centuries. This complex was built in 1906 for the Adelaide Benevolent and Strangers' Friend Society reputedly Adelaide's oldest philanthropic society. This was formed in 1849 ' . . . to relieve the sick and indigent, especially among the newly arrived immigrants'. The society has been rightly held up as a worthy ' . . . instance of humanitarianism, initiated by practical idealists in the days when the State was young and steadfastly held to by those of similar mind and capabilities through the years'. In 1869 R. Berry, a member of the committee, who could see the difficulty that the poor would find in keeping a roof over their heads in times of rising prices, suggested acquiring small homes and letting them to the needy at small rentals. Through his efforts the society bought a row of cottages and let them to widows and poor tenants at two shillings and sixpence a week. The housing scheme was placed on a permanent footing in 1876 when a public appeal was launched and several other rows of cottages were bought and let. In 1906 land was purchased in Stanley Street, and these cottages were erected soon afterwards. Efforts were made to separate ' . . . the deserving from the underserving case', with special consideration given to women who, by death or desertion of their husbands, reared their children in poverty. The society was non-partisan in its selection of tenants, the sole criterion being need. In the early years, the society worked in conjunction with the City Mission whose missioners often investigated individual cases. Most of the tenants of the North Adelaide cottages were likely to have been widows from the West End.
The architect for the cottages in Stanley Street was Alfred Wells. Wells was solidly established as one of Adelaide's leading architects with a string of large public buildings to his credit, including the Adelaide Arcade, the Exhibition Building (now demolished) and parts of the Adelaide Children's Hospital.