The South Australian Register of January 26, 1867, reported: “Mr. J. Pulsford has during the year designed and directed the erection of two houses on Lefevre Terrace, North Adelaide, one of which is in the occupation of the Hon. A. Blyth. The buildings are of two storeys, and a lookout, commanding a glorious view of the land and sea, is fitted up on the top of each. The masonry is chiefly of Glen Osmond stone, pointed, with cement dressings. The internal arrangements of the buildings have been carried out in a very thorough manner, and Mr. Pulsford . . . has been very successful in producing a residence of the first-class, ‘with all appliances and means to boot’. The total cost has been £4000.”
Between the mid-1860s and the mid-1880s, the effects of the building boom in metropolitan Adelaide were marked in North Adelaide in particular by the construction of imposing single and terrace houses. These semi-detached houses were constructed in 1866 as an early expression of that development. Their assessed annual value of £95 each was much higher than any other in the vicinity, and they set a trend for the rest of Lefevre Terrace. They were designed and constructed by one of the city’s leading builders, John Pulsford, and were occupied by a succession of prominent citizens.
Pulsford was described at his death in 1873 as “largely interested in the timber and building trades, and for some years an active and useful member of the Council” (from 1865 to 1868). Pulsford’s factory and later, sawmill and warehouse, was in Grenfell Street.
The Lefevre Terrace houses provide a good early example of substantial residences designed and erected not for sale but for rental to wealthy tenants. The Honourable Arthur Blyth lived in the corner house only a year. He was but one of several members of parliament and other men of public repute who lived at one or other of these houses. Blyth was at that time a member of the House of Assembly (Gumeracha), and between terms as premier (1864-65 and 1871-72, 1873-75).
Later the other house was leased by Lewis (later, Sir Lewis) Cohen, a financier, MP and mayor. Cohen lived there from about 1879 through the 1880s and 1890s. He was elected to the Adelaide City Council in 1886 and was mayor from 1889-91, as well as mayor and lord mayor for three terms between 1901 and 1923. He was member of the House of Assembly for North Adelaide for several terms over the same period, the first being from 1887-93. He was also president of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation. It appears that Cohen deliberately chose to live at the Lefevre Terrace house as an address appropriate to the status and duties of a man in such good standing.
A third, equally well-known MP and occupant was Dr (later, Sir) Edward Charles Stirling, who leased and then owned the corner house from 1881 until 1895. Stirling, a physician, was director of the South Australian Museum, senior surgeon at the Adelaide Hospital, and later Professor of Physiology at the University of Adelaide, among other significant public roles. He was a member of the House of Assembly for North Adelaide from 1884 to 1887. His most notable parliamentary role was as the first to speak in favour of female suffrage, and he reinforced that role as president of the Women’s Suffrage League in 1889. He held significant positions in several other learned societies and organisations, acting as a key figure in South Australia’s scientific, cultural and public affairs until his death in 1919.
Despite the compromising effects of attached development, the building is a very good architectural example of the drawing together of two residences to form an imposing villa composition. It is a relatively early example of this type of structure, which characterises part of Lefevre Terrace.