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9 Top Historic Buildings in Norwood

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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 February 12th 2017
Peeling back the layers of Norwood
Apart from the diverse cafes, pubs and restaurants in Norwood, there is also a fair smattering of historic buildings, which all tell their own story about the development of this part of Adelaide.

The City of Norwood, Payneham & St Peters have done a grand job in keeping history alive, with some significant plaques outlining the background and the stories behind some of the heritage buildings and businesses as well as some of the people who lived in the area.

9 historic sites that I came across on exploration of Norwood included:

1. Salvation Army Citadel

Although Edward Gibbon Wakefield, considered to be the"father" of South Australia's systematic colonisation scheme, had a radical dream of there being no poverty or crime, that dream, of course, failed to materialise. Organisations like the Salvation Army soon saw there was work available for them in places like Adelaide, which was in fact the first place in Australia where they established themselves.

The citadel at Norwood was established around 1897 and today is still the Norwood base for the Salvos, which offer assistance to the underprivileged, as well as a place for worship and friendship.

Worship is conducted on Sundays at both 11 am and 6 pm. The Salvos cater for a wide range of age groups with a Companion Club for Seniors as well as a concept called Mainly Music, introducing pre-school children to rhythm, rhyme and music.

Sally's Seconds Store also operates at the site 4 days per week selling clothing, toys and bric-a-brac. The times of opening are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9.30 am to 3.30 pm and Thursdays and Fridays from 9.30 am to 5 pm.

9 Top Historic Buildings in Norwood
Salvation Army Citadel

2. Norwood Town Hall

Norwood Town Hall has long been the home of the municipal council which is now made up of not just Norwood but also Payneham and St Peters (since 1997) and, outside of the City of Adelaide council, is the first council to set up its own municipality.

The original Town Hall on the same site was erected in 1859 and was the first Town Hall ever built in South Australia. The current building was designed by Alfred Wells and dates from 1883, distinctive with its tower and clock. In fact, the clock was installed by then Mayor, Sir Edwin Smith, connected with the Kent Town Brewery.

During World War One, the Mayor of Kensington Norwood was none other than car manufacturer, Henry J Holden, who was responsible for the voting to build a concert hall on the corner of George Street and The Parade, which when built was the largest concert venue of its type in South Australia.

9 Top Historic Buildings in Norwood
Norwood Town Hall

3. Russian House/ Russian Community Centre

This historic site nowadays houses the Russian Community Centre, which was established in 1949 and is the home of Adelaide's Russian community. Located at number 239 The Parade near the corner of Portrush Road, you can't but fail to be impressed by the imposing nature of this building.

Various cultural events are held at the centre on regular occasions and the venue can be hired for your own events.

The site was formerly a Wesleyan Church dating from the 19th century and is believed to one of the most imposing and impressive pieces of 19th century architecture from the period. In fact in 1983 the building site was added to the State Heritage Register.

9 Top Historic Buildings in Norwood
Russian Community Centre formerly Wesleyan Church

4. Clayton Wesley Uniting Church

Yet another imposing edifice is the Clayton Wesley Church standing proudly on the intersection of the Parade and Portrush Road, dating from the 1850's.

The church started out as a Congregational denomination and during the 1880's, due to the growth of the number of worshipers, another church was built in front of the existing church. When it was completed, the church held seating for 560 persons and became known as "The Spire on The Parade".

The front of the church has a beautiful 3 x 2m carved relief depicting Jesus' presentation at the Temple and an organ was installed within the church in 1897.

During the 1960's Clayton Congregational Church decided to establish a home for the aged, which led to the Clayton Church homes being built in the latter part of that decade.

It was finally in the 1970's when Norwood Wesleyan Methodists (on the site of the current Russian Community Centre) and Clayton Congregationalists merged, creating the Clayton Wesleyan Uniting Church.

