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9 Interesting Discoveries on Wakefield Street

Home > Adelaide > Architecture | Food and Wine | Historic Houses | Places of Interest | Restaurants | 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 www.facebook.com/Down-to-Earth-Tours-1491827191071798/
Published October 3rd 2017
Weave your way down Wakefield Street
When you wander around the streets of the CBD of Adelaide, you can't help but notice some of its thoroughfares being somewhat wider than some of the others. One of the more notable wider streets travelling in an east-west direction between East Terrace and Victoria Square is Wakefield Street.

Although there was initially belief that Wakefield Street was named after Daniel Wakefield, the solicitor who drafted the Act which proclaimed Adelaide, in fact, the street was always intended to recognise Edward Gibbon Wakefield, his brother, deemed to be the father of South Australia's colonisation scheme.

Wakefield, being the prominent influencer of South Australia's colonisation system, which was designed to attract middle-class landowners, who would be god-fearing citizens, raise their families and grow crops, was to be given high importance in acknowledgement of his contribution to the beginnings of our cultural society. Hence the reason why Wakefield Street was deemed as prominent as King William Street and therefore one of the wider streets, as well as the fact that it was located right through the centre of the city.

Wakefield's scheme also involved no transported convicts - a free settlement, however Wakefield also had a utopia dream of no poverty and no crime! (hence the delay in setting up a police force and the institution known as the Destitute Asylum not even being dreamed of.) Ironic considering he dreamed up the whole scheme whilst he was in an overcrowded prison cell in England due to his attraction to underage heiresses and their money. Wakefield spent 3 years in prison for reportedly marrying a 15-year-old girl up at Gretna Green in Scotland.

It was in prison that he met a man who was to become our first Colonial Secretary, Robert Gouger, who had failed to pay his debts. Next time we brag about our convict-free society, we should remember that South Australia was in fact established by some "ex-cons".

Wakefield Street is an impressive boulevard with a great mixture of historic buildings, iconic institutions as well as restaurants and cafes.

9 Interesting Discoveries on Wakefield Street Adelaide
Mother Mary MacKillop Statue


Here are 9 interesting discoveries found on an exploration of the street.

1. Carhayes

One of several historic homes along Wakefield Street is Carhayes, which had a long association with the Bonython family, from 1889 right up until 1928. Part of the house was built originally in 1878/9 for a Thomas Barnfield, who had been involved in the mining industry in NSW. Barnfield also had success with racehorses and in 1882, his horse, Assyrian won the Melbourne Cup.

Sir John Langdon Bonython, one-time Editor of The Advertiser, lived in the house from 1889 until 1908, and then his son, John Lavington Bonython moved in the following year, living there with his second wife until 1928, when they finally moved to St Corantyn on East Terrace.

Carhayes was twice extended during the 1890's and additions included a large drawing room and dining room to the east, and a 2-storey section at the rear which contained kitchen facilities and servant's accommodation. The house today still stands, although needing some TLC.

9 Interesting Discoveries on Wakefield Street
Carhayes


2. Cartref

Right next door is another historic home, called Cartref, long associated with the man who established one of South Australia's most prominent jewellery businesses - Joachim Matthias Wendt.

Wendt migrated to South Australia from what was a part of Denmark, in 1854 and established himself initially as a watchmaker and jeweller in Pirie Street. Back in 1867, the Duke of Edinburgh at the time appointed Wendt to be the "Jeweller to his Royal Highness" and upon the visit of the Duke of York to Adelaide in 1901, Wendt supervised a silver casket which was presented to the Duke.

Wendt's business continued to prosper and his silverwork ranks amongst the finest produced in Australia during the second half of the nineteenth century. By the early twentieth century, Wendt had moved to a more prominent location in Rundle Street and had also established outlets at Mount Gambier and Broken Hill.

Wendt was also one of those responsible for the building of Adelaide Arcade during the 1880's, which he eventually owned, as well being one time part owner of the Theatre Royal in Hindley Street.

Five generations of the Wendt family ran the iconic jewellery business until it sadly closed at the end of the twentieth century.



3. Our Boys Institute Building

The south-east corner of the city took a long time to establish itself, as in the early years, it had low population growth and was even deemed as being isolated from the rest of the city. Over time the population grew and more infrastructure was evident in the area. Many younger children, particularly boys, had a distinct lack of activities to avail themselves of and "Our Boys Institute" was established so as to provide some healthy alternative pastimes.

John Virgo, Secretary of the SA YMCA was involved in establishing the institute in 1896, and travelled the world many times himself promoting his ideals of healthy Christianity. Virgo himself lived for some time in a nearby Victorian villa in Halifax Street.

The institute contained lecture and games rooms, an indoor running track, and a pool and was designed for boys from 13 up to 18 years of age.

