The Adelaide Children’s Hospital was founded in 1876, by which time a third of South Australia’s population was living in the metropolitan area. Infant mortality rates were high and there was increasing interest in social reform. Children’s hospitals were a relatively recent phenomenon, and Dr Allan Campbell promoted the idea of a voluntary children’s hospital for the poor.
A committee of prominent citizens oversaw the purchase of a “conveniently situated” site at North Adelaide, and the design and construction of the first hospital building.
The new hospital soon emerged as a major philanthropic institution. Its chief benefactors were father and son G.E and J.H. Angas, each of whom donated large sums. John Howard Angas and a committee of ladies also undertook to find the first lady superintendent. Demand soon outstripped the accommodation. Piecemeal additions were made between the opening of the first building in 1879 and 1892. As vice-president of the board, J.H. Angas, then stated that “his attention had been called to the need of further accommodation at the Children’s Hospital” and that he would fund a proposed new building.
A building committee had already produced sketches of a new building designed to form a quadrangle with the existing buildings, and with a frontage to Poole Street (King William Road). Angas engaged architect Alfred Wells and had the plans redrawn. The building was constructed during 1893 and opened on May 1, 1894.
Two surgical wards occupied the first floor, with the outpatients department, dispensary and house surgeon’s quarters on the ground floor. An over-way connected with the central block and thus with the original building.
The building is similar to a number of the public model schools of the day. Humanising the vast hospital buildings built later, it is of a simple utilitarian design with Gothic Revival overtones. It is well constructed of squared random coarsed sandstone set over a bluestone plinth. The stone was described at the time as Little Para freestone from Thomas Williams’ quarry near Salisbury.