9 Top Historic Buildings in Norwood
Clayton Wesley Uniting Church

5. Norwood Institute Building/Norwood Library

The Norwood Institute building on the corner of Osmond Terrace and The Parade dates from the 1870's, and like all other Institute buildings around South Australia, started their lives as Mechanic's Institutes, providing an express purpose of educating the labour force of the colony, thus skilling them to help develop South Australia.

The Norwood Institute, like so many others also provided a place for the community to congregate, and participate in activities such as chess and draughts, which was a form of entertainment, helping solve the problem of loitering on the streets and other associated problems.

The original library on the site started its humble life with a collection of only 25 books with 27 subscribers. Expansion of the building took place during the 1880's in which a lecture hall, a lodge room, retiring rooms as well as caretaker's quarters were built.

Today the building is still the home of the local council library and is open from Tuesdays to Sundays at varying hours available on the council's website.

9 Top Historic Buildings in Norwood
Norwood Institute/Library

6. Former Baptist Church - now Schnithouse.

The former Baptist Church on The Parade has found a new lease of life in the last few years and is the home today of cafe Schnithouse. The church itself was erected in the classical style in 1869, with the organ installed during the 1880's, said to be one of the most significant organs in South Australia.

In its heyday, the church would have catered for up to 200 people. Unfortunately the sound of the organ no longer resonates through the building, replaced by the clatter of plates and glasses and the chatter of patrons, however the former glory of the Church can still be viewed and appreciated.

The site was also the home for some years of Mary Martin's Bookshop.

9 Top Historic Buildings in Norwood
Former Baptist Church

7. Ward's Shoe Store

Ward's Shoe Store can proudly boast being a family run and owned business for over 100 years, selling a wide variety of shoes for men, women and children as well as Blue Sheep Ugg boots (name of a brand, not colour of the sheep), made in South Australia.

Established by Alfred William Walkley in 1909, the Ward family first became involved in the business in 1922 and today over three generations of the family later, it is still a successful enterprise.

9 Top Historic Buildings in Norwood
Ward's Shoe Store Plaque

8. S E Waite & Son

Another long established business on The Parade at Norwood is S E Waite & Son established since 1920, although there was another furniture business on the site from 1912, run by an employer of Sidney Edgar Waite.

The Waite family has run the business since1920, four generations later and the store still operates in furniture as well as household effects.

9 Top Historic Buildings in Norwood
S E Waite & Son

9. Odeon Theatre

The Odeon Theatre on the corner of Queen Street and The Parade at Norwood started life as a movie theatre and then from the 1980's was reinvented as a professional theatre venue for young people.

The site was managed by Carclew Youth Arts for more than 20 years, before Patch Theatre Company took over the management of the theatre back in 2010.

The Odeon is also available for hire and specialise in hires for school groups, youth groups, children's arts activities, as well as for amateur and professional theatre companies. The J150 Rehearsal room is said to be one of the cheapest rehearsal spaces in Adelaide and can be hired by the hour. The theatre itself seats around 234.

9 Top Historic Buildings in Norwood
Odeon Theatre

These are but some of the interesting historic sites on show in Norwood, an area well worth exploration. You'll not go hungry or thirsty either with its diverse range of cafes, pubs and restaurants on tap.

To think Norwood has at one time been the home of some famous citizens, including Mary Mackillop, Don Dunstan, Catherine Helen Spence, C J Dennis, and May Gibbs, just to name a few, is incredible in itself. A further exploration of the area will reveal the places where some of these people lived in the form of plaques placed by the local council. Details of the historic Parade Cultural Walk Plaques can be downloaded from the City of Norwood, Payneham & St Peters website..

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Why? An opportunity to discover and learn about the history of Norwood and its people
When: Any time of the year
Phone: 08 8366 4555
Where: Norwood, South Australia
Cost: Free
Your Comment
What a fine collection of heritage buildings, top article Graham.
by Dave Walsh (score: 4|11307) 1588 days ago
agree with Dave- excellent article Graham :)
by gilll (score: 0|6) 1587 days ago
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