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Architectural Splendour in Barnard Street, North Adelaide

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by Graeme Fanning (subscribe)
I'm a tour guide who is passionate about South Australia and love to showcase to locals and visitors. Visit my facebook page at www.facebook.com/Down-to-Earth-Tours-1491827191071798/
Published July 10th 2022
Take a breather down Barnard Street
To walk down some of the streets in North Adelaide is a trip that will take you back to another time with its magnificent built heritage. Some of the City of Adelaide's blue plaques will give you snippets of information about each property as you wander along, which gives you a thirst for wanting to find out more about who lived in some of these majestic dwellings.

Barnard Street in North Adelaide runs between Wellington Square and Mills Terrace and was named after Edward George Barnard, a British MP who was given the responsibility of chairing the finance committee for the South Australian Colonisation Commission, in the lead-up to the establishment of the colony in 1836.

1880's architecture Barnard Street North Adelaide
1880's architecture Barnard Street North Adelaide


Here are 7 eye-catching properties along Barnard Street which capture the quintessential character of the area and give us a glimpse into another age.

1. City Land Investment Company Sub-Division

In the closing stages of South Australia's greatest boom period during the 1880s, one of the largest and last speculative initiatives occurred, namely the City Land Investment Company Sub-Division, which was bordered by Molesworth, Hill and Barnard Streets in North Adelaide.

Thomas Frost was the architect and was commissioned to build 22 dwellings, 18 of them in pairs, with the remaining 4 being larger detached housing. Examples of Frost's other designs around North Adelaide included the former Congregational Church in Brougham Place (today the Brougham Place Uniting Church) and the former Whinham College in Jeffcott Street (today a Lutheran Seminary College).

This sub-division is one of the few relatively intact and easily identifiable ones around Adelaide.

City Land Investment Company Sub-Division Housing 1880's Barnard Street North Adelaide
City Land Investment Company Sub-Division Housing 1880's Barnard Street North Adelaide


2. Sunningdale

Sunningdale was built in 1935 as a collection of 2 storey flats in an Inter-War Mediterranean style at a time when self-contained apartments became a fashionable alternative to single houses. The onset of World War 2 saw the popular trend halted, which did not become popular again until the 1970s.

The design was by architects McMichael and Harris with ideas obtained from Eric McMichael's trip overseas in 1926, returning with a fresh approach to design. The same architects also designed the Darling Building in Franklin Street ( which fortunately was saved from demolition) and the Savings Bank of South Australia headquarters in King William Street, both in the CBD of Adelaide.

Sunningdale Wellington Square North Adelaide
Sunningdale Wellington Square North Adelaide


3. Glendalough

Another one of the outstanding properties along Barnard Street is Glendalough, a 1913 bungalow style mixed with an Australian Federation design. It is not clear whether the architect was F Kenneth Milne or Alfred Wells, however, both were renowned architects of their time.

The house was originally built for John Craven, a wealthy draper, who was a partner with William Armstrong in the once-iconic department store (drapery and clothing specialists) J Craven & Co.

This store began operating in 1886, having once been Charles Willcox & Co. When Armstrong retired in 1912, the store further expanded into nearby properties as well as to a third floor.

After 1920 with additional capital available, the business further expanded into women's fashions, bridal wear, carpets and drapery. John Craven made several trips to UK and Europe, building successful relationships with suppliers as well as acquiring further stock, purchasing in some cases from factory outlets in substantial quantities. When returning to Adelaide, John was able to offer goods at a low cost, which in turn ensured fast turnover and quick profits.

John died in 1932 and his son Thomas took over the business, with Craven's continuing operation until the 1970s when the building was demolished and replaced by the Centrepoint Shopping Centre, where Target is today, on the corner of Rundle and Pulteney Streets in the city.

Glendalough during the 1980s belonged to Theo Maras, a high-profile Adelaide property developer who sold it in 2017 for around $2.2 million, a far cry from its original build cost of 1,500 pounds.

The property is still believed to be one of the finest examples of Edwardian architecture in North Adelaide.

