Its opening was marked by the Register of September 7, 1901 as follows: “The new Stock Exchange of Adelaide was opened on Friday morning in the presence of a large assembly of members of the exchange, public men, bankers ... Cheers were given for the Premier [Hon. J.G. Jenkins]. Mr Jenkins turned the key and was followed into the handsome and highly finished building by the company ... Everyone was loud in praise of the general arrangement and construction of the building.”
Stock dealing and share dealing had long been established in Adelaide. In the mid-19th century, Green’s Exchange in King William Street was a popular meeting place for leading public figures and businessmen. Inside the building or under the verandah, politicians, “bankers, merchants, squatters, lawyers and share and general brokers congregated freely ... a few of whom, though engaged in large concerns, kept their offices in their hats”.
Several of these gentlemen attended a meeting in September 1887 that resolved to form a stock exchange of Adelaide. In October business started in the Pirie Street premises known as the Old Exchange.
The Adelaide Stock Exchange was successful from the beginning. By 1890 membership had reached 70, each member paying an entrance fee that had risen from £25 to £1000. Exchange business benefited greatly from the Western Australian gold boom of the mid-1890s, despite prevailing depression in South Australia. At the opening of the new building in 1901 the premier praised members of the exchange for providing financial support to mining ventures within the state.
Architects H.E. Fuller and H.N. Dunn jointly designed the exchange building, and it was built by Walter C. Torode for £8380. Both the design of the building and the impressive Morris and Company stained-glass window in the main stairwell were linked with the contemporary Arts and Crafts Movement of England, as well as to the Australian Federation style.
Morris and Company was founded in England in 1861 to promote traditional crafts that were being debased by the effects of the Industrial Revolution. One of its founders was Edward Burne-Jones, a Pre-Raphaelite artist and the firm’s sole designer until his death in 1898. The company’s new chief designer, J.H. Dearle, designed the Adelaide Stock Exchange window, reusing Burne-Jones’ cartoons.
The window was donated by the Hon. George Brookman. It was intended as a celebration of Australian Federation, which took place in the year the exchange opened, although in fact it is more a representation of the British Empire. The central figure is Britannia. On one side a black man and a white woman represent Africa and Canada (the same male figure having been used in the artist’s picture The Star of Bethlehem). On the other side, another woman represents Australia, beside what was described as “an inhabitant of the King’s Indian dominions”. This was the first Morris and Co. window to be brought to South Australia. It is one of about 20 Morris windows identified in Australia, 14 of which are in Adelaide.
Although damaged by fire in 1938, the building was sympathetically repaired. Another fire in 1982 almost gutted the interior, after which a mezzanine floor was added and the exterior was restored. The stained-glass window survived both fires. The corner tower and spire of the building, although now overshadowed by office towers, make a unique contribution to the precinct.
Between 2007-2009 the building was renovated by the State Government of South Australia to become the Royal Institution of Australia, a public science communication organisation, modelled on the famous Royal Institution in London. The building is now referred to as The Science Exchange, owned by RiAus, and operates as a venue for corporate functions.