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8 Heritage Buildings in Flinders Street, Adelaide

Home > Adelaide > Architecture | Churches | Lists | Places of Interest | Places of Worship
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
Published December 21st 2016
Flinders Street Heritage in all its glory
You never know what you might discover if you take a walk down some of the city of Adelaide's streets. Nestled in amongst some of the newer buildings along Flinders Street can be found some real heritage gems, including churches, halls and government buildings that date back in some cases to the mid-1800's.

These buildings have luckily stood the test of time and stand as a testament to the builders, architects and visions of prominent and not so prominent Adelaide citizens back in that period.

Flinders Street back in the 1860's and 1870's was dominated by churches and even today, testaments still stand showing the diverse range of religions which stem from that time, including Baptist, Methodist, Anglican and Lutheran.

Here are 8 buildings from the nineteenth century which I came across which all have interesting stories of their own.

8 Heritage Buildings in Flinders Street Adelaide
Pilgrim Uniting Church

1. Pilgrim Uniting Church

This imposing church started out life known as Stow Memorial Church, erected in the 1860's as a memorial to Reverend T Q Stow, who had established Congregationalism in South Australia as early as the late 1830's/early 1840's.

As South Australia was beginning to prosper around the 1850's/1860's, many fine examples of architecture began to appear around Adelaide and country areas, with the Stow Memorial being no exception. The architect was Robert George Thomas, who also was responsible for the Baptist Church further down Flinders Street.

Interestingly there was another church, this time Methodist built earlier, back in the 1850's in Pirie Street, Adelaide which backed onto the Stow Memorial and was separated by a high stone wall with a locked gate.

During the 1960's the two congregations commenced co-operation with each other, which led to a decision in 1969 to rename the partnership to "Union Church in the City", hence allowing the gate to be unlocked.

With the advent of the Uniting Church in Australia in the 1970's, the Flinders Street Stow Memorial Church was re-named to become Pilgrim Uniting Church. As for the Pirie Street church, sadly it was demolished during the 1970's and all that remains today is the old Pirie Street Hall, which the Adelaide City Council hires out for meetings.

Upon the demolition of the Pirie Street church, significant memorial plaques, stained glass windows, wood panelling from the pulpit and the large organ were moved to the Flinders Street site.

Speaking of the organ, it is now the largest in the State, having been originally installed in the Pirie Street Methodist Church in 1855. Since that time it has been rebuilt and enlarged, with today's organ in Pilgrim Uniting having 88 speaking stops and 35 couplers.

8 Heritage Buildings in Flinders Street Adelaide
Pilgrim Uniting Church

2. Office of Multi-Cultural Affairs

What is used as a state government building these days started life as the manse to the Stow Memorial Church, constructed in 1869.

Using local Glen Osmond stone, it was built for the minister as he found it difficult to rent a suitable residence in the city. Further additions were made to the building in 1877, after which it was rented out and eventually sold in 1901 to eliminate church debts.

The buyer was Dr Timothy Augustine Hynes, who ran a sanitarium on the site from 1901 - 1911. The sanitorium was the first of its kind in Adelaide, where a doctor was continually in residence, with Dr Hynes having been a senior surgeon at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

The various illnesses that were being treated at the sanitorium were seen as best treated when the patients were presented with cheerful surroundings, which would hopefully give them the best treatment options. Apparently, the state-of-the-art facility boasted a "roomy motor car" and " a box at the theatre", "orchestral concerts" and a "handball court".

In 1911 the building was sold to the State Government and used as the Registry Office. Further additions were made in the 1920's with a two-storey extension added to the north side, occupied by the Attorney General's Department.

Today it is used as the Office for Multi-Cultural Affairs.

8 Heritage Buildings in Flinders Street Adelaide
Office of Multi-Cultural Affairs

3. Flinders Street Baptist Church

As mentioned above, the Baptist Church was designed by the same architect as Pilgrim Uniting, Robert Thomas and has been erected very much in a similar Gothic style.

The Baptists, like some of the other non-mainstream religions, were seen as religious dissenters, who helped expand the mercantile and pastoral influence of Adelaide in the early years of the colony.

It was around 1860 that three notable South Australians, George Fife Angas, the Reverend George Stonehouse and William Kyffin Thomas (proprietor of the South Australian Register) met to establish a strong and unified church in the city.

They all sponsored a young minister from England, the Reverend Silas Mead and Mead is closely identified with the erection of the church in the early 1860's.

8 Heritage Buildings in Flinders Street Adelaide
Flinders Street Baptist Church

4. Baptist Church Office (former Manse - known as Flinders House)

Right next door to the Baptist Church lies another historic building once utilised as a manse for the ministers of South Australia's principal Baptist congregation and the likes of Reverend Mead and others lived within earshot of their work for the Baptist faith.

Together with the church and the hall, this complement of buildings represent probably the finest group of working ecclesiastical buildings in Adelaide dating from the nineteenth century.

Mead himself remained at the head of the Baptist Church for 36 years.

8 Heritage Buildings in Flinders Street Adelaide
Flinders House

5. Bethlehem Lutheran Church

Moving onto the Lutheran influence in South Australia, the Lutheran Church in Australia was in fact founded in South Australia, with its first service held in 1838 in what was then coined Port Misery (now near West Lakes).

