City Architecture, Adelaide
A criticism often leveled against Adelaide is that it is a city of old people, for old people. When I first starting visiting to Adelaide, many years ago now, I subscribed to this view but as the years have passed I subscribe to it less and less. My more cynical reader might suggest (if he or she were not so kind) that this is due to the fact that I have aged somewhat and now fit nicely into sleepy old Adelaide!
To be fair there is some truth in this. Yes, I have aged, but Adelaide has got younger and has much to appeal to the young.
Twenty years ago I recall deciding to go and see a movie in one of the city centre cinemas. Friends told me that only old people went to the cinema. I went, and lo and behold there was me and about five ladies watching the movie – each one had a blue rinse. Nowadays, while the old city centre cinemas are sadly no more, the suburbs have numerous multiplex cinemas, some with 20 or more screens and packed with young and old people. The city is awash with nightclubs, bars and restaurants and has excellent sporting facilities (though it needs to add to it cycle path network).
Gone are the days that when students graduated they took the first plane out to Sydney or Melbourne only to return with walking sticks and commodes 50 years later, if they did in fact ever return.
While Adelaide still lacks some of the vibrancy of Sydney or Melbourne (due principally to its smaller size) and the big world touring musical acts and theatre shows still, with the odd exception, bypass it there is plenty to do for everyone. It also lacks the traffic jams, crowds and the more tacky aspects of tourism found in those cities.
Notwithstanding the above, I am conscious that flicking through my reviews on this page you will find that the majority of them focus on historical aspects of the city and older buildings and churches. I make no apology for this as this is the focus I take when I travel. I just don’t want you to think that there is nothing more to Adelaide hence this review.
Just to prove that Adelaide does have modern buildings the images attached depict a few of the latest additions to the Adelaide skyline.
Picture 1 - The South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute
Picture 2 – An office complex
Picture 3 – An apartment block
Picture 4 – Recently refurbished Adelaide Oval (sports stadium).
As you move around Adelaide do have a look out for the new as well as the old.
Lest you think I have attached the wrong pictures to this review I should point out that this is not a palace in the real sense of the word. I will explain further, later in this review. This quaint, rather plain and indeed rather rundown looking clothes shop was formally a tearoom run by one of Adelaide’s most flamboyant sons - Albert Augustine (Bert) Edwards. Edwards, on the right, with one of his employees are depicted in my third picture, outside the tearooms as they were in 1912 – picture courtesy of the State Library of South Australia.
In the rear of the tearooms, Edwards ran an illegal two-up ‘school’. For those not familiar with two-up, it is a very simple Australian (though I imagine there were would variations on it elsewhere) gambling game wherein two coins are tossed into the air in the centre of a ‘pit’ and bets are taken as to how they will fall. Outside ANZAC Day, two-up gambling remains illegal in Australia outside registered casinos. Two-up was very popular with Australia's soldiers during World War I and post that war two-up became a regular feature of ANZAC Day celebrations for returned soldiers. Initially authorities turned a blind eye on this breach of the law but soon an exception to the general ban was enshrined into various State laws permitting general betting on two-up on ANZAC Day (25 April).
At some stage between Edwards’ Tearooms closing and the current tenant taking over, the building was occupied by the Metropolitan Saw Works as alluded to on the fading signing still visible on the facade of the building.
Back to Mr Edwards, if I may. Bert Edwards was born in the West End of Adelaide on 6 November 1888 of uncertain paternal linage. He later claimed to be the son of Sir Charles Cameron Kingston, a former State Premier and Federalist and a rather colourful gentleman, himself, not adverse to a calling for a pistol dual should the need arise. See my separate review - CC Kingston - Patriot and Statesman. Edwards’ claim is now generally accepted as correct, backed by the fact that Kingston’s marriage was not a happy union and he was not adverse to a bit on the side, as it were. Kingston, while immensely successful, was ostracised by Adelaide society for his sexual indiscretions and is now thought to have fathered at least six illegitimate children, of whom Edwards is one.
Edwards opened his tearooms here in Compton Street in 1912 and went on to own several hotels, in the city and beyond. In addition to his business ventures, some of which perhaps erred on the risqué side, he became a prominent figure in public life being a member of the Adelaide City Council, a controversial official with the West Adelaide football club (his nomination as the clubs delegate to the League's governing body was rejected on the grounds that he had once used intemperate language at a junior meeting), and a Labor Member of Parliament for Adelaide.
