Colonel William Light began his survey of the City of Adelaide near the spot that is now the corner of North Terrace and West Terrace. European creation of the city spread from there. The parklands, which surrounded the city in Light’s Plan of Adelaide, were never reserved for recreational use along North Terrace. Industry and transport dominated North Terrace west from the early years of colonisation. By the 1880s eight hotels provided sustenance for local workers and working class residents and accommodation for travellers. Cattle and sheep markets, terrace housing, and railway yards and workshops contrasted with the cultural institutions and larger homes of North Terrace east. But from the late twentieth century things changed again. Building conversions and demolition paved the way for new cultural and educational facilities along North Terrace west. Upgraded hotels provided accommodation for visitors wishing to see the sights of Adelaide and its surrounds.

Early North Terrace west

Soon after settlers began arriving on the mainland in 1836, they moved from Holdfast Bay (Glenelg) to the proposed site of Adelaide. They camped near the River Torrens, not far from the current northeast corner of North Terrace and West Terrace. Their reed huts were arranged in two rows – Buffalo Row and Coromandel Row – named after the ships that brought them to the colony. The start of Light's survey on 11 January 1837 was marked by a monument erected by the Adelaide City Council in 1928.

In Light’s Plan of Adelaide, North Terrace connects West Terrace and East Terrace. Between West Terrace and King William Street, North Terrace is bisected by Morphett Street. Although Light set out the main city streets, they were named by a Street Naming Committee on 23 May 1837.

Light’s map as printed in 1840 shows that all but one of the 16 ‘town acres’ set out along North Terrace west were preliminary purchases made in England prior to European occupation of the site. Some preliminary purchasers, such as British diplomat Lord Stuart de Rothesay, bought land in Adelaide as an investment, never intending to emigrate. Other buyers of land along North Terrace west became well-known colonial figures. Nathanial Alexander Knox, an officer of the East India Co. and a founder of the Adelaide Club, purchased town acre 1. George Morphett, younger brother of John Morphett after whom Morphett Street is named, bought town acre 8. George prospered as a lawyer with land and banking interests. He was a Member of the House of Assembly in 1860–61, before returning to England where he died in 1893.

Within two years side streets and laneways were emerging along North Terrace west as the acres were occupied and subdivided. George Strickland Kingston’s map of 1842 shows buildings, largely of wood, pise (rammed earth), or lath and plaster on 11 acres. Three substantial buildings of stone stand out: Morphett’s offices on acre 8, Trinity Church on acre 9 and the first Bank of South Australia office on acre 15.

Anglican Trinity Church (later Holy Trinity) is South Australia’s oldest church. It was constructed in 1838 and enlarged in 1845. A rectory was built next door in 1849. Adelaide’s first hospital was located to the east of the church in a small thatched cottage. The Colonial Infirmary was established by Dr Thomas Young Cotter in 1837. In 1839 the hospital was relocated to Emigration Square on West Terrace where it could tend to new arrivals.

It was not long before several hotels were constructed to cater for the colonists. The Black Swan Hotel opened in 1845, followed by the Newmarket Inn in 1847 and the Buck’s Head Hotel in 1848. The Black Swan was rebuilt 1883 and converted to the Hotel Centralia in 1940. The Buck’s Head was demolished in 1965. The Newmarket Inn (Newmarket Hotel from 1883) remains as a landmark at the junction of Port Road with North Terrace and West Terrace.

A livestock market was situated across the road from the Newmarket Inn on the northern side of North Terrace west. After 1841 the market was connected to the City Slaughter House built to the west of Adelaide Gaol. Slaughter House Road ran from the terrace, behind the livestock yards to what is now Bonython Park. The noise, dust and smells from the many cattle and sheep were part of the atmosphere of this end of North Terrace. The yards and slaughterhouse continued to operate until July 1913, when they were relocated to Gepps Cross.

While housing was concentrated towards West Terrace, secondary industry was soon established to the east of Morphett Street. John Wyatt arrived in South Australia on 22 April 1837 and by 1841 had set up an engineering business. His Adelaide Foundry was first located on Grenfell Street, but moved to larger premises near the corner of North Terrace and Victoria Street in 1847. The new foundry and workshops were operated by his sons George and Joseph until sold to A Jones & Sons in 1878.