Glendalough Barnard Street North Adelaide
Glendalough Barnard Street North Adelaide


4. Brooklyn/Koneta/Leoni

This rather large imposing house dates back to 1867 when it was built for a prosperous Grenfell Street grocer, Frederick William Thomas. Thomas had arrived in South Australia in 1839 whilst still in his twenties.

Frederick established his business entitled A & W D Thomas which operated from the Grenfell Street site for over 50 years before the building was finally demolished in 1919 to make way for the expansion of Harris Scarfe's Department store.

The architect of the house in Barnard Street was Daniel Garlick, another renowned architect in South Australia who also over time was responsible for buildings such as the Newmarket Hotel on the corner of North Terrace and West Terrace (1882), G & R Wills warehouse on North Terrace (1878), and the original buildings belonging to Prince Alfred College in Kent Town (1868).

After Frederick died in 1871, the family eventually sold the house in the 1890s to John Joseph Leahy, who ran a very successful building construction company (since 1877).

Some of Leahy's structures of note he built were St Dominic's Priory Chapel and Chapter House in Molesworth Street, North Adelaide, the additions to St Peter's Cathedral as well as being responsible for the monument in Light Square over Colonel William Light's remains/grave, which had been unveiled in 1905, weighing around 4 tons upon polishing.

During Leahy and his family's time in the house, the property was named "Brooklyn" believed to have originated from the place in the US, where he and his wife had initially met.

Many mansions in the early twentieth century (particularly in North Adelaide) were converted for institutional use and in 1908 two nurses converted the property into a "lying-in house" catering for 6 women at a time. In 1915, a former matron of the Queen's Home (later to become the Queen Victoria Hospital) Edith Sketheway joined the establishment. The house during this period was known as "Koneta", a private midwifery hospital until the mid-1920s.

The property was then further sold to a lady who converted the property into 9 separate flats. During the 1980s, the imposing residence was reverted to a private residence once again, comprising 8 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms.

Brooklyn Barnard Street North Adelaide
Brooklyn Barnard Street North Adelaide


5. Georgian Revival Style House - 117 Barnard Street

Another Inter-War residence along Barnard Street is this Georgian Revival style designed by architect Guy Makin around 1939. Guy Makin was responsible for other notable properties including Kingsmead House in Palmer Place North Adelaide as well as the Seaman's Mission at Outer Harbor.

The house was built for highly acclaimed South Australian photographer Darian Smith, and one of the unusual features of this house is the deliberate incorporation of a curved corner in one of the rooms for portrait photography lighting, as well as a dark room.

Douglas Darian Smith was born in North Adelaide in 1900. In 1917, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), and was discharged as medically unfit only one month after his initial enlistment. Darian then managed to re-enlist in November 1917 and was allocated to the Australian Army Medical Corps serving in Europe, and finally returning home to Australia in 1919.

One of his amazing achievements whilst he was in England was to gain the opportunity to not only train in photography but also to fly with Sir Ross Smith in his Vickers Vimy (Smith and his brother Keith were the first to fly from England to Australia in 1919), taking his first aerial photographs.

Upon returning to Adelaide in 1919, Darian initially worked for G & R Wills and then married in 1926. The couple settled in Glen Osmond, whereupon Darian established his own photographic business.

In March 1931, Australian Homes and Gardens magazine published his aerial photographs of Port Noarlunga, and in 1932 also published some of his images of Adelaide. Apart from his own publications, Darian continued to regularly contribute to South Australian Homes and Gardens, photographing social and sporting events.

Darian's aerial work was operated from Parafield Airport, initially flying in a Gypsy Moth. Darian's work, especially his aerial photography was highly recognised throughout his lifetime, and Darian lived until the age of 84, passing away in 1984.

Georgian Revival Style House Barnard Street North Adelaide
Georgian Revival Style House Barnard Street North Adelaide


6. Connery House & Chapel - Calvary Hospital


Connery House and Chapel are important buildings within the Calvary Hospital complex which extends from Strangways Terrace to Barnard Street. Calvary Hospital was established initially by the Little Company of Mary, with Mary Potter being the founder.

