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9 Interesting Discoveries on Franklin Street, 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
Published January 27th 2018
Foraging in Franklin Street
As I worm my way through the city of Adelaide's streets, I am finding more and more evidence of development, mainly by way of accommodation, from student to luxury apartment style living, which has either been built or is in the process. What this seems to show is how our urban environment is evolving from a city where after 5 pm, it traditionally became a "ghost town" transforming today into a much more vibrant location, which also brings with it more laneway bars, cafes and restaurants.

Franklin Street runs in an east-west direction between King William Street and West Terrace, named after Sir John Franklin, a naval officer and cousin of Matthew Flinders, who assisted Flinders in the exploration of South Australia's coastline back in the early 1800's. It's interesting in the naming of Adelaide's streets that there has been deliberate pairing of streets which cross King William Street, with the continuation of Franklin Street being Flinders Street.

Franklin also was a renowned explorer who went in search of the North-West passage but tragically died in the Arctic ice somewhere in 1847.

Franklin Street still has some bastions of the past evident, but there is also progress afoot with the building of various apartment buildings including West Franklin Apartments on the site of the old Balfours Wauchope factory.

9 Interesting Discoveries on Franklin Street Adelaide
GPO Majesty

Here are 9 interesting discoveries along the street:

1. General Post Office

Situated in its prominent position on the corner of Franklin Street and King William Street, the General Post Office (GPO) with its ornate architecture dates from its completion in 1872, after a competition had been held to come up with an ideal design (won by Edmund Wright and Edward Woods). Not long after its opening, it played a crucial part in being the location where the first message was received along the Overland Telegraph line.

The grand Italianate style showcased in the building was a popular choice in Australia for post offices and other civic buildings during the period late 1850's through to the 1880's. During the early 1890's further extensions were made with the north wing added along King William Street to accommodate the telegraph office as well as administrative offices.

The clock tower was completed during the 1870's and was named Victoria Tower, after Queen Victoria, with the chime of the bells modelled on Westminster Abbey in London.

When you enter the grand hall of the GPO, you can't help but notice how ornate and impressive the fittings are, including the half-domed roof with fish-scale lead lighting. There is also a prominent portrait of Sir Charles Todd, the GPO's most notable Post Master General as well as head of Telecommunications and Government Astronomer. Todd was the man responsible for organising the laying of the Overland Telegraph between Adelaide and Darwin, opening up telecommunications within Australia as well as being linked by undersea cable to Indonesia, hence the rest of the world. You can really equate this mind-blowing development to today's internet, especially regarding the speed of information/news etc around the world.

Work has already begun on a $250 million 20 storey tower at the site, which will be called the GPO Exchange building. Another office building will also be erected at the site with retail outlets, with eateries as well as shops. The good news is the classical facade will remain, allowing us a constant reminder of a grander age.

9 Interesting Discoveries on Franklin Street Adelaide
GPO Facade

2. Beacon House

Opposite the GPO building lies an historic building formerly known as the MLC Building (Mutual Life Insurance) and today known as Beacon House. It was built in 1957 and is said to be Adelaide's first post-war skyscraper at 12 storeys, using new lighter weight building materials, including a process known as curtain walling to build the structure (the first such process in Australian buildings). This building was also said to be the first fully airconditioned skyscraper in Australia!

A lot of office buildings nowadays boast open plan areas which supposedly enhance communication between workers. Beacon House was also one of Australia's first office buildings with such a plan.

So tall was the structure thought to be in the late 1950's, that a beacon was placed on the top of the building, both for weather information (removed in 1979) as well as a warning for aeroplanes flying over Adelaide.

Today the building still survives, owned by Y Partners, family and business advisors.

9 Interesting Discoveries on Franklin Street Adelaide
Beacon House

3. Darling Building

This beautiful old building, built in 1916 was saved from a bullet back in 2013, when a group of investors bought the building for $1.2 million. It had been vacant since 1997 and had fallen into a dilapidated state. Adelaide firm Williams Burton Architecture along with the other investors have spent around $4 million in upgrading the structure ready for occupation in 2016. Various tenants now are housed in the wonderfully renovated rooms.

The building itself was named for John Darling and Son, which by the end of the 19th century were Australia's largest exporter of wheat by ship. Sadly both father and son died before the building was even completed. You can find the Darling Building at 28 Franklin Street.

