Duncan owned a property near Saddleworth and leased Oulnina Station, a property of some 800 square miles, until his death. He was chairman of the Waterloo District Council, member of the House of Assembly, and a major shareholder and director of Wallaroo and Moonta Mines. His father, brother and uncle, who were also pastoralists, had close connections with the Wallaroo and Moonta mines. Copper was discovered in 1860 at Walla Waroo, the sheep station of his father, Captain John Duncan, and his uncle, Sir Walter Watson Hughes. The property was later named Wallaroo.
W.H. Duncan and his brother, Honourable Sir John Duncan, MLC, presented the statue of Sir Walter Watson Hughes to the University of Adelaide in memory of his financial contribution as the university’s first donor in 1872.
W.H. Duncan built his home while member for the House of Assembly for Onkaparinga between April 1896 and March 1902. Five years later he died on his way back to Australia from England in May 1906. When his widow Alice died the property was bought in 1928 by W.G.T. Goodman.
Sir William George Toop Goodman, KCB, MICE, MIEE, MIE Aust. came from Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1907 where he had acquired a distinguished reputation as the designer of the tramway system. He was appointed electrical engineer for the newly created Municipal Tramways Trust (MTT) in 1907. By 1908 he was chief engineer and general manager, and under his supervision Adelaide quickly obtained an electrified tram system to replace the antiquated horse tramways. The first electrified tram was welcomed by crowds as it travelled along North Terrace in November 1908. Sir William Goodman managed the MTT until 1950 when he was in his late seventies and when the electric tram system was, in turn, about to be replaced by buses. Goodman was renowned as an energetic, efficient and intelligent administrator and so was also appointed as the first chairman of another major statutory authority, the South Australian Housing Trust (1937-45). In those early years of the trust, the board members, Goodman especially, carried out most of the administrative work themselves. In Goodman’s case this was usually done after his MTT work at night at his home in Palmer Place.
Duncraig was designed by English and Soward, and completed in 1900. The design employed a North Adelaide vernacular and displays influences from the Jacobean period typical of architectural revivalism of this time.
The building is strongly reminiscent of St Paul’s Anglican Rectory in Flinders Street, with stepped and figured gables, angled elements such as the porch, and high-quality revivalist detailing. The use of limestone rubble at this relatively late date is distinctive, particularly when associated with brickwork that gives the house an earlier appearance than its construction date. The prominence of the building reinforces the residential character of Palmer Place.