In 1896 there were over 500 Amawasha living close to the spruit near Richmond. The Amawasha were unique in the labour history of South Africa.
They were Zulu-speaking men who had learned laundry skills from the Indian ‘dhobis’ who washed clothes in the Umgeni River. They came to Johannesburg in the early years of its mining history to provide a manual laundry service to the miners. They were self-organised into regiments and wore a uniform with distinctive turbans modelled on those of their Indian counterparts. You can read more about the Amawasha here.
The Amawasha were eventually displaced by the commercial Auckland Park Steam Laundry in 1896 whose buildings stood on the corner of Barry Hertzog and Napier Road. The Laundry operated until 1962.
In 2008, residents returning from their Christmas holiday were surprised to see that this historical site was being demolished by a company that had bought the property. This led to a public outcry.
Finally, at the end of 2014, an agreement was reached with the company to rebuild the most important of the historical buildings. Read the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation’s press release of 1 December 2014 for more details on what is proposed.