Corner names such as Fitch’s Corner and Moss’ Corner played a significant role in the image-making of a particular locality in 19th-century Adelaide. The “Beehive” had its origins in the 1840s and by at least 1849 this corner was widely known as Beehive Corner. The South Australian Register of October 3, 1849, advertised a new drapery establishment, “the Beehive”, and the building appears in a watercolour by S.T. Gill of 1848-49 and W. Wadham, c.1860.
The original Beehive had many occupants, among them architect Edmund Wright and the Adelaide Times newspaper. The building survived until the construction of the present Beehive Corner building in 1895-96.
The building was developed by Henry Martin. The architects were probably English & Soward, who also designed the Tavistock buildings for Martin. Martin was an absentee landlord who, as far as is known, never came to South Australia but had his affairs managed by agents in the colony.
Although the block is now sadly altered, it features complex detailing rarely seen in Adelaide. It draws on the Gothic Revival, while reinterpreting it and using it in a fresh manner. The corner turret and beehive is unusual and distinctive. The original design has been marred by ground floor redevelopment, the removal of gables on the western elevation, and the encasement of a facade to King William Street. Most of these unsympathetic changes were made during the 1960s, when many historical features in the city were lost.
The Beehive defines the entrance to Rundle Mall, complemented by the Waterhouse building opposite.