Parliament, transport and travel

The character of North Terrace west close to King William Street was firmly established in the mid nineteenth century. The South Australian Parliament, the Adelaide Railway Station and facilities for travellers would continue to dominate this end of the street into the twenty-first century.

The first Legislative Council building was constructed in September 1843 on the northern side of the terrace, close to King William Street and Government House. It was replaced with a larger stone building in July 1855 and extended to cater for a bicameral parliament in 1857. Additions and alterations continued until after the Second World War. From 1976 the original complex was restored to its 1875 structure as Old Parliament House.

Adelaide’s first railway station was constructed almost next door to the Legislative Council in 1856. Passenger, freight and livestock traffic were handled by the station and its attached yards. Livestock was offloaded adjacent to the stockyards and the Newmarket Inn. Stands for Hackney carriages, public conveyances, drays and carts were established by the Adelaide City Council between Old Parliament House and the station. Lines connected Adelaide with Port Adelaide, then northern towns. The 1856 Adelaide–Port Adelaide line was the first government owned and operated steam railway in the British Empire.

The railway station reinforced the clustering of hotels along North Terrace west. Initially serving locals and those arriving in Adelaide by horse-drawn transport, hotels re-orientated to railway workers and travellers. The Gresham Hotel, established in 1851 on the corner of King William Street, was followed by the Railway Hotel and the Terminus Hotel in 1855. The Gresham Hotel was later rebuilt and catered for more prosperous clientele, before being demolished in 1965. The Railway Hotel ceased operating in 1873 while the Terminus Hotel became the Strathmore Hotel from 1944.

North Terrace west in the late nineteenth century

The 1870s and 1880s were periods of construction and industrial expansion on North Terrace west. The ‘bird’s eye’ views of Adelaide published in the Australasian Sketcher in 1875and Illustrated Sydney News in 1876 show increased building density and height along the terrace. Hotels and industry predominate on the southern side, although some terrace housing and a few cottages are apparent. Workers’ row cottages are concentrated in nearby side streets. A recently planted line of trees west of Morphett Street screens North Terrace west from the rail yards and stockyards.

Building works for an expanded House of Assembly were apparent by 1876. The west wing of Parliament House, begun in 1874 next to Old Parliament House, was completed in 1889 (the east wing was not added until 1939). Growth in city traffic and administration was also evident in the extension of the Adelaide Railway Station building in 1878 and the construction of bridges over the railway yards and River Torrens.

The Overway Bridge, built in 1868, enabled people and goods going to and from North Adelaide to cross the railway lines. The Victoria Bridge, opened on 21 June 1871, gave access over the River Torrens. To the frustration of locals, the original Overway Bridge was demolished in 1880 and a level crossing reinstated. Four years later it was replaced with a lattice girder bridge extending over North Terrace west and the railway yards in line with Morphett Street and the Victoria Bridge.

More hotels were added to the terrace near the corner of King William Street during this period. They formed a cluster with the Gresham Hotel (rebuilt 1873–74). The South Australian Club Hotel opened in 1879. Renamed the South Australian Hotel in 1894 and upgraded in 1900, this three-storey hotel featuring wide balconies became the grandest on North Terrace. It was much mourned when demolished in 1971. The City Temperance Hotel (later the Federal Coffee Palace) was operating by 1885: its builder, Richard Vaughan, also constructed the Botanic Hotel on North Terrace east.

By 1875 there were two iron foundries further along North Terrace west. They had been joined by Howard’s machinery depot, Padman’s and Tuxford’s import firms, and Blyth’s coal and wood yard. Twenty-seven residents occupied semi-detached and terraced housing and cottages between hotels and industrial and commercial premises. Engineers, tailors, railway and gaol guards, a carter, a dressmaker, a dealer, a nurse, a drover and a mail driver lived in the Mills Terrace and Prybus Terrace buildings, cottages and a boarding house.

