The German Club was set up in 1854 as result of the large influx of German migrants in the late 1830s and 1840s. This immigration was initially sponsored by George Fife Angas, who sympathised with the Germans’ fight against religious persecution. Soon after their arrival in the colony they established themselves as a community in their own right.
Before the club was formed, the philosophy of Deutschtum – the expression of a common language, customs and culture – was promoted by a group of nine German singers in 1844 under the direction of Otto Rudiger. The original German Club formed in 1854 also had a choir led by Carl Linger. He amalgamated both choirs in 1858 into the Adelaide Liedertafel, a male choir of long and respected standing. After the original German Club ceased to exist, it became part of the South Australian German Association.
The first male choir was important to Adelaide’s Germans, who in the early days of settlement found it difficult to express and maintain their customs, traditions and language in a predominantly British society. The early efforts of this choir to foster and keep alive German culture eventually led to the formation of the German Club, through which German migrants could meet and socialise with fellow Germans.
Unfortunately the rules of the club restricted its membership to such a degree that due to falling numbers it was finally unable to afford its large clubrooms in Pirie Street. Consequently the premises had to be sold to pay off accumulated debts. Elitism in the club saw the emergence of the alternative German Club, the South Australian German Association, founded in March 1886 to cater for the needs of members not provided for by the earlier club. The popularity of this association quickly saw the decline and folding up of the German Club.
In 1878, G.R. Johnson of Melbourne, designer of the Theatre Royal, also designed the premises for the German Club. The aspirations of the club were expressed in the scale of the building, if not in its architectural style, which was described as French Renaissance. It included a billiard room, social meeting room, smoking room, reading rooms and six bedrooms. At the rear was a large hall called the Albert Hall built by Brown and Thompson to a design by Bayer and Withall. This has since been burnt out and demolished. Charles Farr, under the superintendence of G. Joachimi, constructed the present building facing Pirie Street. This first stage cost £7231. The foundation stone was laid on August 20, 1878.
In 1899 the Pirie Street property was bought for the Salvation Army, which occupied the building until 1979. In 1938 Harold Griggs designed an extra storey for the army, reproducing the architectural detailing of the ground floor and first floor. The building, twice damaged by fire during its occupation by the Salvation Army, was an important part of its operation in Adelaide. Providing low-cost temporary accommodation, it will be long remembered as the old “People's Palace”.
The Salvation Army in Australia began in Adelaide in 1880, spreading quickly due to the enthusiasm and skill of its officers and the need for such an institution. The year this property was bought of this property (1899) was a milestone in the growth and consolidation of the army in South Australia and its long occupation of this building enhances its heritage significance.
The army saw itself as fighting a war against poverty, drunkenness and corruption. By 1884 women were involved in its social work and were patrolling the streets in the night brigades. With the onset of the 1890s, depression “slumposts” were established in the cities from which women officers worked among the poor, doing what they could to alleviate the misery of sickness, loneliness and despair. Nursing services were provided for those unable to pay for medical care. Treatment in an army home was offered where alcoholism was a cause of poverty. Religion, too, was seen as a weapon against poverty, for the salvationists felt confident that the Christian faith would bring new energy and motivation to life.
Since the Salvation Army relinquished the building in 1979, it has been twice redeveloped, first as offices and subsequently as a facade to a new office block behind. It is now used as an office by Alliance Insurance. Despite this the frontage to Pirie Street, which was remodelled in 1938, is an important streetscape element with its eclectic use of classical elements and its high-quality stucco work.