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The Town Hall
A landmark heritage building, the Town Hall manages to capture the essence of history yet being graced with modernity.
Located across from the Adelaide GPO, its a marvel to magnificent architecture and elegant interiors.
Open: 8.30am - 5.00pm, Monday to Friday
ADELAIDE TOWN HALL
Another magnificent building in Adelaide, is the Town Hall.
The Adelaide Town Hall was known as “the largest municipal building south of the Equator” when it was officially opened on 20 June 1866.
The site was used initially as a produce market selling hay, corn, butter, poultry as well as eggs, fish and vegetables. All that changed in 1863, when the foundation stone was laid for the new Town Hall.
If you walk along King William street, on the Town Hall side, you will pass through the Arches made out of white freestone, trouble is, will all the fumes etc. from traffic, they don't look white!
The Italianate tower was named in memory of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, who had died not long before. The Italianate structure is capped by a lantern-dome and stands 146 feet (44 metres) high.
The tower is the only civic building outside England to house a full peal of 8 bells which are also named in honour of Prince Albert.
The hall is famous for an appearance by The Beatles on the balcony in 1964, which attracted an estimated 300,000 fans, their biggest crowd.
The Adelaide City Council conducts free one hour guided tours through the Town Hall’s Public Spaces and Civic Rooms, including the Queen Adelaide Room and the Colonel Light Room.
TOURS ARE FREE
WHEN.....Each Monday morning at 10am (by appointment only).
OPEN....Monday - Friday 9-5pm
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The Prophet Elijah visits the Adelaide Town Hall
As you admire Adelaide’s beautiful Town Hall (see my separate review) do imagine being here in 1904 when ‘the Prophet Elijah’ dropped by to provide wise counsel to the good people of Adelaide.
When the Rev John Alexander Dowie, a Scottish born, former South Australian Congregationalist minister from Adelaide since turned US fire and brimstone evangelist visited Adelaide to speak at the Town Hall on Monday 21 March 1904 thousands turned out to see him, if not listen to what he had to say.
Standing only 5’ 4” tall, and styling himself Elijah the Restorer and God’s Divine Healer, Dowie had, by 1904, made it big time in the United States and now embarked on an around the world tour to raise even more funds for his self created and already rich Zion City near Chicago. Having just received a rapturous welcome in New York’s Madison Square Gardens he expected a similar welcome in Australia and in his old home town of Adelaide, in particular.
Australia was to prove a tougher nut to crack than New York. Here people were, in general, loyal to their own religions and were not impressed by Dowie’s message that all religions other than his were false. Likewise, Dowie, a staunch proponent of divine healing, rejected all other kinds of medicine - doctors, drugs and devils were all denounced as 'foes of Christ the Healer’.
As his earlier meetings in Sydney and Melbourne had been broken up by hecklers (he blamed the Freemasons) extra security had been laid on in Adelaide.
As Dowie took to the stage in the Adelaide Town Hall, dressed as the Prophet Elijah (though, one suspects, with rather more expensive trimmings), he was seen to be weeping. He started by telling his audience that he was weeping because of their sins and then proceeded to inform them that unless they repented, and made a generous monetary contribution to him, they would be going straight to Hell. A swipe that King Edward had ‘no religion to spare’ particularly incensed the Kings loyal subjects in Adelaide.
The heckling began and hundreds of programs were rolled up and flung at this latter day Elijah along with stink-bombs, brought along especially for the occasion. Unable to bring the crowd under control, Dowie and his minders fled the Town Hall and made for the York Hotel where he was staying, with the now reckless rabble in tow. Significant superficial damage was done to both the Town Hall and the York Hotel.
Dowie attempted one more meeting in Adelaide with equal results and on fleeing the city he proclaimed that Australians were ‘villains, perjurers, servants of the devil and filthy, disgusting stinkpots’. He vowed to return at a later date with a thousand guards to deal with his detractors.
The good Reverend never got the chance to settle scores. While he was on his world tour, his Zion City accounts had been audited and money was found to be missing. Dowie was removed as leader in an internal coup and denounced as a great sinner. In 1906 he suffered a stroke and died the following year. At his request, after his coffin was put into it, his grave was filled with concrete such that doubters could not test the validity of his claim that he wasn’t in it as he had, off course, miraculously arisen! Where he went when he arose remains a mystery.
(Pictures 1 and 3, respectively, courtesy of Wikipedia and The State Library of South Australia).