One long-term North Terrace west resident of note was Sir James Hurtle Fisher who died in 1875. Knighted in 1869, he was the first South Australian to receive that award. Fisher, the first Resident Colonisation Commissioner appointed by the South Australian Colonisation Commission, was on the Street Naming Committee in 1837. On 22 January 1839 his hut and the Land Office along with Colonel Light’s and the Survey Office on North Terrace west burnt to the ground.

Industry, hotels and boarding houses dominated the central and western sections of North Terrace west by 1885. Larger firms included the Pantheon Boot Factory, Adelaide Steamship Co. and the Australasian Implement Society. Four timber, coal and carriers’ yards, six machinery depots, two foundries and an engineering company created an inhospitable environment for housing. Most of the terraced homes had been converted to boarding houses. Of the 11 boarding houses listed on North Terrace west, nine were located between Victoria Street and Morphett Street. Remaining residents on the terrace were working class and included labourers, mail drivers, a machinist, a laundress and a carpenter.

The Lion Factory, a new railway station and boarding houses

North Terrace west’s focus on travel, commerce and industry was strengthened in the first decade of the twentieth century. Congestion at the Adelaide Railway Station arising from additional lines and traffic led to the construction of a new and larger station with dual entrances in 1900. Large domed covers over the railway platforms were completed in 1903.

Fowler’s Lion Factory on the corner of Morphett Street was a significant addition to private enterprise in 1906. The firm of D & J Fowler began as a grocer’s shop on King William Street in 1854. By the early twentieth century it had grown to be a major Australian grocery company. The architect for its large factory on North Terrace west was Frank Counsell. The brickwork was completed by W Sander & Sons. A Melbourne stonemason took three months to carve the lion statue, which remains a feature atop the building. The eastern section of the once symmetrical factory was demolished in 1966 as part of the widening of Morphett Street and the construction of new twin bridges across North Terrace and the River Torrens.

Twelve boarding houses, predominantly run by women, operated between Victoria Street and Morphett Street to 1910. The number of residents continued to fall, but remained solidly working class.

The 1920s: business, associations and Webb’s railway station

Small businesses and community associations increasingly took up residence near King William Street through the 1920s. Hairdressers, tobacconists, jewellers, a butcher, a photographer, a ‘costumiere’ and a menswear firm traded from rooms on the upper floors of taller buildings and shops at ground floor level. Gambling and McDonald’s Tourist Bureau marked the beginnings of specialised tourist services operating from North Terrace west.

Diverse associations also occupied offices in the locality, including the Alliance Francaise, the Australian Aero Club and the Motor Ambulance and Orthopaedic Association. The Netter Building housed political associations on its second floor. The Women’s Representation League and Women’s Advisory Committee Soldiers Department shared the floor with the Effective Voting League, which campaigned for proportional representation in the Legislative Council. Prominent social reformer and writer Catherine Helen Spence was one of the League’s presidents.

Commerce and industry continued to grow along the terrace with importers and implement manufacturers well represented. The emerging motor industry was reflected with the coming of JA Lawton & Sons motor and buggy showrooms. The newspaper industry also began to make its presence felt with the construction of premises for News Ltd. This company began when James Edward Davidson acquired three of Adelaide’s newspapers (Express and Telegraph, The Mail and The Journal) and began publishing The News in 1923.

Two important new structures were added to North Terrace west in the 1920s: a rebuilt Adelaide Railway Station and the Grosvenor Hotel. The new railway station was part of a revitalisation plan instituted for South Australian Railways by Railways Commissioner William Alfred Webb (1878–1936). After the demolition of the old station, the foundation stone for a much grander facility, designed by local architects Garlick & Jackman, was laid on 24 August 1926. The sandstone building in Neo-Classical style, featuring a domed marble hall, was completed in 1928. The concourse provided services for long-distance travellers as well as daily commuters. Washing facilities, a dining room, hairdressers and refreshment rooms as well as waiting areas were included. Three upper floors housed the railway administration.

