One of the oldest charity organisations in South Australia, the City Mission held its first meeting on July 25, 1867. Its constitution declared that its aim was the evangelisation of the neglected classes of the City of Adelaide. However its work with the west Adelaide poor, the down-and-outs, the Chinese and Syrian population, prostitutes and transients was practical as well as spiritual.
The City Mission used the premises of Mr Verco in Currie Street as a mission hall in 1870, then rented the old Royal Victoria Theatre until that was sold in 1877. To enable the mission to continue its services, John Darling MP, donated £500 towards a new hall and a “most eligible site” was found on the west side of Light Square.
The locality was “ideal”, being one of the red light districts of the city “infested with brothels and soliciting prostitutes as well as having places of music, dancing and revelry”. Such entertainment could be found in the nearby Shamrock (Colonel Light Hotel), which was used as a theatre and concert hall and contributed much towards the local night life. Many poor working-class families lived in cottages nearby.
Brown and Thompson built the hall, apparently to the design of H.C. Richardson. Mr Darling laid the foundation stone in 1877 and the premises were officially opened in March 1878.
This “plain and neat” building was deliberately functional in appearance, although this is offset by some high-quality brickwork, including polychrome brickwork to the gable.
Once the mission had a permanent home it became the venue for many activities. It gave free breakfasts to the poor on Sunday mornings, conducted reading and writing classes for the Chinese population, and ran classes for mothers. It was particularly interested in suppressing the “open manifestations of prostitution in the city” and sent a petition to the chief secretary requesting changes in the law “to suppress the glaring exhibitions”.
Although no fundamental changes were needed to adapt the building for its new use as a restaurant, it was seriously damaged by fire at some point, but has since been restored. It stands out from the neighbouring buildings, which are mainly industrial.
The building became Regines Restaurant before it was converted into Rise Nightclub. The building is now the frontage for an apartment block.