M1 Highway

In 1897, the first car was introduced to Johannesburg. It was purchased for advertising purposes by a coffee firm and was put on display at the Wanderers Club. The vehicle was promptly banned from the streets by the Sanitary Board. Soon thereafter, the Board was obliged to draft regulations for ‘motor carriages’. By 1902, a number of cars were driving in the streets of Johannesburg and the first car dealers opened their premises in town.

The ownership of private cars proliferated. By 1954, the city had over a 100 000 registered vehicles. In the early 1960s, the City of Johannesburg decided to invest in a motorway system to ease traffic congestion.

The M1 motorway running through Braamfontein and Newtown was one of the first sections of the city’s new motorway system to be built and required that the western facade of Museum Africa was demolished. It was named the De Villiers Graaff motorway after the leader of the United Party who led the opposition during three terms of the apartheid government. New sections of the motorway were commissioned over time.

"The motorways, conspicuously, did not connect into the vast black ghetto locations. In part they acted as a visual and movement barrier to reinforce segregation." Clive Chipkin, architect, 1993

Today, the M1 motorway between Johannesburg and Pretoria – the section above you – is the busiest in the southern hemisphere. In 2010, over 300 000 commuters used this section each weekday. It is now a major arterial route which connects the southern areas of Johannesburg with the city centre, extending north through Alexandra and Sandton, which became a powerful business centre of Johannesburg in the 1990s.

Did You Know?

Did you know that the postbox at the corner of Bree and Jennings Streets in the wall of a building is one of the oldest working postboxes in Johannesburg?