9 Interesting Discoveries on Franklin Street Adelaide
Darling Building

4. Publishers Hotel

Several years ago, this building was re-imagined as a restaurant and wine bar which offers modern Australian dining, however it dates all the way back to 1914 when the building opened as Publishers Limited, a printing house where the Stock Journal was published. It eventually became the Cannon Street Back Packers before being transformed into its current use as a restaurant and bar known as Publishers Hotel.

Prices for mains vary from $16 for a Vege Burger right through to $35 for a 350g Porterhouse. Some of their specialties include smoked flavours, used in dishes such as in-house Smokey BBQ Pork Ribs served with wedges and leafy greens for $30 pp.

Desserts will set you back between $12 and $14 pp, and include Dark Chocolate Torte, with Walnut Praline, Rhubarb compote, Chocolate Sauce with Vanilla Bean Icecream.

If you like the idea of a Cheese board, you can try 3 cheeses for $30, together with nuts, fruit, crackers, quince paste and radish.

The establishment also has a great range of South Australian wine to complement the great range of dishes. You can find the restaurant and wine bar on the corner of Franklin Street and Cannon Street in the city. The kitchen is open from Tuesdays to Saturdays, with restaurant lunch service from 12 Noon and dinner service from 6 pm. The bar is open from 12 Noon until late, and events and functions are run at the site on Sundays and Mondays.

9 Interesting Discoveries on Franklin Street Adelaide
Publishers Hotel

5. The Franklin Hotel

Today the Franklin Hotel has been renovated as boutique accommodation and a place to stop and enjoy good food and wine. The hotel started life back in 1855 when it was known as the Bristol Tavern.

In South Australia's early history it was not unusual for pubs to be utilised as meeting places for business, and it was said the inaugural meeting of the United Trades and Labour Council was held in the tavern in 1884. The building we see today dates mostly from 1910-11 and is typical of many commercial buildings of the day with a chamfered corner entrance, balcony and verandah.

The menu at the Franklin caters for both meat lovers as well as vegetarian, with one vegetarian option being Roasted Chickpea Salad comprising Heirloom Carrot, Labneh ( a Middle Eastern cream cheese), Pepitas, Nuts, Cherry Tomato with Lemon Vinaigrette for $24.

If you like the idea of a shared platter which will feed your inner being, then Frank's Feast might be a good option for you, valued at $48. The fare consists of Cured Meat, Kibbeh (another Middle Eastern dish), Wings, Edamame Dumpling, Olives, Potato Skins and Ciabatta. Main courses average out to the mid $20's price.

The accommodation options are limited with only 7 rooms available, however they are classified as boutique and offer all of the usual modern facilities, with different gradings of rooms, covering deluxe, premium and superior.

You will find the Franklin Hotel at 92 Franklin Street and the kitchen is open from 12 Noon to 3 pm Monday to Thursday as well as 5.30 pm to 8.30 pm. On Fridays and Saturdays the same times apply, however closing at 9 pm. On Sundays the kitchen is open from 12 Noon to 8 pm.

9 Interesting Discoveries on Franklin Street Adelaide
Hotel Franklin

6. Elder Hall and Adelaide Benevolent and Strangers Friend Society Inc

One of the interesting finds that could be easily missed is a link to our past off Franklin Street on nearby Morialta Street, an old building marked both Elder Hall and Adelaide Benevolent and Strangers Friend Society.

Elder Hall (not to be confused with the Elder Hall in the grounds of the University of Adelaide) was built in 1898 as the result of a bequest from Sir Thomas Elder, a noted pastoralist and wealthy benefactor in South Australia. The building was built for the Adelaide Benevolent and Strangers Friend Society, which had been founded in 1849 in order to provide housing for the poor.

Most of the society's work involved helping people get back on their feet, especially during the depressed years of the late 1880's and 1890's as well as two world wars. The first cottages built for the needy were in 1869, and today the organisation still operates, with more than 195 houses and units across Adelaide. These properties are rented out at below market rates to low-income individuals, families and new arrivals to the state. The society still operates in Morialta Street in the city.

9 Interesting Discoveries on Franklin Street Adelaide
Adl Benevolent Society Bldg

7. Joinery

A ground breaking project has been set up at 111 Franklin Street, known as the Joinery, which has been established by Conservation SA, and can be described as a community environment space.