The Bethlehem Lutheran Church specifically opened for public worship in 1872, although the first church with the same name opened in 1860 in Waymouth Street, Adelaide (just west of Light Square), formed by about 25 families.

The impressive bell tower was originally designed to house 3 bells, which were reputedly cast in Germany from cannons captured from the French and presented by Prince Bismarck on behalf of the Emperor. The bells never arrived in Adelaide, as two theories were that the ship bringing them was lost, and the other was the bells were exhibited in the Sydney International Exhibition, where they won first prize.

The beautiful organ was dedicated in 1889 (being refurbished in 2005) and alterations to the church were carried out in the early 1900's. In the early days, services were only carried out in German, however, English services gradually crept in, with services in German-held monthly right up until 1939.

Today around 300-400 people still attend regular services on Sundays.

8 Heritage Buildings in Flinders Street Adelaide
Bethlehem Lutheran Church

6. Flinders Hall

This historic building was originally built as school accommodation for St Paul's Church of England and catered mainly for the poorer people of the congregation, financed by several wealthier members of St Paul's flock.

During the 1880's and early 1890's the building was altered and extended, including a grand staircase and the property and school remained in the hands of St Paul's until 1950 when it was sold to Hamilton Laboratories.

8 Heritage Buildings in Flinders Street Adelaide
Flinders Hall

7. St Paul's Church

One of the first churches in Flinders Street (on the corner of Flinders and Pulteney Streets), St Paul's was erected in the 1860's, soon followed by an adjacent rectory. The congregation of what was known as a High Anglican Church included many prominent South Australians including Henry Ayers and his family, the Bonythons, Schomburgk (the former director of the Botanic Gardens), the Everards and the Brays. Also the Bagot family and Bowman family had their children baptised in the church.

In its heyday, as a church, Lucy Ayers, Henry Ayers daughter had donated Tiffany stained glass windows in the early 1900's which were taken out when St Paul's was finally deconsecrated as church in 1983. The windows were moved to Pulteney Grammar School on South Terrace.

During the 1980's the church was converted into a renowned nightclub and today the church is known as St Paul's Creative Centre, which is a collaborative co-working space for South Australian creative industries and art sectors. Incorporated into the modern fit out today, there is a "songspace" which provides opportunity for collaborative songwriting.

The rectory today is used as a multi-purpose cafe/restaurant and bar.

8 Heritage Buildings in Flinders Street Adelaide
St Pauls Church

8. Observatory House

A distinctive piece of architecture at number 84-86 Flinders Street is a building which was known as Observatory House, erected in the Queen Anne style with a tower, Marseilles tile roof and quality joinery. However there are other parts to the building which have some Gothic influence. It certainly stood out in the Flinders Street streetscape, dominated by churches and associated infrastructure.

The structure was originally built for a business specialising in scientific instrument making, run by Otto Boettger, who had emigrated to South Australia from Germany in 1877.

Upon arrival, Boettger began manufacturing and repairing scientific instruments (including optician's instruments and surveying equipment) and by 1890 his business had extended to the rest of Australia. Boettger's business was also the sole agent for Australia for the well-known microscope establishment of Dr Carl Zeiss.

In 1899 Boettger sold the business to G Kohler, after which the Kohler family continued to operate under the Boettger name until the business closed in 1974. Kohler himself was a manufacturing optician, and apparently the tower, which was added in the early 1900's was a symbol of the instruments manufactured at the site designed to help people see more clearly. These included spectacles, lorgnettes (similar to opera glasses with a long handle on one side), binoculars and telescopes.

8 Heritage Buildings in Flinders Street Adelaide
Observatory House

All of these historic heritage sites have unique stories of their own and luckily for us are all still standing and utilised in some form today.
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Why? An opportunity to observe and appreciate some of Adelaide's fine heritage
When: Any time of the year
Phone: 08 8203 7203
Where: Flinders Street, Adelaide SA
Cost: Free
Your Comment
What lovely old buildings Graeme - well done!
by Elaine (score: 3|7436) 1328 days ago
A very interesting article!I go to the music concerts at the Pilgrim U.C and the Baptist Church..they are held weekly on a Tuesdays and Wednesdays respectively for most of the year at lunchtime.Those at the Pilgrim charge a small fee and are free at the Baptist.The music is classical...well worth a there at 12 noon for the Pilgrim and 1pm for the Baptist.There is always plenty of seating available.
by noelp (score: 3|1199) 1329 days ago
Hi Graeme,
I first came to Adelaide in 1957 as a PMGs Dept. to train as a technician in the old Simpson's building in Pirie St.and often walked past the Methodist Church you mentioned.I left Adelaide for several years and the church had gone when I returned. Someone, in later years, said Light was the only person of European descent that was buried within the City Square Mile (Light Sq.). I had faint memories, or so I thought, of headstones at that Methodist Church and went looking for them but couldn't find the Church, or the headstones, Did they exist?
Jim E.
by jimeus13 (score: 1|32) 1329 days ago
This is a really informative article, I enjoyed it a lot! great one Graeme
by Brooke. A. R (score: 2|405) 1328 days ago
Thanks Graeme, it's people like you that help to keep the city's history alive and that's terribly important.
by cinen (score: 1|10) 1327 days ago
Almost all of the people mentioned in this article have family connections to each other. If you are interested, I can provide the details.
Brian Beck (
by bsbec (score: 0|4) 1149 days ago
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