While in Parliament, Edwards spread his talents widely. He defended persecuted Germans (immediately post WWI), the city’s poor, underpaid teachers and the police. He supported slum clearances and the licensing of bookmakers and opposed a prohibition referendum in addition to being an active (over active according to many) prison reformer.
Notwithstanding his parliamentary activity, though often complementary to it, he is best remembered as great philanthropist, a champion of the poor and as a benefactor to a number of city missions. Right to the end, Edwards almost daily collected food from city shops and bakeries and distributed it to the poor and hungry. As Sir Thomas Playford, then State Premier, noted at his funeral, “Scarcely a good cause in the city did not receive some help from him”.
Edwards, probably the City’s best known gay man of the time, is also, sadly, remembered as man with a criminal record having been jailed three years for the then scandalous and ‘unnatural offence’ of sodomy with John Gaunt "Jack" Mundy, a "sexually perverted boy", in 1931. Edwards famously owned a hotel at Second Valley, in the Adelaide Hills, where he and young footballers ‘celebrated’ after Saturday's matches though the offence for which he was convicted was purported to have been committed elsewhere. While there is no doubt that Edwards was a homosexual, whether or not he committed the offence remains the subject of some doubt. There were certainly people out there who would have been happy to frame Edwards as he alleged had, in fact, happened, during his trial.
Edwards was loved by his local constituents in the West End and was almost universally referred to as “The King” – hence the rather odd or obscure title for this review. This accolade was not lost on Edwards who referred to the residents of the West End as ‘My People’.
In his personal life and dress sense Edwards was nothing if not flamboyant. He drove a large American Studebaker car, dressed in white suits, donned Hamburg hats, bow ties and suede shoes and is known to have favoured silk pyjamas and gold-tipped cigarettes. Notwithstanding his decadent lifestyle his considerable wealth was left to charities for the homeless and destitute on his death.
For his 1931 sin, he was dumped by the Labor party and his political career came to an abrupt end though it was rekindled in 1948 when he was re-elected to the Adelaide City Council where he remained a Councillor until his death in 1963.
‘The King’s’ funeral is said to have been one of the largest ever seen in Adelaide, his poor constituents remained loyal to him to the end and, notwithstanding his conviction for sodomy, to which no reference was made in his glowing obituary, the Nuns of the Daughters of Charity subsequently named a new dining hall after him. Today Albert Augustine (Bert) Edwards rests in peace in his copper casket in the nearby West Terrace Cemetery.
This is a must visit for aficionados of Gothic Revival architecture and quality chocolates – as least one of which I suspect many of Virtual Tourist's discerning readers is!
When locals think of Beehive Corner, Adelaide’s busiest pedestrian intersection, they invariably think of Haigh’s chocolates, for good reason. They are delicious.
The corner building, constructed in 1895, is rather interesting for two reasons. Firstly, it is one of the few non-religious Gothic Revival buildings in Australia and, secondly, it has a beehive and bee on the top of it, or rather on top of a very ornate ornamental turret attached to the building. The bee weighs 45 kilograms and is made of aluminium gilded with gold.
Do lift your eyes from the ‘chocolate level’ to see the bee on its beehive and generally have a look at the beautiful and wonderfully detailed building which was most recently renovated in 1998.
One might conclude that the corner was named after the beehive atop the turret. Not so. The corner site has been known as the Beehive Corner since 1849 and was named after Messrs Brewer and Robertson's drapery store – The Beehive – which opened that year in the forerunner to this building. The drapery store had a gold leaf beehive motif on its glass doors.
The building has another important claim to fame, being the building in which the first motion pictures seen in South Australia were screened in 1896, only 10 months after the Brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière screened the world's first motion pictures in Paris. It was another 12 years before Adelaide's first permanent cinema, West's Olympia, opened.
Haigh’s Chocolates, now Australia’s largest family run chocolate company employing over 500 people, has been on this site since 1915 and the shop here remains it flagship store.
Opening hours – Haigh’s Chocolates
Monday - Thursday 8:30am 6.00pm
Friday 8.30am 9.00pm
Saturday 9.00am 5.30pm
Sunday 10.30am 5.30pm
Telephone and web address below is of Haigh’s Chocolates.
