Then and Now: South British Building
The site at 343 Smith Street became the site of the headquarters of the Permanent Building Society
South British Insurance Co operated their business at 343-9 Anton Lembede (Smith) Street for many years. In the early 1930s, when the first photo was taken, John Foote was the manager. The company specialised in fire, marine, car and burglary insurance, workman’s compensation and fidelity bonds. The company then moved to 35-39 Field Street.
The Smith Street building was renamed Security Buildings in the 1940s, when the second photograph was taken. Multiple tenants occupied offices, some for short periods. In 1945, there were 12 tenants, including SA Meat Producers (Central Co-Op), a Wireless Agency (the local Marconi representatives), the estate agent Godfroy-Harris and the intriguingly named Left Club.
Security Buildings was demolished in about 1953 to be replaced by the 10-storey Permanent Building.
The SA Permanent Building and Investment Society, later known as The Perm, was the second-largest building society in South Africa when it opened its doors in Smith Street. The Perm had originally started life as a financial institution in Kimberley in 1841. In 1988, it merged with Nedbank.
The December 2020 photo shows that “new” building 60 years later, its façade darkened by grime and its bold entrance diminished by signage.
The Independent on Saturday