The Kindergarten Union was founded in 1905 and quickly expanded under the guidance of Lillian de Lissa. The first kindergarten was opened in a worker’s cottage in Franklin Street in 1906. From 1921 the Little Citizens’ Free Kindergarten was conducted at North Adelaide in the Archer Street Methodist hall. By 1924-25 the union reported, “the mothers hope some day to have a building as good as the Keith Sheridan Kindergarten and are working hard with that end in view”. Two members of the North Adelaide committee, Miss Eleanor Kate Barker and her sister-in-law Mrs Alfred Barker, decided to pay for the construction of the kindergarten, in memory of John and Alfred Barker, father and husband respectively, both of whom died in 1925.
John Barker of Barker and Co. was an auctioneer and stock agent, a businessman “of the strictest integrity”. He was modest regarding his own associations with philanthropic organisations but his great interest was horse-racing. He was associated with the South Australian Jockey Club for more than 30 years, and its chairman for more than 10. He was also a director of the Adelaide Steamship Company.
The Barker Kindergarten was designed by E.H. McMichael and built by M.C. Richardson. The president of the Little Citizens' Free Kindergarten, Mrs Nutter Thomas, opened the new kindergarten on August 2, 1926.