Next City East Review
Fowler’s “Lion” Factory is one of the few remaining major industrial buildings in the city. Well, two thirds of it is. The former left wing, as you look at it in my second picture, was lost in 1966 when Morphett Street was widened. You will correctly surmise that the yellow blotches are recent additions giving a hint to the building’s current use as an art centre and original live music venue (Fowler’s Live – previously the Lion Arts Centre), somewhat removed from its original use.
Many writers here on VT advise readers to ‘look up’ when they travel. This is very sagely advice, particularly when one ambles in cities and towns.
Once you arrive at 68 North Terrace admire the quality of the brickwork but, above all, look up at the beautiful parapet and the stone lion (the company’s trademark), on Fowler’s “Lion” Factory. The original lion, carved by stonemason John Patrick Jackson, was taken by the Fowler Family when it sold the business to Southern Farmers Ltd in 1982-83. The present lion is a copy installed in 1988.
Lest the name of this factory confuse you, it was not a place were lions were breed or otherwise produced but rather a flourmill (or more specifically a flour packing facility) belonging to D & J Fowler (Australia) Ltd and dating from 1906 and one of about a dozen mills operated by the Company.
D & J Fowler Ltd was established in 1854 by David and James Fowler, pious Baptists and hard-working immigrants from Scotland. The Company started out as a retail grocery shop on nearby King William Street. The business soon expanded into a wholesale venture dealing in all manner of grocery produce. The retail side of the business was closed in 1865.
By the early 1880s D & J Fowler Ltd was one of the, if not the, largest commercial houses in the southern hemisphere. It had branches in London and Freemantle with representatives in the Northern Territory and on the Murray River. This was in addition to large storehouses in Port Adelaide and elsewhere in the city and factories producing jam, confectionery and preserved fruit. As well as engaging the services of others in their import business it ran its own shipping agency importing foodstuffs while exporting wool, wheat, flour, meat, butter, copper and tanning bark.
The British Journal of Commerce of 11 October, 1889, commented that the Lion trademark was “accepted throughout the Australian colonies as a synonym for the highest state of excellence and purity in preserved fruits, jams, pickles, sauces, etc”.
The old postcard image in picture 3 shows that by 1939 D & J Fowler Ltd was a wholesale purveyor of flour, coffee & chicory, tea, custard and plum pudding while the reverse side of the card (picture 4) lists many more of the finest LION branded groceries available from the Company.
In later years, David and his brother and then business partner, George (James had died in 1859) dappled in politics as staunch supporters of free trade. Their unwillingness to accept any form or protection for native industry and their strong temperance views put paid to their political endeavours but not their business success.
All in all, a lovely reminder of a family which helped develop the economic and civic life of the then fledgling British colony.
Next North Terrace Review
Carclew House is a beautiful building that was once a private home. In 1965, the Adelaide City Council bought it, and it became a centre that would be a place for multi-arts activity for young people up to the age of 17 years, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
It was named "Carclew Youth Arts Centre"
After viewing "Light's Vision," I went for a walk along Pennington Terrace until I reached St. Peter's Cathedral. Along here are statues and many impressive houses.
You can also start from Light's Vision, then walk to Brougham Place seeing the Mansions there. Palmer Place is also well known for their large mansions including Christ Church and Bishop's Court, which date from the early 1850s. Great views over the city too!
The walk takes about 1.5hours.
Brochures are available from the Adelaide City Council Customer Centre, 25 Pirie Street, Adelaide.
St Mark's College is affiliated with the Anglican church and is a co-residential college. It is another architecturally beautiful University buildilng.
St Mark's all boys College, came about as there was no student accommodation at the University of Adelaide. At the time, it was known as Downer House, then St. Marks bought the house, and it became St. Marks College. At this time, it was used to accommodate a single, or temporarily detached married Master, 12 tutors and students, a cook-housekeeper and 2/3 maids.
In December 1940, the College was leased to the RAAF for the duration of the war. Following the conclusion of the war, the college re-opened on 10 March 1946.
Women were first admitted to the college in 1982.
The GPO is a beautiful heritage building, built in Victorian Free Classical style. It has been in the same location since 1851.
The present building was constructed between 1867-72, with the Clock, Bell's and dial facings installed in 1875. Back then, it was both a post office and a telegraph station.
The GPO is a major feature of the streetscape in King William Street and, with the Town Hall opposite, provides an impressive sight of twin towers.
