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Published May 27th 2016
From the old to the new
It is heartening when you come across heritage buildings, which are sentinels and links to Adelaide's past, being rejuvenated and re-invented for everyday use, whether it be a hotel, apartment complex, restaurant or commercial business.
Getting the right blend of heritage and modern fit-out is always a challenge, however I came across 8 buildings in Adelaide and North Adelaide which seem to have been successful in this regard.
Adina Apartment Hotel King William Street Adelaide
Electra House is a typical example of a heritage building which has been revived and is still maintaining its charm from yesteryear. The building was first erected in 1901 and housed the Citizen's Life Assurance Company, evidence of which still can be seen on the building's facade today. The building also boasts Adelaide's first electric lift, which was installed in 1905 and is still a feature of the $10 million renovation when it re-opened in 2015.
During its history, the building was also significantly important as a communication hub, connecting Australia to the rest of the world through telegraphic communication. It also served as a cable station, a Post Master General's (PMG) Technicians School and a Telecommunication Museum. The name "Electra" was given to the building in 1940, named after a Greek mythological figure "Electro" meaning "the bright one".
Today it is well fitted out as a restaurant, private function spaces and a beer garden right in the heart of the city in King William Street.
One of Adelaide's purposely built Government buildings on the fringe of Victoria Square in the city has today been modernised as a 5 star boutique apartment hotel, known as Adina Apartments Treasury and has tastefully spent $20 million (in 2002) to produce 79 guest rooms including studios, one and two bedroom apartments with a bar and dining area.
The original building on the site was only one-storey, facing Flinders Street and was built in 1839, the architect being George Strickland Kingston. Entry into a room off the lobby shows evidence of the original "Kingston Wall" from that period and the heritage aspect of the building has been maintained with preservation of the old Cabinet room utilised from the 1870's right through to 1968, when all of the State Government employees moved into the newer State Admin building, also facing the square.
Plaques are denoted outside of rooms that were used for either the Premier, the Governor or as a Registry Office (Land Titles), or even as a Fireproof Records Room. There is nothing like experiencing the best of both worlds - luxury apartments combined with a beautiful heritage building right in the heart of the city. Another historical area of significance within the building lies below ground with a tunnel, which was at one time used for varying purposes including storage of gold brought back from the Victorian goldfields in the 1850's.
From a department store which was built originally in 1916 (Charles Moore's) to a modern fitted out Law Courts building named after Sir Samuel Way, a Chief Justice in South Australia and a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide - an amazing transformation!
The architecture of the building today has utilised original features of the Moore's building including the Carrara marble staircase, the facade of the building which was originally built on inspiration from a visit to the Paris Exhibition of 1878, and the imposing dome on the top of the building.
Sir Samuel Way Law Courts were opened in 1983 following extensive renovations after Moore's closed in 1979. A visit inside allows you to read the story of the building's history and development and to think the beautiful marble staircase was almost destroyed in a major fire which occurred in 1948.
A wander down North Terrace in Adelaide reveals quite a few accommodation options combined with modern bars, restaurants and cafes, which are housed in heritage style buildings.
The Mercure Grosvenor Hotel started its life in 1920 when it was built as a 4 storey high, 368 roomed hotel, which became the fourth largest hotel in Australia at one stage. Throughout its history, it was the home for civilian refugees and their families from Malay and Dutch East Indies during World War 2, as well as billeting over 150 American troops for a six month period in 1942.
Major renovation work occurred both during the 1950's and in the 1970's, and finally in 2003, the name changed from The Grosvenor Hotel to Mercure Grosvenor, boasting 181 guestrooms and suites - another great example of old world charm combined with modern upgraded facilities.
When entering Jaimie's Italian Restaurant, the first thing you notice are the high ceilings indicative of the purpose for which it was built in the late 1930's: as a substantial banking chamber attached to the Bank of New South Wales. If you need more observable evidence, take a trip to the toilets in the basement, adjacent to the old bank vaults.
The striking art deco building, would you believe, was once one of Adelaide's tallest buildings of its time and from the outside you cannot tell what lies within. The site was renovated and rejuvenated in 2013 and today is one of 40 of Jaimie Oliver's restaurants worldwide. Jaimie's is all about rustic Italian food and their tasting plates are mouthwatering.
On the roof is 2KW Bar and Restaurant which offers unrivalled views across Adelaide shared with some distinctive cocktails and locally sourced ingredients for meals in the restaurant, including West Coast SA Oysters, South Australian King Prawns and local smallgoods.
Out at North Adelaide in Melbourne Street lies a great cafe/restaurant known as The Store, where you can indulge in sumptuous food or simply grab a coffee and watch the world go by. The building was originally erected in 1894 as a Baker's shop and for many years was a branch of the ANZ bank.
The building has been tastefully renovated and still retains professionally finished sandstone and brick quoining on its exterior. It blends in well with its neighbour on the other side of Jerningham Street, The Old Lion.
Facing Victoria Square is another imposing structure, formerly the South Australian Harbors Board Building housed by them from 1914 right through to 1979, when the Department of Marine and Harbors moved down to Port Adelaide. Even prior to its life connected to the sea, the four storey building was originally constructed for the National Mutual Life Assurance of Australia in 1884.
Today it is a building tenanted by lawyer's chambers, however the building still retains a French roof with a large square dome, covered with lead cut to fish scale pattern, with extensive use of cast iron and finials surrounding a lookout. A look inside reveals still wide, handsome archways.
In 1979 an incredible engineering feat occurred when there were plans to build the adjacent former SGIC building, and more room was needed for this to occur. The 1,000 tonne structure of the Harbors Board building was physically moved on rollers along concrete and steel beams using hydraulic rams, a total distance of 34 metres to the north. How the building didn't collapse beats me!
Another great example of an art deco building originally erected in the 1930's for use of Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Company Ltd has been re-imagined and renovated as The Mayfair Hotel, which was only opened in 2015. With 170 rooms, two restaurants, an exclusive lounge and a rooftop terrace, something like $55 million was invested to bring this dream into reality. Having these luxury style hotels in Adelaide has really changed the landscape with the offer of a wider diverse range of hotel quality and experiences.
The exterior of the building still retains a good interpretation of what is regarded as "Romanesque Style" with particular unusual building adornments including gargoyles and parapeted facades right opposite Rundle Mall, the shopping precinct of Adelaide.
Rather than see heritage buildings go to rack and ruin and eventually be demolished, it is good to see the breath of new life put into some of these old buildings.
Good article.Glad that we have retained many of our beautiful old buildings.Wish they had completed the proposed dome for our House of Parliament.Waiting to see what they are going to do with our GPO...another one of Adelaide's grand old buildings.