On the southern side of the terrace, the Federal Coffee Palace was demolished in 1918 to make way for the Grosvenor Hotel, opened in July 1920. Designed by Albert Selmar Conrad, the four-storeyed Grosvenor with its 368 bedrooms (each with a wash basin) and marble façade rivalled the South Australian Hotel. Conrad had previously designed Grant’s Coffee Palace on Hindley Street and the kiosk at Waterfall Gully.

North Terrace west after the Second World War

During the Second World War the Ministry of Munitions, the Australian Imperial Force Recruiting Depot and the Services Officers Club occupied premises on North Terrace west. There was little growth in other activity. However, economic recovery after the war led to greater prosperity amongst the general community that soon became apparent in the businesses operating along the terrace.

Firms catering for motor vehicles were the first to put in an appearance. JA Lawton & Sons, motor body builders, were joined by Continental Motors, Queen’s Bridge Motor & Engineering Co. and the North Terrace Motors Service Station. By the 1960s home and business take-up of new technology was reflected in the premises of Communications Systems of Australia (telephones), Kodak Australasia (photography) and IBM (business machines).

Increased household income, shorter working hours and longer holidays in the 1960s and 1970s saw more expenditure on leisure activities. By 1960 holidaying and tourism were catered for by a variety of travel and tourist services on North Terrace west, including at least seven airlines and some bus companies by the mid 1970s.

Having expanded operations by creating the Sunday Mail in 1954, News Ltd broadened its publications during this period to include popular magazines such as New Idea and TV Week. The tabloid Truth and the Australian, a national newspaper, were also produced on North Terrace west in the 1970s. One of News Ltd’s premises on the corner of Victoria Street, Newspaper House, was destroyed by a major fire in October 1968. News Ltd continues today as a major international concern, but The News itself ceased publication in March 1992, Australia’s last surviving afternoon newspaper.

Into the twenty-first century: culture and education lead the way

While business and commerce diversified close to King William Street, the rest of North Terrace west declined through the second half of the twentieth century, increasingly appearing tired and run-down.

Attempts to revive it began in the early 1980s with the conversion of the Lion Factory into an arts centre. Established in 1984 by the South Australian Government, the Lion Art Centre precinct now includes the Jam Factory Contemporary Craft & Design studios and outlet, Craftsouth, the Mercury Cinema, the Media Resource Centre and the Nexus Multicultural Arts Centre. The Experimental Art Foundation is also located on the site.

The University of South Australia established its City West campus next to the Lion Art Centre in the 1990s. This expanding facility boasts several award-winning buildings. The City West campus, together with the Adelaide College of the Arts in the Roma Mitchell Arts Education Centre on Light Square, is helping to rejuvenate the city’s West End. The area is becoming an educational and cultural hub to rival North Terrace east.

Development of the northern environs of North Terrace west commenced with the passing of the South Australian Casino Act 1983. This Act enabled the establishment of the state’s first casino. The Adelaide Casino opened in 1985 in the converted Adelaide Railway Station building. This was connected to the Intercontinental hotel (formerly the Hyatt Regency Hotel) which was constructed over the railway lines and opened in 1988. The Adelaide Convention Centre and the Riverside Centre (housing government agencies) were also built over the railway. The Adelaide Convention Centre opened on 15 June 1987, the first purpose-built convention centre in Australia. West of these structures is the City Sk8 Park, an open-air skateboarding facility constructed especially for young people at the turn of the century. Currently open 24 hours daily, it is slated for removal in the near future.

Tramlines along the terrace had been removed in the late 1950s, but trams made a return to North Terrace west in 2007 when an extension of the Adelaide–Glenelg tramline to the Adelaide Entertainment Centre at Hindmarsh was installed. This has made it easier for tourists staying in the hotels along the terrace, and for locals and other visitors alike, to traverse the city.

A continuing desire to utilise the parklands on North Terrace west by the South Australian Government is evident in the expansion of the Adelaide Convention Centre from 2013; the construction of a state-of-the-art South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, the building of a new Royal Adelaide Hospital and plans for further medical-related facilities, including the relocation of the University of Adelaide’s Medical School from Frome Road. While the evolution of this sector of North Terrace continues, one quirk of history has survived, so far – addresses on the southern side of the terrace bear odd and even numbers but the buildings on the northern side are identified just by their name and location.