Today the building is used partly as a boutique hotel, known as Adabco, which was opened in 2008. The hotel is a sister to the Mayfair Hotel in King William Street, owned by the Adabco Group and managed by 1834 hotels.

9 Interesting Discoveries on Wakefield Street Adelaide
Our Boys Institute Building


4. Restaurants

Wakefield Street has some really great eating places along its length, which vary from Italian through to Seafood and Chinese.

If you haven't ventured in before, how about the iconic House of Chow Restaurant, on the corner of Hutt Street and Wakefield Street. The House of Chow have been around since 1983 and are renowned for their high quality Asian cuisine in an up-market dining atmosphere. In fact, they won the 2014 best Chinese Restaurant in South Australia award and also went on to win an award for excellence for the Best Chinese Restaurant in Australia.

Whether it is one of the chef's specials - such as Stewed Pork Hock with Bok Choy and Chinese Mushroom for $35 or one of their Chicken dishes averaging around $23 to $25, you can't help but be tempted by their extensive menu.

House of Chow is open Monday to Saturday for lunch from 12 midday until 3 pm, Sunday to Thursday for dinner from 5.30 pm until 10 pm, and Friday and Saturday for dinner from 5.30 pm until 11 pm. You can find House of Chow at 82 Hutt Street.

Perhaps you feel like some seafood - try Louca's Seafood Restaurant located on the corner of Pulteney Street and Wakefield Street. The Louca family have a long history of being involved with cafes and restaurants in Adelaide, having established the original Parade Fish Cafe in Norwood during the 1950's.

In 2011, Louca's Seafood Grill Restaurant was opened in Wakefield Street and is fast becoming one of Adelaide's most trusted seafood restaurants. The seafood has both Greek and Cypriot influences shown in its menu, which includes Chargrilled Australian Seafood Platters for $55 per person (minimum 2 people), comprising Prawns, Scallops, Octopus, Calamari and Garfish.

Most of the seafood is sourced locally in South Australia, including the King Prawns from Spencer Gulf, and Garfish and
King George Whiting. Most of the fish dishes will set you back between $26 - $35. There are also some great pasta options including some seafood versions of linguine for around $28 - $35.

Louca's are open for lunch Monday to Friday from 12 pm until 3 pm and for dinner from Monday to Saturday 6 pm until late.

9 Interesting Discoveries on Wakefield Street Adelaide
House of Chow Restaurant


5. Churches/Cathedrals

South Australia has a long historic connection to the early Lutherans and Germans who settled here in the 1830's, primarily due to religious persecution being experienced in their traditional homelands in Prussia and other parts of Germany.

St Stephen's Lutheran Church was built and dedicated in 1900 in the Gothic Revival style popular during that period. The original congregation of this church had originally settled in Klemzig during the 1840's and practised their religion in that area until the 1860's, when the first Lutheran Church was established in Pirie Street, Adelaide.

Due to the growing congregation, St Stephen's was built as a further place of worship. Today it still operates as a Lutheran church and services are conducted regularly each Sunday. You will find the church as 152 Wakefield Street.

The other prominent cathedral in Wakefield Street is St Francis Xavier Cathedral, a dominant Catholic place of worship in the centre of the city. The cathedral itself has an interesting history behind its building, originally dating from the 1850's. Not long after it was begun, the gold-rush era in Victoria began, which led to roughly one-third of South Australia's adult male population downing tools and heading off to Victoria to make their fortunes.

This left a huge labour shortage in South Australia and St Francis Xavier Cathedral was but one example of a building incomplete for many years. In fact, the tower, which is quite prominent, was only erected in 1996. The structure is most impressive with its 7 external gables, having some symbolism and link to the number 7, meant to signify religious purity and perfection. Hence the number 7 has been used architecturally throughout the building, with the number of windows as well as external doors.

It was always intended to have a religious presence close to Victoria Square, and the Anglicans did have their eye on a piece of land for a few years, which they originally intended to build St Peter's Cathedral. However the land deal fell through, and as we know, St Peter's is now located up at North Adelaide.

A walk inside the cathedral reveals more of the grandeur of the building and you can't help but be impressed with the beautiful stained glass windows as you enter, but also don't forget to turn around and view some more stained glass perched next to the magnificent organ.

9 Interesting Discoveries on Wakefield Street Adelaide
St Francis Xavier Cathedral


6. Metropolitan Fire Station

Having been around for 155 years, the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service is now one of the oldest legislated government fire services in the world. It all started back in 1862 and was originally known as the South Australian Fire Brigade.

The firefighter honour roll outside of the building is a moving tribute to those firefighters who have sacrificed their lives to save others, from 1862 right through to today. There are many emotive stories amongst these tributes, which tell sadly of the activities being undertaken which led to their demise.

Some historic fire fighting vehicles are also displayed outside of the building, which provides a good link between the past and present. Today the service employs around 1,000 people across 36 stations which cover 20 metropolitan and 16 regional areas of Adelaide and South Australia.