OPEN - 8.30 - 5.30PM Monday - Friday
I'm so glad this famous old Treasury Building has been renovated and given a good home.
The Adelaide Treasury building is one of the oldest and most historically significant buildings in South Australia.
This gorgeous building was designed in 1836 by George Strickland Kingston, but the foundation stone wasn't laid until 1839 by Governor Gawler.
At the same time, the Governor proclaimed that Adelaide would be the site of the capital city, finally laying to rest, much rumour and controversy as to where the capital would be located.
Lots of important historic events have taken place here.
Australia’s first gold coin, the Adelaide pound, was minted on site during the 1850s Gold Rush, and it was because of this Gold rush, the old Treasury building was demolished and rebuilt creating the building we see today.
The Beef Riots of the 1930s, when demonstrations rallied against the exclusion of beef from rations took place at the Treasury site during the depression.
In 1863, explorer John McDouall Stuart was welcomed in front of the building after crossing Australia, and Explorer Captain Charles Stuart worked in the Treasury as a surveyor.
George Goyder, another surveyor, established the famous Goyder’s line and Robert Torrens, developed the land title systems that were widely adopted around the world, worked here.
From 1876 to 1968 Members of the Premier’s Cabinet met in the Cabinet Room.
Sir Thomas Playford, South Australia's most favorite Premier, ran the state from the Treasury for 26 years.
Last but not least, when the Beatles [pop group] came to Australia in 1964, they found themselves amongst thousands of fans. A way of escaping the fans was to make a mad dash through the Treasury courtyard.
Underneath the Treasury building are underground tunnels, mostly used in the 1960’s.
Now this beautiful building is the "Medina Apartment's Hotel." In the lobby is a permanent display of artefacts found during renovations, including glassware, bone handles from cutlery, coins and much more.
Meals are available...BREAKFAST 7-10 am (Monday - Friday & 8:00am - 11:00am ( Weekends)
Lunch...12:00 - 2:30 (Monday - Friday)
Dinner...6 - 9pm (Monday - Friday) 6:00pm - 9:30pm (Saturday)
The original “Beehive” corner was owned by John Rundle in 1849. The street that ran past his shop was named after him, becoming Rundle Street, which is now known as Rundle Mall.
The Beehive Corner was built in gothic revival style between 1895-97, a stand-out building at the beginning of Rundle Mall. The name was first used by Messrs Brewer and Robertson when they advertised their new drapery, "The Beehive" in the 'South Australian Register' in 1849.
The Beehive Corner was often used as a meeting place, and still is, everybody knows where it was located!
It is also where Adelaide’s first electric street lighting was installed in October 1895, and during the Federation Royal Visit in 1901, seats on a grandstand erected on the corner sold for ten shillings each. The Royal couple, who were later to be crowned King George V and Queen Mary, passed by here a total of three times.
Mitchell building is another that belongs to the S.A. University. It was built in 1879, and was the first building on the University of Adelaide's North Terrace Campus.
It is built in the gothic style, has a grand staircase and stained-glass windows. To me, it looks a little like a Church.
Brookman building is part of the University of S.A.
Another imposing building on North Terrace, this one built in Federation-Gothic style and made of local bluestone and bricks.
In 1903, it was used as a preparatory school for students entering the School of Mines as they had been found to be ill-prepared for study. In 1914 this became the Junior Technical School which then changed its name in 1918 to Adelaide Technical High School.
In 1963 Adelaide Technical High School moved so the University of South Australia took the building over.
After viewing Scots Church, it was time to look at the historic Ruthven Mansions, Adelaides first apartment building with all the “mod cons”, including electric lighting and air conditioning, all those necessities we take forgranted now!
This 4/5 story building was built in two stages between 1911-12 and 1914.
One of the first residents of the Ruthven Mansions was English woman, Evelyn James, a stewardess on the Titanic. After the disaster, she married Dr William James and they migrated to Australia, living for more than a year at the Ruthven Mansions.
Luckily, the building was saved after falling into disrepair and now is Apartments and a Shopping Arcade.
The Mansion's are the red & cream building located behind Scot's Church in Pulteney Street.
Adelaide city centre had some beautiful old colonial style buildings: churches, the train station - now a casino, museums, the town hall, the university. All were very attractive and worth a look.
This was an old building which has been renovated into a residential apartment block at Pulteney Street.