By Jude Elton, History Trust of South Australia

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891 ABC Adelaide's Ashley Walsh talking about the Holy Trinity Church on Nth Terrace

Early North Terrace west

Image: a watercolour painting of two men riding through a field which backs on to a row of small wooden cottages and a small church, all behind a wooden fence.
Image: a sketch of a small stone church with a square tower with belfry located centrally on the front façade of the building. The church is on the corner of two roads and is situated behind a low wooden fence.
Image: a single storey building with grand columned portico under which figures can be seen standing. A garden can be seen behind a fence to the right of the building.
Image: a row of three terraced buildings. The one on the left is one storey with a verandah under which people stand. In the centre is a two storey building with a balcony and a parapet sign. To the right is another two storey building with a verandah.
Image: a two storey corner hotel with a narrow wrap around balcony and balustraded parapet with urn decorations. On one side of the ground floor a wide verandah protrudes beyond the balcony above.  The other side is fenced off.
Image: a large, three storey, corner hotel with wrap around balconies on the two upper floors and an ornate parapet
Image: a two storey corner hotel with a small balcony on one side. A verandah protrudes further out to the street beneath the balcony. A parapet sign reads: "TISHERS BUCKS' HEAD HOTEL"
Image: a two storey corner hotel, painted white with dark windows and doors and a flat roof. Small, round balconetes protrude from some of the upper floor openings. 1980s era cars are parked on the street outside.
Image: a series of small fenced enclosures with a scattering of metal sheds line a dirt road with tramway.
Image: a man in 1870s era clothing stands outside a small stone foundry with arched windows and doors and a medium pitched gable roof. To the left of the building is a fenced yard where more men work at various machinery next to a tall brick chimney.

Into the twenty-first century: culture and education lead the way

Image: a 1980s era diesel train is stopped at a platform amidst a large construction site. Behind it cranes work on a new building.
Image: a variety of flags fly above the front awning of a large, four storey stone building with arched doorways and an inset double floor balcony on its middle floors which is decorated with paired columns.
Image: rowers travel down a wide river with grassy banks in front of a 24 storey skyscraper and a large convention centre with a multi-storey curved glass wall.
Image: late 1990s and early 2000s cars wait at an intersection of a street lined with skyscrapers
Image: a view along a main city street which is dominated by colourful four storey buildings of red and yellow with blue balconies.
Image: a skateboarder makes use of a specialist skate park, set amongst trees. The backs of the ramps are covered in graffiti.

North Terrace west after the Second World War

Image: a 1950s era car is parked outside of a single storey art-deco building with curved corners and glass brick windows.
Image: a four storey white stucco building with large arched on its third floor. It sits on the corner of a tree lined street which is busy with 1950s era automobiles.

North Terrace west in the late nineteenth century

Image: a two storey stone building with a protruding arched portico flanked by verandahs. A clock sits centrally in a decorative parapet which partly conceals a low pitched roof.
Image: A large three storey stone building with a columned portico entrance on the second floor. Two stone staircases curve up to the grand entrance which is flanked by four stone columns. The building has a flat roof with a balustraded parapet.
Image: dark clouds hang over a wide dirt city street which is lined with a variety of buildings from single storey tin sheds to large stone constructions of up to six storeys. Travelling down the road are a range of horse drawn vehicles.
Image: a metal arched bridge with stone abutments passes over a railway track.
Image: a metal bridge with stone abutments and central pylon passes over a shallow river.
Image: two flights of stairs lead up to a metal bridge which passes over a wide paved road upon which an electric tram travels
Image: a three storey corner hotel with a protruding balcony on the second floor which also forms a verandah. Horse drawn vehicles pass on the street outside.
Image: a two storey square stone building on a street corner. Men in dark suits are gathered outside. The doors and windows of the building are arched and it has a flat roof with a balustraded parapet.
Image: A line of horse drawn vehicles waits outside a huge three storey hotel with balconies on the second and third floors and a verandah on the ground floor.
Image: a large tree obscures the view of a three storey stone building on the corner of a wide street and small alley. The building has balconies on its second and third floor and a corner door at street level.

