The Rand Club – where legends meet

The oldest private member’s club founded in 1887 in Johannesburg and amongst one of oldest in South Africa, (The Cape Town Club was created in 1878). has so much to tell.

The Rand Club

In December 1886, after a day of business, Cecil John Rhodes suggested to Dr Hans Sauer that they should walk around the new town layout and choose a spot for a club. After walking for some time Rhodes suddenly stopped and said “ This corner will do for the club “ and so the club was born with shares of 10 pounds purchased by each person wishing to become a member.

The Rand Club – Cecil John Rhodes

This swanky, historical social institution was where the first gentleman’s club was built and is without a doubt one of the city’s finest heritage venues. Over time three club houses have existed here, the second being erected in 1890 and the third and current club house occupied in December 1904.

The Rand Club

There have been numerous momentous occasions over the years, from the Jameson Raid where committee members where arrested to the Royal visit in April 1947 and sadly the fire that caused catastrophic damage in June 2005. Restoration began in 2006.

The Rand Club – Dome

Although gentleman clubs are hardly as popular today as they were in their hey day, the tradition lives on …now some of the country’s most exclusive clubs are country clubs where membership remains strictly by invitation only along with exorbitant annual membership fees, for example The River Club which is one of the most prestigious golf courses in the country , established in 1911 has membership fees of up to R400 000 per annum.

The Rand Club – The Ballroom

A gentleman’s club was originally set up by men from Britain’s upper classes in the 18th century and succeeding centuries. The standard style of a club was to include a formal dining room, a bar, a library, a billiards room and one or more parlours for reading , gaming, socialising and smoking of cigars. Private places that were designed to allow men to gather over stiff drinks and create friendships with other men, at a stage these clubs were regarded as a central part of elite’s mens lives.

The Rand Club – Founders Room

Waltzing in the front door one gets a whiff of the aristocratic flavour, a reminder of dark smokey cigar lounges cluttered with velvety couches. But then a second glance makes one realise how fresh the historic old gem feels. With a fresh coat of paint and some modern touches one feels the glamour and energy.

The Rand Club – Restaurant

The exquisite antique lift is in its original form, installed in 1904 and up until the fire in June 2005 it still operated manually. The motor has now been changed. Being in an old elevator creates an immediate connection to the past, just imagine all of the people who have been up and down in that elevator over the centuries. The magnificent embellishments and wood paneling add to the uplifting experience in a literal sense, while indispensable in modern buildings I still opt for climbing the grand staircase.

The Rand Club – Elevator

The imposing staircase is one of the impressive features in the club. Exclusive elegance as it beckons one to climb up to the next level. The red plush carpet embraces the glorious flight and the mahogany path upon which one lays ones hand . This is a delightful ancient feast for the eyes as ones feet make a contribution to the hundreds before you. Looking upwards, the eye catching dome is a focus point, it was made of stained glass but also destroyed by the fire . Later restored complete with new designs it showed structural defects in its leaded glass. A new initiative now sees a bright silk screen image done by David Tahle. The plan is for this image to change annually.

The Rand Club – Grand Staircase

While modernising the club ( love the wallpaper that flows throughout the restaurant ) in order to appeal to millennials, some rules still honour tradition with phones and tablets banned in the club’s upstairs communal areas. The purpose is to network and communicate with people on a personal level.Sitting at the 31 metre long teak bar which is reputedly the longest in Southern Africa, is like taking a trip to yesteryear. Sipping on an African beer, one can just imagine if the walls could tell stories.

The Rand Club – the 31 metre bar

Women were not admitted until 1993, having been inside on numerous occasions I have never felt unwelcome. Dress code has relaxed over the years to allow for welcoming of new members, it is more accessible and in an ideal location with the Reya Vaya bus stop just outside.

The Rand Club – roof top views

Life size portraits of Nelson Mandela and Rhodes adorn the walls on the second floor. The magnificent library had its foundations laid during the construction of the second clubhouse. There is an Africana section as well as english section. Walking into the library is a WOW moment, any book lover will be in their element.

The Rand Club – Portrait of Nelson Mandela

As work continues on the building it can only get better. Now offering accommodation for members and non members I couldn’t imagine waking up in a better part of Johannesburg listening to the daily hustle in the streets below.

The Rand Club – one of the rooms to stay in
The Rand Club – Bathroom for one of the rooms

This opulent, timeless South African icon is open to everyone and welcomes each person warmly.

The Rand Club

A personal tip, try and make contact with Brian Kent, he was my guide and an encyclopaedia of knowledge. His passion for the the inner city and buildings is evident as he shares his stories.

The Rand Club – Brian Kent