere, ease with which one can walk in the suburb, and a police station that has traditionally been highly rated for its service delivery. Parkview is one of the few remaining suburbs where people still walk, jog, cycle and enjoy life on the streets. The suburb has always been popular with young families because of its sense of community and close proximity to schools, the Tyrone Avenue shopping strip, the library, Zoo Lake communal park and Johannesburg Zoo, and it’s not uncommon to find second- and third-generation residents in Parkview.
Parkview remains a sought-after suburb because it has managed to retain its historical charm and character and, although homes have been modernised, it embraces village-style living without being opulent or elitist. Compared to areas like Fourways and Sandton, Parkview glows as a beacon of a much simpler, less shopping-centre orientated lifestyle.
Parkview and Greenside East are in Ward 87 of Region B. Pre-primary schools include the 89-year-old Parkview Pre-Primary School and The Parks. Primary schools include the private Laerskool Jan Cilliers and two excellent government primary schools: Parkview Junior School and Parkview Senior School. Sorry boys, but Parktown Girls’ is our only high school. Schools in neighbouring suburbs include St Katherine’s, The Ridge and Greenside High School. Parkview has its own small park, George Hay Park, which includes playground equipment, and a village library. Adjoining our suburbs are the highly rated Parkview Golf Course, Johannesburg Zoo, and Zoo Lake.