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Adelaide Town Hall
Let’s face it; a Town Hall is a Town Hall no matter where in the world it is located. Seems somewhere on planet earth is a place where all town halls are designed, because they all seem to look very similar – a tall bell or clock tower that really tells the ratepayers that ‘we are here and watching you to make sure you don’t put your rubbish in another ratepayers bin.’ They all seem to have an elaborate portico where the mayor and important people can arrive at the main door free of getting wet, wind blown or scorched by the sun. Above the portico is a place where that same mayor can be seen by the general populace on an gracious outdoor area free of the sun, wind and rain – mayor might even give a very dignified wave to the assembled throngs of peasants, err ratepayers. And all of my above ramblings are directed to the outside of the building, can you imagine what I’d do with words on the inside if I really got fired up – LOL
As shown on the information panel per photo the Adelaide Town Hall was first mooted way back in 1840 when the site was purchased for 12 Shillings – sorry I cannot answer who received that grand sum of money.
What little we saw of the interior was just like any other Town Hall of the same period – fine marble floor, gracious wooden staircase leading to where ‘God sits’ and so on.
The interior also had a very dignified statue of Queen Adelaide herself (photo) 1792 – 1849 after whom the city was named. Lady Gaw and I made one fingered salutes in the former queen’s direction. No doubt she would have muttered something like, “We are not amused,” and maybe guards would have been dispatched to ‘sort us out.’
OK all jokes aside – well not quite; if the guy in charge of Adelaide is called a mayor, who pray tell is the stallion?
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Adelaide Town Hall
This classically styled Victorian building, featuring Corinthian style ornamentation and built of local Tea Tree Gully freestone and Dry Creek bluestone, was designed by Edmund Wright, a former city mayor. The building opened in 1866 and was touted as the largest municipal building in the southern hemisphere at the time. In 1872, writer Anthony Trollope, who was touring Australia at the time, rated the building, and town halls he had seen in Australia generally, as greatly beating those in Britain at the time.
Do look out for the carved keystones on the front of the building. I have subsequently read that there are three of these, featuring the heads of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Governor Daly. I have to say, though, that I am at a loss to work out which of the three is depicted in my attached picture 4. Given the beard, I can probably safely surmise that it is not of Queen Victoria but based on the limited research I have carried out, neither Prince Albert nor Governer Daly sported a beard - both had moustaches and receding hairlines. I got to wondering if, in fact, there are more than three carved keystones and if the one I have captured is perhaps another gentleman. Very fuzzy pictures which I have suggest that there may be seven in total. I shall investigate further on a future visit to Adelaide.
What I can tell you with certainly is that the clock tower on the building is called the Albert Tower (named after Queen Victoria’s consort) and stands 146 feet high (44 metres). The tower contains eight bells which have rang out to mark significant occasions (as well as many less significant ones!) throughout the history of the city. A local newspaper in 1929 remarked that the “Albert bells have rejoiced at many famous events, and mourned the death of South Australia's greatest sons and daughters. Victories of the Boer and European war were made known to the public through their sweet-toned chimes’. While the tower had its bells from the beginning the clock, donated by Councillor Sir John Lavington Bonython, a former mayor, was not added until 1935. Picture 3 attached (courtesy of History SA. South Australian Government Photographic Collection ) is a 1910s depiction of the building without its clock.
Continuing in a musical vein, the Town Hall hosts a very impressive organ which I have yet to see. In fact, to date I have not had the opportunity to take a tour of the interior of the building, apart for a quick look around the foyer. When I take a tour I will update this review.
Located in the foyer of the building, which you can have a look at without signing up for a tour, is a rather grand marble staircase, which I neglected to photograph, and a statue of Queen Adelaide, after whom the city is named and which I did manage to photograph (picture 5).
Over time the building has had a number of renovations and additions. One of these additions was the former Wesleyan Methodist Church Meeting Hall, to the rear of the main building which the Council hires out for, yes - you have guessed it, meetings. You can see pictures of this rather delightful building and read a little more about in my separate review - Pirie Street Methodist Church and Meeting Hall.
The Town Hall, in addition to being home to the Adelaide City Council and its officials, is an important venue for concerts, civic receptions and public meetings. Two historic public events which took place here stand out above all others, for me.
In 1904 the Town Hall played host to the infamous Rev John Alexander Dowie and sixty years later in 1964 an estimated 30,000 people gathered in the street in front of the Town Hall (300,000 gathered throughout the city) to pay homage to The Beatles (for those who don’t know - a rather famous pop band from Liverpool, England!) who made a brief appearance on the balcony. As readers will most likely be less familiar with the Rev John Alexander Dowie than The Beatles I have prepared a separate review on the visit of the Reverend Dowie - The Prophet Elijah visits the Adelaide Town Hall.
Visiting the Town Hall
The ‘Bürgermeister’ of Adelaide would seem to be hell bent on denying access to the inner sanctum of his fiefdom. Entry to the building is by means of guided tours which are only held on non-holiday Mondays at 10am. Should you be able to make it at this time, you need secure your place online at http://www.adelaidetownhall.com.au/. Tours last approximately one hour and are free of charge. Details of concerts and other public events can also be found on the Town Hall website.
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