The Sunnyside Up

The Sunnyside Up

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During the mid 1930s a very attractive but fiercely chaperoned young lady was staying at a Johannesburg residential hotel. The young men were completely unsuccessful in their efforts to get to know her, until one hit on the idea of using the telephones. He called the number of the incoming calls booth, from the outgoing calls booth next to it, and asked to speak to her. To his delight she was allowed to take the call. Contact was made, and in 1939 they were married.

This is an unrecorded part of the history of what is now the Sunnyside Park Hotel in Parktown. For many years it has been a popular watering hole for business and professional people, as well as for those who intend to be. It has also developed a reputation for fine food, first-class accommodation and well-hosted conferences and receptions. The same young lady celebrated her 90th birthday there with a splendid tea-party on the lawns.

It was originally built in 1895 as a gracious country residence for Hennen Jennings, a Mining Engineer, employed by Rand Mines. Designed by Frank Emley in the Neo-Queen Anne style, it was later altered by Sir Herbert Baker, at the request of Lord Milner. Jennings became a prominent member of the Reform Committee and, after the failed Jamieson Raid, was arrested and fined 2000 pounds. He left the country and returned to America.

The house stood empty until 1901, during the Anglo-Boer War, when Lord Milner moved into it. He used it as his official residence until 1905. He disliked Pretoria, both because of its architecture and its heat and unsuccessfully tried to have the capital moved from there to Johannesburg. His successor, Lord Selbourne, moved the official residence back to Pretoria, and only used Sunnyside Park in the summer months.

In 1911 it was sold to The School of Mines (later the University of the Witwatersrand) and was used as a students’ residence. Later still, it was changed and became a private hotel, the large property was sub-divided and several portions sold. In 1964 it became a licensed hotel and has flourished ever since. An additional building has been added, and the general facilities improved and extended, until it developed into the quality 4 star hotel of today. On 15 November 1990 it was declared a National Monument.

Although much has been altered over the years the original arched entrance and double-storied bay window, together with the extended corner turret and triangular gables, give a good impression of the original gracious home set in its landscaped gardens. With these well-developed gardens it is still an oasis of peace and serenity in the midst of a rushing and noisy city. Inside the elegance, panelling, deep carpets and glittering chandeliers take one into another world.

The Milner Restaurant is very popular and has a good menu. The service is warm, friendly, and very good. There is also the British Pound and Penny Pub, with a cosy and sociable atmosphere, and some good, satisfying bar meals.

It is worth a visit, to enjoy a meal with family, friends, or business acquaintances, and has plenty of secure parking onsite. It would also be a quiet, comfortable and convenient place to stay whilst you visit the city.

Take time to reflect – it deepens the spirit

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