John Darling Snr and his eldest son John Darling Jnr arrived in South Australia in 1855. In 1866 Darling Jnr joined his father's firm. The Cyclopedia of South Australia records that the firm became one of the largest in Australasia with branches in Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and London. It is therefore not surprising that the influence of the firm and the standing of the Darlings were considerable. Both men were at times parliamentarians. J. Darling Jnr was a president of the Employers' Union of South Australia, the South Australian Chamber of Commerce, and the Ship Owners' Association of South Australia. He was also a director of a number of prominent mercantile and commercial organisations including Broken Hill Proprietary Ltd. Although both John Darling Snr and Jnr died before the erection of this building, these offices reflect the success of the firm and the importance of the Darling family, especially as the building remained in the ownership of John Darling and Son Proprietary Ltd. until 1958.
J.B. Hirst recognised the significance of this family by stating that Darling Snr ranked with the most prominent colonial and British landholders. This prominence is indicated by the following:
When Darling the wheat merchant, was accused of supporting a railway inland from Port Broughton because he did business there, his defence was to accept this charge and to invite his accuser to name a port where he did not have an interest.
Similarly, Darling Jnr is accredited by Hirst as holding ' . . . the power behind the throne' of the conservatives in Parliament at the turn of the twentieth century.
Architect E.H. McMichael advertised tenders for the construction of a new building in Franklin Street in July 1916. The plan for the building was approved in August 1916. It is constructionally and architecturally notable, for the composition reflects ably that period in which a marked preference for the classical tradition is particularly noticeable. The Verco building in North Terrace (also designed by McMichael) and the Tattersalls Club in Grenfell Street are other examples of design of this period.
The building's original exterior is a surprisingly crisp and well-integrated interpretation of the classical tradition. Some of its merits are the rustication of the ground floor, detailing of the first floor and surrounds to openings, the treatment of quoins, and the use of a bay window panel terminated by a pediment. These are typical devices, yet are utilised here in an individualistic way which demonstrates well the accepted approach to office design and mainstream architectural aesthetics at this time.