Flora Centre featured in a brochure published by the Roodepoort City Council, 1977
Flora Centre is a landmark building situated along Ontdekkers Road in the suburb of Florida North. The Roodepoort region proud itself to have some of the most attractive residential areas in Johannesburg, offering charming suburbs amid rolling hills, many with superb views of the city to the East and the Magaliesburg to the West. One of the most well-known suburbs is Florida. Florida was described as “quite the prettiest township on the whole of the golden reef” in the magazine “AFRICA” in 1948.
The suburb name Florida was the inspiration for the name “Flora Centre”. Legend has it that Florida was named after Florence, daughter of the founder of the township, Hendrik Van der Hoven, that drowned in the Florida Lake shortly before the township was developed, but this claim cannot be verified. It has also been suggested that the Florida was named after Van der Hoven’s wife, Florrie, however, Van der Hoven’s estate records listed two wives neither of whom was Florence or Florrie.
The most credible explanation is found in a letter to the editor of the weekly West Rand Times dated 1976 September 24, in which Ralph C. Brown stated that “the government of the South African Republic….commissioned the land surveyor William Henry Auret Pritchard, to survey [a portion of the farm] Vogelstruisfontein and lay out a township there. …. He was impressed by the profusion of wild flowers blooming in the valley so decided on the Spanish word Florida. This was Pritchard’s own account of the origin of the name when interviewed on the Afrikaans service of the SABC in 1936 during the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Witwatersrand Goldfields. “
The origins of Flora Centre
FLORIDA, CIRCA 1925
The morning of 18 September 1884, after months of hard work, Fred Struben struck an incredibly rich vein of gold embedded in quartz rock on a portion of the farm Wilgespruit, an area that later developed into the Kloofendal township. Although the gold was soon worked out, Struben’s rich find brought attention to the Witwatersrand and prospectors flocked to the area in search of gold. In July 1886. “The Main Reef Group of Conglomerates” were discovered in on the farm Langlaagte and on 11 October 1886 the farms Paardekraal, Vogelstruisfontein and Roodepoort were proclaimed public diggings under the Gold Law.
“Gold diggers” from all the corners of the world came to the area. Mining camps were set up on the farms to accommodate the influx of miners. Four small townships emerged out of the mining camps. The township Roodepoort was established as a village as early as December 1886 on the farm Roodepoort. In 1887 Maraisburg developed on a portion of the farm Paardekraal and Florida on the farm Vogelstruisfontein. Early in 1888 the township Hamberg developed on another portion of Vogelstruisfontein.
In 1904, only 18 years after the discovery of gold, Roodepoort gained municipal status. Although goldmining was responsible for the establishment of Roodepoort and for its development, the far-seeing Town Council soon realised that other avenues of employment and industry need to be established in order to place Roodepoort’s economy on a solid foundation. Steps were taken to provide the various services, facilities and infrastructure required by modern industry such as improved roads, highways and railways in order to facilitate and encourage the establishment of new businesses and industries.
By 1963, Roodepoort was considered the ninth largest municipality in South Africa and its social and economic development followed international trends.
The establishment of Flora Centre helped transform Roodepoort from a developing municipality into a lively city. Internationally, from the late 1950s, shopkeepers started to move away from commercial downtowns and central business districts to retail in largely residential suburbs. Shopping centres; per original definition an enclosed space with stores attached, away from central business district and often only accessible by automobile; became a popular way to build retail centres across the world. South Africa was no exception. By October 1977, when Roodepoort achieved city status, Flora Centre was considered the most modern and prestigious shopping centre out of the eleven shopping centres that existed in Roodepoort at the time. Flora Centre was the first complex in Roodepoort that offered integrated retail, office and leisure space. Originally, Flora Centre housed one of the first modern cinemas in Roodepoort in the form of “Kine Flora”, later known as “Ster-Kinekor”. The anchor tenant of Flora Centre, Pick and Pay has been there since the first day the Centre opened. It was the first Pick and Pay store in Roodepoort and one of the oldest stores Pick and Pay stores in South Africa.