The hotel served a clientele living in the south-east, at the time the least populated area of the city. An engraving of Adelaide published as a supplement to the Illustrated Sydney News in July 1876 shows clusters of cottages and shops with large stretches of vacant land in the area east of Hutt Street. The Smith Survey of 1880 records that the vacant areas were starting to be developed and that some of the developed town acres were more densely filled. The General Havelock and the Arab Steed (on the corner of Gilles Street and Hutt Street) were the first hotels in this south-east corner.
The hotel was originally quite severe, with no verandahs or balconies. These may have been added in 1887 when plans were approved for alterations or additions. Several later alterations were also approved, between 1899 and 1939.
Architecturally the building is a simple example of commercial development of the 1870s, with its chamfered corner and standard distribution of doors and windows. The substantial verandah/balcony supported by cast-iron columns adds a special character to the area, “pairing” the verandah of the shop on the opposite corner of Carrington Street. Now painted and partially covered by the once-ubiquitous ceramic tile public house dado, the exterior is still basically original and strongly related to the adjoining terrace to the south.