First published in 1998 by the Josephine Mill Press, the book came out of my History Honours thesis at the University of Cape Town. Richly illustrated with maps and photographs, the book traces Observatory’s rapid growth from a largely neglected rural area to a thriving village that developed an identity of its own.
The great catalyst for the area’s fast development was the discovery of minerals in South Africa’s interior: this spurred immigration and drove the need for new areas for people to settle in and for industries to establish themselves. The municipality of Woodstock, under which a large part of Observatory fell, was one of the fastest-growing urban economies in the world at the time. The rise of local institutions such as the churches and the library is covered in detail, as are the issues of class and race.