This building at 81 King William Street was home to the Bank of Adelaide from its opening in 1880. A competition was held for its design, and won by Edmund William Wright.
Establishment of the Bank of Adelaide
The Bank of Adelaide was founded in 1865. Among the board members were Henry Ayers, Thomas Greaves Waterhouse, Robert Barr Smith, Thomas Magarey and George Peter Harris. The manager at this time was John Souttar. Four branches had been established during the first two years of the bank’s existence, at Port Adelaide, Goolwa, Kapunda and Gawler. During the 1880s, the Bank of Adelaide and other banks were connected to agricultural business, which experienced success and collapse. Despite this, the Bank of Adelaide was the only institution able to guarantee deposits without loss throughout the subsequent period of depression.
Support for a new bank
The bank was supported with a capital of 250,000 pounds. Shares for the bank were to be sold at five pounds each, with 50,000 shares on offer. After viewing the prospectus, applications for over 120,000 shares were made.
The excitement of a new banking institution was palpable.
The South Australian Weekly Chronicle reported on Sat 24 Jun 1865:
It almost looks as though it were a final dance in chains amongst those in thralldom to the existing Banks, looking forward to a speedy release at the hands of a coming liberator. The birth of an heir-apparent was never promulgated more joyously than has been the advent of this new power in the republic of money. Thousands are pouring in their offerings at the shrine ere it is yet built, and the votaries are giving solid pledges of their unwavering fidelity.
Head office moved
The Bank of Adelaide outgrew premises at Gresham Chambers and by 1867 was looking for a new home. A competition was held for the design of the building. Museums Victoria describe the competition guidelines:
Entrants were required to provide accommodation in the basement for two strong rooms for coin, books and securities, a voucher room, stationery room and a clerk's cloak room. On the ground floor a public office and clerk's room, a board room, a waiting room to accommodate also two or more clerks and a lift from the basement were required. The first floor was to be the Manager's residence, and was to comprise a drawing room, dining room, morning room and library, together with three bedrooms, two servants rooms, kitchen, scullery and larder. The successful design was to be awarded a premium of 150 pounds.
Edmund William Wright's design won the competition in 1878. Wright designed a number of other commercial buildings in Adelaide, and by this stage he was already the architect for the Adelaide Town Hall and the GPO, and working in partnership as Wright, Reed and Beaver, architects.
The new building was constructed at 81 King William street in Adelaide’s centre, the architecture was described as Italian influenced, long Wright's favourite style, with Tuscan columns and circular headed windows with moulded archivolts. Construction was undertaken by Wright and Reed. A combination of dark and white Sydney Freestone in the chiaroscuro style was used for dramatic effect. In 1941, an extension was added to the West, and the exterior rendered and painted.
The western section of the building, with an entrance to Currie Street, was added in 1940.
In 1979, the Bank of Adelaide was merged with the Australia and New Zealand banking group to stabilize its position. The conditions surrounding this merger established that the major trading banks and the Reserve bank would provide massive financial support to the bank. Due to government policy that forbade foreign ownership of Australian banks, special provisions were made within Commonwealth legislation to allow the merger to proceed.
The ANZ occupied 81 King William Street for some time after the merger, before other businesses moved in.
Adelaide Observer, ‘The Week’s News’, 10 June 1865, p.4.
Joint statement by the Prime Minister and the Premier of South Australia, 4th October 1979, https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id:%22media/pressrel/HPR10030704%22, accessed 30 January 2019
Marsden, S Stark, Sumerling, P (eds), 1990, Heritage of the City of Adelaide: an illustrated guide, Corporation of the City of Adelaide.
Museums Victoria Collections, https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/articles/1860, accessed
South Australian Weekly Chronicle, ‘The Bank of Adelaide’, 24 June 1865, p.3.