Initially the order was involved with the North Adelaide Private Hospital, and plans were then made to build a new hospital, the Calvary, which opened in 1906.

The hospital grounds gradually expanded, and after a new nurses home was opened in 1918, plans were made for a new convent which opened in 1930, having been formally Adelaide's first Jewish Lord Mayor's home - Sir Lewis Cohen.

Both the convent and the chapel were designed by architectural firm, Woods, Bagot, Laybourne Smith. Louis Laybourne Smith had also designed St Cuthbert's Church of England in Prospect, and the War Memorial on North Terrace in the city.

The convent was utilised for that purpose until February 1993, when it became medical rooms as part of the hospital complex.

In the heyday, when Sir Lewis Cohen lived in the original house, he was known to entertain with style, hosting lavish dinner parties with many prominent Adelaide citizens. Dinner was always formal with his servants wearing white gloves to serve. Cohen himself was apparently not a big eater and once he finished eating, any of his guests and family members were also presumed to have finished the meal - dinner was over!

Cohen served as Mayor of Adelaide 7 times and Lord Mayor from 1921 to 1923. He also served representing North Adelaide in the House of Assembly in previous years, leaving a huge legacy after his death in 1933, including an avenue named after him.

Connery House and Chapel Barnard Street North Adelaide
Connery House and Chapel Barnard Street North Adelaide


7. 1860's Early Victorian residence

When you approach this house, the double storey facade gives little clues as to its history from its 1864 build through to its many alterations over the years right up to 1959. The original house was a one storey structure with two rooms, built for George Howell who had migrated to South Australia with his parents John and Elizabeth back in 1852.

The family was involved in the stationery and book-selling business for many years, in fact it was at one time one of the largest publishers in Adelaide.

George's father, John had originally opened his first shop in Hindley Street in the city in 1855. John initiated and compiled his own Directory for the City and Port of Adelaide, and moved to premises in Rundle Street in 1862. George joined the burgeoning business with it becoming known as John Howell & Son.

From 1865, the book-selling business was one of three agents for the Adelaide Almanac, and by 1871 was the sole agent. Upon John's death in 1871 the business closed down.

During 1867, the house in Barnard Street was sold to James Porter, whose occupation was registered as a Share Dealer, who had migrated to South Australia back in 1849. As a share dealer Mr Porter must have prospered, as he was able to afford to add a two storey section in front of the original two rooms.

Fast forward to 1944 and the house was bought by one of Adelaide's former Lord Mayors - James Campbell Irwin, who served as Lord Mayor from 1963 to 1966.

Irwin was also notable as an architect who had become a partner in the prominent architectural firm of Woods, Bagot, Laybourne Smith..... and Irwin mentioned earlier.

As Lord Mayor, Irwin was quite instrumental in advancing the Council's interest in the proposed Festival Hall project during the 1960's. During Irwin's time in the Barnard Street house, it is believed he made several alterations and additions including the addition of verandahs, another bathroom and bedroom.

As an architect, Irwin at one stage co-won a competition to design a new wing of the Adelaide Children's Hospital during the early 1930's.

Some of Irwin's contributions to Adelaide buildings included St Peters College, University of Adelaide, the 1959 Advertiser Newspapers building which was at one time on the corner of King William Street and Waymouth Street in the city, as well as designs for GMH (General Motors Holden) at both Woodville and Elizabeth plants.

Apparently Irwin embraced steel frame functionalism, although he believed that enclosing buildings in glass was the "ultimate stupidity".

1860's Early Victorian residence Barnard Street North Adelaide
1860's Early Victorian residence Barnard Street North Adelaide


Amazing to think that by wandering down one street in North Adelaide can reveal so much about our past and some of the former residents and their contribution to South Australian society.
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Why? A chance to learn more about architecture, history and some of North Adelaide's former residents
When: Any time of the year
Phone: 08 8203 7203
Where: Barnard Street, North Adelaide, SA
Cost: Free
Your Comment
What a great historical walk. Let's hope all the buildings will last forever and stay away from the clutches of developers.
by Neil Follett (score: 3|4261) 33 days ago
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