Although I’ve never really gotten caught up in the whole hoopla around Scientology and L Ron Hubbard, I have always respected that he was a novelist that, like it or not, left quite a big impression on the world as we know it. Your average novelist is lucky just to be published, let alone have a national heritage site named after them.
L. Ron had a house right here in Johannesburg, just off Observatory on the breathtaking Linksfield Ridge, and he used it during his prolonged visit in the early 60s. It’s a National Heritage Site and I’ve known about it since I moved to Joburg; but, like many things, it’s just slipped me by. So I paid a visit last week to get a firsthand look and I’ve got to say that I was surprised to see how many original heirlooms and artefacts they’ve sourced and restored for the house.
L. Ron was an eccentric as far as I can tell from Wikipedia and his website lronhubbard.org. He fought in the Second World War and then went on to explore the world on his own fleet of ships. (This same fleet that was eventually banned from docking at a great deal of European ports due to controversy around the Church of Scientology at the time.) He led a ‘life less ordinary’ to say the very least, and although I couldn’t be bothered to dig too deeply into the religious side of things, I really had to know what a man like this spent his time doing during his ‘sojourn’ in Johannesburg.
The house itself has most definitely retained the look and feel of its era; there’s no mistaking its 1960s qualities, with shale covered walls and white framed, protracting windows, not to mention its quasi-futuristic angles and stature. It sits front and centre on the Linksfield Ridge with views rivalled by few others in our city.
Walking in, I was shocked at how well restored it all is. I guess I was expecting an old house with dusty furniture but it’s nothing like that. The 1960s wooden interior is polished and there are plaques with information scattered from the entrance to the upstairs study, and everything is in immaculate condition. It’s a real blast from the past!
Walking through his upstairs study one can immediately see that he was held in high regard during his stay here. Trophies and other commemorative items line the walls and counter tops. I didn’t read each one but many appeared to be from various educational institutions and community programs which he apparently was involved in whilst a resident.
I learned a lot from my visit and thoroughly enjoyed the brief glimpse into the past that it offers. There are few buildings in Joburg that maintain this level of authenticity so I really can’t recommend it enough. Like all of this city’s National Heritage sites, you really have to mark it in your calendar for a visit. The site is open for tours, and you can visit by appointment (see number below).
By Byron Marais
All photos by Byron Marais
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L. Ron had a house just off Observatory on the breathtaking Linksfield Ridge. He used the house during his prolonged visit in the early 60s and it is now a National Heritage Site.
Venue Name:A Heritage Site Off Beaten Track
40 Hannaben Street
Type of Art/Entertainment:Culture and Entertainment