Parliament transport and travel

Image: a watercolour painting of wide dirt road upon which a range of people travel by foot, on horseback or on a bullock cart. To the left is a stone building with columned portico, easily the largest and grandest on the street.
Image: a large two storey stone building with gable windows indicating a third storey attic space under a steeply pitched roof. A bay window fills most of one side of the building extending over both floors. Another façade features a ground floor loggia
Image: a single storey stone building with pitched cross gable roof, protruding arched portico with verandahs on either side, and an open, octagonal  sided, domed cupola.
Image: a wide dirt road with a scattering of one to three storey stone and brick buildings. Parked outside one of the buildings is a line of horse drawn vehicles for hire.
Image: a two storey corner hotel with a simple facade marks the end of a longer terrace of buildings. A single, small, self supporting balcony on one side of the building is the facades only defining feature.
Image: a single storey cottage with pitched roof and verandah situated behind a picket fence adjoins a small square, flat roofed building with a central door flanked by two small windows. The square building has signs reading: "Railway Hotel"
Image: a simple, two storey building with a balcony/verandah combination running the entire length of the façade is sandwiched between two much larger, more ornate buildings.

The 1920s: business associations and the Webb Railway Station

Image: a series of three storey buildings line one side of a wide city street. Between the buildings and the road is a line of trees. Travelling along the street are horse-drawn vehicles, motor cars and an electric tram, as well as people in 1920s clothes
Image: three four wheeled trailers are parked in a row outside of a single storey building with arched windows and open entranceway. A parapet sign on the building reads: "J.A. Lawton & Sons. Coach builders, Steelfounders, Axelworks, Kilkenny"
Image: a symmetrical fronted, two storey stone building with large rectangular windows and a central arched entranceway. Above the front door is a small balconet
Image: a large demolition site with piles of rubble. The site is dotted with men in early 20th century clothing and horse drawn carts.
Image: a five storey stone building with a symmetrical façade under construction. There are balconies and balconets on most floors although they are of different shapes and formations, some protruding and some set into the building.
Image: a large crowd gathers around a man in a 1920s era dark suit who stands on am small stage with a carved foundation stone.
Image: a high angle photograph of a huge five storey building under construction. Scaffolding covers most of the building.
Image: a row of tiny stone workers cottages with brick quoins, a single door and window beneath a verandah on the front elevation, pitched tin roofs and small lean-tos on the rear.

The Lion Factory a new railway station and boarding houses

Image: 1960s cars are parked outside a large, three storey brick factory building. Some of the windows bear striped awnings and there is a parapet sign reading "Fowlers Lion Factory" which is topped with a life-sized lion statue
Image: a view of a busy railway yard with a number of parked carriages on a series of tracks. In the background are a series of curved roof buildings.
Image: two brick buildings with decorative verandahs which serve as entranceways to a railway station.
Image: the interior of a railway station with at least three platforms visible. The curved roof features skylights and is supported by metal beams. In the foreground are a number of men and women in early 20th century clothing.
Image: the rear view of a railway station as seen from across a dirt road. The building features a corner entrance and a wrap around verandah.
Image: a steam train is stopped beside a platform on which stands a number of men and women in early 20th century clothing. Its carriages stretch away into the distance and pass under a curved roof platform cover.
Image: a horse drawn tram travels down a wide dirt city street which is lined with a series of three and four storey buildings, many with balconies and verandahs, including a theatre with a large arched entrance and column decoration on the upper floors.
Image: a series of small single storey industrial buildings lining a wide dirt road. Many of the buildings feature painting signs advertising the products sold inside.
Image: a two storey building with a combination verandah and balcony, decorated with lattice work, sits behind a wooden fence. Washing dries on a line on the balcony.
Image: a series of four terraced cottages amalgamated into a single boarding house. The building features a verandah/balcony combination and a low, solid parapet. Men and women stand in the doorways of each cottage behind metal fences and gates.
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