Few people in Adelaide have ever heard of the City Steam Biscuit Factory.
But if it had never been built, Adelaide may never have seen its iconic frog cakes, and the Altitude tower development on Morphett St may not have happened.
This building was the precursor to the thriving Balfours business that has been supported by South Australians for so many years and ultimately became a national business .
James and Margaret Calder arrived in Adelaide in 1852 starting a bakery with a shop on Rundle St in 1853. In 1872 he was so successful he opened the City Steam Biscuit Factory and by 1873 James Calder was advertising a Nic-Nac biscuit made in his factory on Twin St. Another advertisement of the time refers to him as Biscuit Maker to HRH The Duke of Ediburgh.
Advertisement in SA Register, Thursday 6 March 1873 (courtesy National Library of Australia)
Mr. Calder has also made him self a name for his excellent wedding, pound, currant, sponge, seed, tea, and other cakes. The demand for the colonial made biscuits and cakes is now so brisk that the proprietor finds great difficulty in keeping his customers supplied. He now employs five men and four apprentices, which is the hugest number he can find room for in his present premises.
James Calder's obituary in 1889 records that he was diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes in 1880, so he arranged for his nephew John Balfour to became a partner. On seeking medical advice in London, Calder was told that he didn't have cataracts at all and that a different kind of spectacles was all that would be required for many years.
In 1892, a new factory was built in Cardwell Street and Balfour's wife Elizabeth began a new business with her son J.G. Balfour and son-in-law C.P. Wauchope. Balfour & Company took over premises in Morphett Street in 1908 and continued to prosper.
Advertisement for Physical Culture & Boxing (Courtesy National Library of Australia)
Little is known about the Biscuit Factory's use over the next few decades. In 1951 it was occupied by a C.E Bennett and Adelaide Gymnasium. It's just possible that this photo of footballers training in 1954 was taken in the old Biscuit Factory.
Fast forwarding to 1969, and number 29 Twin St was occupied by Pet Supplies Pty Ltd (wholesalers) and Twin St Music Centre. Thousands of children of the time would have walked past to visit the Pet Centa ("Bird Dealers & Pet Store") which occupied number 25 Twin St for many years.
Twin St Music was well known to many others. Scottish born Jim Keays, who later became lead singer of The Masters Apprentices, one of Australia's most successful bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s, recalls that heogled the electric guitars on
offer at the Twin Street Music Shop, 'the coolest shop in town', and saw in their colours and shapes, a representation of 'freedom'.
This is the earliest documented reference to the City Steam Biscuit Factory's link to music. However it is recorded that number 29A was occupied in 1969 by The Cellar night club, an appropriate forerunner to The Jade Monkey and Two Ships which occupied the premises from around 1992 until now.
Following approval from the Development Assistance Commission to build a 17 storey hotel adjacent to the former City Steam Biscuit Factory, the developer has decided to demolish this building which has been a key part of Adelaide's history over so many years.
It's not being demolished because the site is needed in the new development. The City Steam Biscuit Factory has to go so that there is improved access for the building works. So much for Development vs History - there is no contest!
Maybe if the building was maintained in a manner that reflected it's former glory rather than covered in graffiti and littered with cigerette butts, the new owners would've looked at it in a more favourable light - I guess we will never know.