The location is just past the Adelaide Central Bus Station and is a large outdoor space comprising veggie patches, fruit trees, chooks, bees, native plants, sculptures, murals, a rain garden, solar panels and bike workshops.

Inside features the Depot Collective Cafe serving local and seasonal produce as well as the Adelaide Sustainability Centre which demonstrates energy, environmental displays, art and performance. There are also extensive meeting, exhibition and event spaces to hire.

Options are available to "join for the day" which will cost you $263. You can also donate a "one-off" amount or ongoing support.

South Australia's first share electric car is available at the Joinery through GoGet car share. It can be used on an hourly or daily basis and is all part of Adelaide's intent to become the world's first carbon neutral city.

There are 50 Tindo solar panels installed on the roof of the Joinery which produce an average of 52KW hours of energy each day to power both the building as well as the GoGet share Electric Car.

A great initiative for South Australia!

9 Interesting Discoveries on Franklin Street Adelaide
The Joinery

8. Kinetto Coffee and Kitchen

For those of you who either work in the city or frequent it during weekdays, Kinetto Coffee and Kitchen is a great option for breakfast or lunch, which is open from Monday to Friday 7 am to 4 pm.

The place is Mediterranean inspired, with the owner originally coming from Greece. The name of the establishment is derived from the Greek work "Kineto" meaning movement, symbolising those office workers on the move during the day. The owner's mother bakes cakes, biscotti and dessert for the cafe.

For breakfast, there are on-the-go takeaway options or if you have time, a sit-down menu which consists of food such as home-made granola served with berries and muntries (native cranberries), seasonal fruits and Greek yoghurt. There is also Avocado toast topped with Labne(dip), Dukkah and a Tahini dressing. Or perhaps you might like to try Greek sausages and baked eggs.

For lunch, choices include slow-roasted Lamb, wild Mushrooms, Goat's Curd and preserved Radishes.

Breakfast prices range from $5 to $19 per person and is offered from 7 am until 11.30 am.

Lunch prices range from $16 to $24 and is offered between 12 Noon and 2 pm. Also a great place to drop into simply for a coffee or refreshing drink.

You will find Kinetto's at 70 Franklin Street in the city.

9 Interesting Discoveries on Franklin Street Adelaide
Kinetto Coffee and Kitchen

9. St Mary's College

St Mary's College is classified as the oldest continuously running school for girls in South Australia, having been established in 1869, following the arrival of 7 Dominican Sisters from Ireland. Today it is an R-12 Catholic Girls School in the Dominican tradition.

The original school started in 3 cottages housed on the corner of Franklin Street and West Terrace. Over the years additions were made to the school, namely the 1860's, 1870's and 1890's. During the 20th century, even more additions were added, notably during the 1960's, 1980's and 1990's.

From the beginning of 1995, the school was given access to the Convent buildings, including the historic chapel where Mary MacKillop was ex-communicated at one time.

A stained window designed by one of the students reflects the college's Irish heritage with green three-leafed clovers, and plane tree leaves representing part of the Australian landscape. The stairs represent the opportunities given to students at the college.

In 2006 the centre for Performing Arts was completed and even in more recent times, further building works have been carried out, one area being dedicated to Design and the other a new Library/Resource Centre.

Another important heritage site with strong links to providing education for girls.

9 Interesting Discoveries on Franklin Street Adelaide
St Marys College

Some really interesting discoveries and even more await in Franklin Street, if you take the time to peel back the layers.

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Why? An opportunity to discover what Franklin Street has to offer
When: Any time of the year
Phone: 08 8203 7203
Where: Franklin Street, Adelaide
Cost: Dependent upon your plans
Your Comment
There's always something wonderful to see if you're prepared to look. I love your street exploration articles.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|8042) 1038 days ago
Great write up Graeme, Adelaide just keeps growing and adapting and your article is proof of that!
by Kate Blake (score: 3|1415) 1038 days ago
I love learning the history of old buildings. Thanks for sharing.
by Annette Vandersluis (score: 2|832) 1037 days ago
Interesting report indeed. Worthy of plundering by the Murdoch weekly The City and Inner!
by daviddon (score: 2|210) 1036 days ago
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