A Brief History of Melville and the Faan Smit Park: On the 5th of October 1896 L. and F.E Geldenhuys leased a portion of the farm Braamfontein to G.H.Price and Mrs Lionel Melvill (the township was named after her father-in-law, the land surveyor Edward Harker Vincent Melvill). However, it was only in 1905 that the township was officially layed out with the price of the stands ranging from £10 to £9,212.
The following is stated about the township in the advertisement for the auction:
- “There is no more picturesque or healthy spot in the vicinity of Johannesburg than Melville. Those who have gone there with a view to purchase pronounce it to be situated in the very finest position for suburban residences. It is exactly the same distance from the Market Square as Juidith’s Paarl.”
- “once there, the tired man of business, the clerk and the millionaire, may rest after the labours and worries of the day and enjoy that splendid view and that perfect peace which are and ever must be the peculiar and exclusive attractions of Melville.”
- It was described as “the last available township within easy reach of Johannesburg. Melville is high, and healthy, and picturesque.”
Since its establishment Melville has remained predominantly a residential suburb, although small shops, bars and restaurants have become popular on some of the main streets, and the suburb has become somewhat Bohemian in nature. The majority of these are located along 7th Street and 4th Avenue and it is has become a popular hang-out for a cosmopolitan crowd. The close proximity to both the University of Johannesburg and the University of the Wits has resulted in a large number of students frequenting the area. Additionally there are over thirty guest houses, as Melville is a popular destination for tourists.
Faan Smit Park: In June of 1911 a new park was established- Melville Park No.2. The Transvaal Leader reported the opening – “The opening of Melville Park, which took place on Saturday afternoon, is proof of the Council’s endeavours to beautify the town and suburbs,‘’ “Melville Park, which promises to be a boom to the township, has been laid out on ground presented by Mr. Laurens Geldenhuis, the township owner”. With the launch of 27Boxes, Citiq hopes to bring back these early memories of Melville as a “picturesque and scenic spot.”
Park No.2 later became Athlone Park and finally in 1953 was renamed Faan Smit Park. The Park was transferred from City Parks to the Johannesburg Property Company in the late 1990’s and put out to tender, being acquired by the Joburg Artists Market (Pty) Ltd. This followed complaints from the Melville community about it being a haven for vagrants and criminals. According to residents that have lived in the area for over 20 years, the community did not use the park and it was being taken over by ‘undesirables’. Over the next two decades the park has been passed from lease to lease and suffered neglect in the process. In 2008 the park was officially permanently closed.
Numerous plans have been proposed over the last decade, including originally an artists and produce market, and at one stage an Atterbury development linked to major plans to close the main street and create a pedestrian friendly area. In 2013 Citiq acquired Johannesburg Artists Market together with the lease of the park and have engaged with Council and the community to develop the concept that is 27Boxes.