Scottish born Dr Symons qualified in Edinburgh and at the famous London eye hospital Moorfields. In 1883 he migrated to South Australia. He became ophthalmic surgeon at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, medical officer for the Adelaide Children’s Hospital and honorary medical officer to the Institute for the Blind. He lectured at the medical school in ophthalmic surgery and went on to be dean of the Faculty of Medicine.
Dr Symons first had rooms in Gawler Place but when these were threatened with demolition to make way for Gawler Chambers, he decided to build his own rooms. When his premises were built on North Terrace in 1901 it was becoming fashionable among the medical fraternity to have professional rooms between King William Street and the Botanic Hotel.
Edward John Woods, one of South Australia’s most prominent architects, is credited with the design of this building. Woods was born in London in 1837 and qualified there as an architect. He migrated to South Australia in 1860 and began his Adelaide career in architecture as a draughtsman in Edmund Wright’s office. Later, he practised in partnership with Wright until 1869, when he branched out on his own. In 1873 Woods became government architect to the Council of Education and in January 1878 was appointed architect-in-chief. During his time with the government he oversaw the construction of many public, including the first stage of Parliament House, the west wing of the State Library (now the Mortlock Library) and many schools.
This building is one of few surviving on North Terrace that are reminders of its early professional nature. With the destruction of Wardell’s ES&A Bank on King William Street, it is also one of the few remaining Gothic secular buildings. Its symmetrical composition centred around an oriel window with buttressed walling is a highly creative interpretation of the Gothic idiom. The facade in particular is notable for its Murray Bridge limestone ashlar walling and dressings. The windows with mullions and transoms are detailed with label moulds, and the oriel window appears delicately supported on the small column with foliated capital above the central buttress.