A brief history of the Protea Hotel Balalaika

Protea Hotel Balalaika 2017The Rivonia area of Sandton – just north of the Protea Hotel Balalaika – does not owe its existence to the northern crawl of the City of Johannesburg. Did you know that the area used to be an “outspan stop” on the old wagon road between Johannesburg and Pretoria, where the early travellers would park their wagons and let their oxen graze?

Protea Hotel Balalaika old barThis ties in very well with the origin of the Balalaika Hotel – a place where visitors would stop for a refreshing cup of tea or overnight in one of the old rondavels.

Not much is known of the original founder of the site and tearoom in 1948. It is believed to be a certain Gerard Le Grand, a British Royal Marine Officer. He “discovered” the old Good Hope Tea Garden and together with his wife lived on the premises of the tea room whilst building the original hotel. He managed the tearoom and added a couple of old style rondavels for the country visitor coming to town – although the location was still in the country because there was no Sandton or Rosebank at the time.

Protea Hotel Balalaika old Pool DeckIt was also a place Johannesburg and Pretoria city dwellers would visit on a Sunday as a day trip to the countryside.

The Balalaika developed into an up market dinner and dance restaurant during the 1950’s and in 1959 acquired the status of the only hotel in an area that reeked more of mink than manure. By that time there were 20 rooms with another 10 added by 1968.

The Municipality of Sandton was only established a year later, in 1969 – owing its name to the combination of Sandown and Bryanston.

One wouldn’t guess that the development of Sandton City (which played a major role in the transformation of the rustic farming community into a bustling business district) was only completed in 1974, by which time The Balalaika was already twenty-five years old.

Protea Hotel Balalaika PoolFact file:

  • The site on which the Protea Hotel Balalaika now stands was founded in 1948
  • The Rivonia area of Sandton used to be an “outspan stop” on the wagon road between Johannesburg and Pretoria
  • Sandton owes its name to a combination of Sandown and Bryanston
  • Sandton City was established in 1974

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