The complex was designed by Michael McMullen (associated with the design of several Roman Catholic buildings) and built by J. Barry in 1876-77 for Richard Vaughan. Vaughan’s obituary in Frearson’s Monthly Illustrated Adelaide News of May 1884 indicates his substantial contribution to Adelaide. In 1862 he set up the nearby East End Market for selling general produce and after selling it in 1873 was estimated to have spent £80,000 building “Botanic Terrace, Adelaide, the temperance Hotel and villas at Hackney and the Kensington Hotel … all the result of his perseverance and energy”.
Vaughan leased back the corner half-acre on which the Botanic Terrace development took place, for a term of 30 years.
A lengthy report in the South Australian Register of 13 August 1877 described the complex as “a large family hotel, three shops and seven dwelling houses, which when completed will together form one of the handsomest Terraces in Adelaide … The buildings are uniform in style and both substantial and rich in appearance.”
Each of the houses had 12 “fine large rooms, including bathroom, and is fitted up with every convenience”. The houses were all similar in design and size, and each had one bay window on the ground floor. “The seven balconies add to the beauty of the houses generally, and each one is entirely select and apart from the others. A splendid view of the country is to be had from them.” The material was Glen Osmond stone, with the fronts featuring cement dressings. “Rustic pilasters” separated the houses, and the mouldings and cement dressings in various classic forms gave the terrace “a rich and elegant appearance”.
The hotel was similar in style, with an additional storey and a roof surrounded by cement balustrades. There were 25 rooms. The Botanic Hotel received a liquor licence in 1883 and was renovated for £1200 to designs by architects Wright and Reed. In 1897 the present tiered balconies were added. In 1910 the hotel was again altered (mainly internally) to designs by Claude Lindsay. Further renovations took place in the 1920s for the new owners, the South Australian Brewing Company.