Not only is the prime role for the Fire Service all about prevention of emergency situations such as fires and chemical spills, they also play an important role in educating both corporate and private citizens on the best ways to prevent these tragedies from occurring with associated health and safety requirements.

9 Interesting Discoveries on Wakefield Street Adelaide
Metropolitan Fire Service HQ


7. Torrens Building

One thing about Adelaide which always impresses visitors and locals alike is how well laid out the city is. So well planned with its grid streets, wonderful belt of green parklands surrounding and several squares, including the central Victoria Square, originally designed to house many of the government buildings surrounding it. When you think of the GPO and the law courts in the southern section of the square, the plan still is evident today.

There were other government buildings in Adelaide's earlier history which these days are no longer used for such a purpose, including the Adina Apartment Hotel (which was the old Treasury Building) and the Torrens Building, located on the corner of Victoria Square and Wakefield Street.

The Torrens Building was built during the boom period of South Australia's history, in the 1880's and was erected, like many other historic buildings as the result of a competition held to build a government purposely built structure to help relieve the lack of accommodation for public service workers in Adelaide at the time. Michael Egan, an architect from Melbourne won the competition and the vision became reality.

Controversy arose upon construction as stone was utilised from New South Wales, with much criticism from locals that our own stone had not been sourced. The building was used for varying government departments in its history including E&WS, Public Works, Registrar-General, Water Works and Engineering. The building was named in honour of Robert Richard Torrens, who had introduced the Torrens Land Title System to South Australia and the world, a system which allowed government to officially record who owned what land attached to the associated deeds.

By 1993 the final government departments had left the building and it was closed for extensive renovation work. It finally re-opened in 1997, the most recent tenants being three universities - Carnegie Mellon, University College of London and the Torrens University.

As soon as you enter the building, you can still sight evidence of its former use as a land titles/registry office, as the walls and ceilings are lined with folio pigeon-holes, designed to hold the relevant deeds in their heyday - a great way to memorialise its previous use. The large internal courtyard once was the site of a 50-foot tower, which was in fact a ventilation tower for the building's toilet facilities. This tower was demolished in 1967. Great to see a magnificent neoclassical building from the nineteenth century still standing and in modern use.

9 Interesting Discoveries on Wakefield Street Adelaide
Torrens Building


8. Other Historic Finds

A glance down some of the side streets off Wakefield Street revealed some interesting past evidence, including Roper Street, where I discovered what was an old pub, the Wheelwright Arms Hotel, first licenced in 1851 and sadly de-licenced way back in the 1920's. The hotel was so named due to the adjacent blacksmith shop which operated for many years. Although currently for lease, the building is one of a few original hotel buildings in Adelaide to survive in a street that was not included as part of Colonel William Light's original plan for the city.

From 1922 the building was associated with W Menz and Co. (a biscuit factory) located in Wakefield Street, as administration offices until such time as the factory moved down to Marleston in 1953. The original facade of the Menz factory building on Wakefield Street still holds sentinel with the name and year of establishment of the business being visible.

Opposite the old Wheelwright Arms Hotel lies some historic information at the site of a current car park, which tells the story of the blacksmith's shop being housed there back in in the 1860's and an example of the original Glen Osmond bluestone and locally sourced bricks.

9 Interesting Discoveries on Wakefield Street Adelaide
Old Wheelwright Arms Hotel


9. Christian Brothers College

One of the Catholic boys private schools housed in the CBD of Adelaide, Christian Brothers College (CBC) boasts a proud tradition of quality education dating right back to 1879 when the school originally opened.

The Institute of Christian Brothers was founded by an Irishman back in the early 1800's by the name of Edmund Rice. His ideals have now spread to over 25 different countries around the world. The Brothers also conduct orphanages and schools for the poor as well as for the deaf and blind, and technical schools and agricultural colleges.

The senior campus alone (Yrs 7 - 12) caters for approximately 790 students, with also a junior campus (Yrs Reception - Yr 6) on site. Plans are underway to build a new Centre of Innovation of Learning, scheduled to be completed by 2019. This centre will provide a contemporary state-of-the-art learning environment for its students. Its focus will encompass STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics).

9 Interesting Discoveries on Wakefield Street Adelaide
Christian Brothers College


You can easily visualise how important the wide and imposing Wakefield Street was and still is, as you witness first-hand its good mix of schools, churches, cathedrals, restaurants and cafes, which leads you into the beating vibrant heart of the city.
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Why? An opportunity to explore one of our wider centrally located streets in Adelaide
When: Any time of the year
Phone: 08 8203 7203
Where: Wakefield Street, Adelaide
Cost: Dependent upon your plans
Your Comment
Very interesting read Graeme, well done on such a great article!
by Chloe Doyle (score: 3|1247) 13 days ago
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