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7 Historic Mansions on East Terrace

Home > Adelaide > Architecture | Family | Historic Houses | Places of Interest | Walks | Lists
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 November 21st 2016
East Terrace - steeped in history
If you haven't taken a wander down East Terrace in the city of Adelaide, you'll think you have wandered into another world when you view some of the historic grand homes perched on the fringe of the eastern parklands.

As part of Colonel William Light's 1840 plan of Adelaide, 20 town acres were allocated on East Terrace, some of which were bought by the South Australia Company, Osmond Gilles, who was our first colonial treasurer, as well as one of the founders of the Adelaide Club, Nathaniel Alexander Knox.

East Terrace was the only street in Light's plan that wasn't straight, and even today it still steps its way from North Terrace to South Terrace. Two reasons are given for the design - one being put down to the natural terrain of the area, and the other, a theory that the area was prone to flooding, and Light took that into account when he laid out the terrace.

In the section north of Pirie Street all the way to North Terrace, East Terrace was crowded with industry and working class tenement buildings, and boasted a tannery, jam factory, a shoeing forge, soap factory, timber merchants and a saw mill amongst others. The focus in that part of East Terrace was the East End Markets or what was known as the Adelaide Fruit and Produce Exchange in the early 1900's.

In remarkable contrast, in the area south of Pirie Street meandering down to South Terrace, was established the grander mansions of those who were successful and prominent businessmen in the areas of pastoral activity, copper mine investors, doctors, lawyers etc.

The area is quite removed from the daily city buzz and grind, with generally quiet environs, fronting onto the beautiful parklands. As I wandered down "the Terrace", I was amazed and impressed by some of the grand homes I came across and found 7 worthy of a mention.

7 Historic Mansions on East Terrace
Colonel William Light's plan of Adelaide 1838 - Courtesy of State Library of South Australia

1. Rymill House

In its heyday, Rymill House was one of the best houses in the city, having been built in its current form in 1881, designed by Tom Haslam. During its early life, the property was known as "The Firs", perhaps suggesting some connection to the type of trees that may have been planted there at some stage. The original acreage was bought back in the late 1850's/early 1860's by two members of the Rymill family - Henry and Frank.

Initially a cottage was built on the site during the 1860's, designed by George Kingston, our Deputy Surveyor-General to Colonel William Light, however was replaced with the ornate Queen Anne style building as you can see walking along East Terrace.

Apparently at the time of building, the innovations were state-of-the-art including sanitary/ plumbing as well as ventilation.

From the front of the house, you can see some fine lead lighting above the main entrance, depicting the four seasons of the year. The house remained family owned until 1950 when it was then acquired by the PMG (Post Master General) as a training centre and utilised right up until 1982. It has been a private residence since that time.

7 Historic Mansions on East Terrace
Rymill House

2. Dimora

Another grand home further down East Terrace at number 120, is Dimora, one time home of Harry Lockett Ayers and his family (son of Henry Ayers, one time copper mine managing director, and Premier of South Australia).

This home was again built during South Australia's boom period in 1882 and featured a large ballroom facing East Terrace, consisting originally of 20 main rooms.

The land surrounding Dimora had been bought by Harry back in the 1860's, which at that time extended from East Terrace to Hutt Street and included Bray House, which now fronts onto Hutt Street, at one stage occupied by Harry and his family during the 1870's.

Harry and his wife Ada, daughter of Sir John Morphett, another colonial prominent citizen, had a total of 12 children, which was not uncommon for Victoriana times due to tragically high infant mortality rates. In fact, 3 of their children died in 1881, the same year that Harry's mother, Lady Anne Ayers also passed away. Another 3 children died before the age of 10 years. The main cause of death for the infants was Tuberculosis, which in those days was difficult to treat.

The property remained in the Ayers family until 1940, when it was sold.

Today the property has been sub-divided for multiple occupancy.

3. Weeroni

This corner property named Weeroni on East Terrace/Wakefield Street is reminiscent of an earlier Victorian period villa, although it was built in 1896 for an A H Jensen.

The detail on these style of homes is quite remarkable with elaborated porch hall extension and substantial bay windows and gabled roofing. The two storey addition on view at the rear of the house in Wakefield Street was added during the 1920's.

4. Sainte Etoile

I discovered a great example of a home blending in nicely with the stylish homes on East Terrace, however only built in the 1990's. The building reeks classical style with both Italianate elements as well as a very strong French influence.

Sainte Etoile is also the headquarters of an investment company with the same name.

Built by the late David Cheney, who specialised in period homes and gardens, it is one of many homes scattered around Adelaide bearing David's distinctive style. Tragically David was killed in a motorcycle accident back in 2015 - a talented man who will always be remembered for his unique work.

7 Historic Mansions on East Terrace
Sainte Etoile

5. Craigweil

Despite the economic slump, which South Australians found themselves going through during the later part of the 1880's, some of Adelaide's wealthy citizens were still able to weather the impact and continue to build fashionable homes in the city.

One such man was Dr. Alexander Hay, who was a merchant, pastoralist and politician, having Craigweil built in 1886.

Hay started out with his own grocery and hardware store in Rundle Street during the 1840's supplying tools and equipment to the new copper mines up at Kapunda as well as the building industry. He then became proprietor of the SA Register in the 1850's and later director of 2 Insurance companies, 2 Banks, a Gas company, a Wharf company, not to mention his investment in several pastoral properties.

A great example of how successful some of South Australia's citizens became.

The grand house is in remarkably good condition even today, with stuccoed walling and an elaborate gabled facade.

7 Historic Mansions on East Terrace

6. St Corantyn

The first thing you notice upon approach to this historic property is the "For Sale" sign prominently placed, boasting 6 Bedrooms, 4 Bathrooms and room for 6 cars.

Originally advertised for $5.9 million back in August, I believe the sale price has been lowered slightly - anyone with some spare change might be interested!

The house was originally built in the early 1890's for the Hornabrook's, a family who had numerous investments in Adelaide, including Hornabrook Snr, being licensee of the York Hotel, on the corner of Rundle and Pulteney Streets in Adelaide.

Hornabrook Jnr (Charles) took over as licensee during the 1850's and later, in the 1880's lived in another large house on Dequetteville Terrace.

The name of the property was originally "Eothen" and was designed by one of the oldest and leading firms of architects in Adelaide, that of English and Soward. In fact, Hornabrook's wife was sister of George Soward, so certainly a clear connection to the building of the house.

The subsequent owner of the house was Malcolm Reid, of furniture emporium fame, who owned the house for 16 years from 1912 up to 1928. It was then that the Bonython family purchased the home and renamed it "St Corantyn".

After Sir John Bonython's death in 1962, the property was sold to the South Australian Health Commission and became a mental health services day hospital for some time, before it reverted to private ownership.

At the rear of the property, which you can see from Gilles Street, there are still remaining buildings which were used as servant's quarters during its heyday.

7 Historic Mansions on East Terrace
St Corantyn

7. Ochiltree

Arguably one of the most magnificent houses in the East end, located on the corner of East Terrace and South Terrace is Ochiltree, built in 1882 and once owned by John Rounsevell.

Back in the 1870's Rounsevell had previously built himself a 20 roomed mansion in Hutt Street, which later became known as the Naval, Military and Airforce Club, still being used today for that purpose.

Again the style of the house oozes a French influence, particularly with the Mansard roof. However there is certainly an Italianate look about the house when viewed from the imposing front.

Apart from Ochiltree being one time owned by Sir John Morphett, John Rounsevell bought the mansion with monies he had made from coaching and pastoral interests.

Back in the 1850's Rounsevell's family operated the principal coaching operation in South Australia, securing contracts for nearly all of the mail runs in the province, with about 1,000 horses in harness. Later the business was sold to Cobb & Co, and Hill & Co.

Subsequent owners of Ochiltree were connected to Murray River steamboats by the name of Ritchie from around 1920.

7 Historic Mansions on East Terrace

So take a wander around East Terrace and you'll be surprised on what you might find in the way of grandness and opulence - enough to make you not only envious but also impressed!
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Why? An opportunity to discover some of Adelaide's finest mansions right on the eastern fringe of the city.
When: Any time of the year
Where: East Terrace, Adelaide, SA
Cost: Free
Your Comment
I like this end of town myself..such a pleasant area to wander around.Pity one can't enter into the gardens and take a peek inside.Excellent research by the way and photos.They certainly built beautiful mansions in the late 1800's..the architects I imagine would have come out from Britain.
by noelp (score: 3|1199) 1108 days ago
Light's plan has no provision at all for Frome st - evidently a later bulldozing through a lot of properties (as seen on corner of Rundle and Frome to this day) by some City Council scheme.
by (score: 2|555) 1107 days ago
Really well written article, Graeme! These beautiful properties take on more meaning once we know more about their history. I'd also love it if you tackled Robe Tce ;)
by Pynylopy (score: 1|42) 1099 days ago
Very interesting. Love you to do something similar on Robe Terrace - before everyone sells off their tennis courts.
by cathe (score: 0|4) 1106 days ago
While (and because) the street numbering in the city can be a bit odd in places, still it would be helpful to have the street number stated for each property.
by (score: 2|555) 1107 days ago
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