In 1872-73 a number of 'benevolent ladies and gentlemen' met to examine ways of satisfying the need for accommodation of widows, the aged and infirm poor:
. . . it must always be a painful thing for those who lived in positions of respectability and comfort to be compelled by reverse of circumstances, failure of health, or in the case of women, by the loss of those on whom they had depended for their livelihood, to resort to the Destitute Asylum in order to obtain shelter and food.
In 1873 they decided to establish an 'unsectarian' institution whose inmates would be selected by the donors of funds on a scale according to the size of their donations:
. . . subscribers of one hundred pounds, which has been estimated as the cost of two rooms, shall during their lifetime have the right of nominating an occupant to one home, and this right may be vested permanently in a corporate body or congregation on payment of a donation of one hundred and twenty pounds. Archdeacon Marryat, the Honourable A. Blyth, M.P., and Mr. H.H. Waters have been appointed to act as Trustees until the Society is incorporated.
An acre of land at North Adelaide, with frontages to Stanley Street and Kingston Terrace, was purchased with ten cottages planned for Stanley Street and a row of nine houses on Kingston Terrace:
Glen Osmond stone will be used up to the plinth, and limestone above, with brick dressings . . . At the ends of the smaller rows there are to be gables to break the long line of roof, with louvres for the purposes of ventilation. There will be gables at intervals in the block facing Kingston Terrace. The plans have been drawn by Mr. D. Garlick, who has kindly returned the amount of his commission to the Committee . . .
Under the foundation stone copies of the Register and Advertiser were laid, together with a scroll containing the following information:
The foundation stone of these cottage homes for the aged and infirm poor and widows was laid by Mrs. Musgrave on 27th October, A.D. 1873, being the thirty-seventh year of the reign of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, the first year of the Governorship of His Excellency Anthony Musgrave, Esq., C.M.G., and the thirty-seventh year of the History of the Colony of South Australia. The Members of the Committee were Mesdames A. Blyth, Farr, Haining, Hay, Hart, Marryat, Parsons, Stuckey, J. Scott, Miss McMinn; Honorary Secretary, Mrs. Gawler; Honourable A. Blyth, Mr. R. Stuckey, Archdeacon Marryat; Architect, Mr. D. Garlick; Builder, Mr. G. Newman.
The original cottages were complemented by additions carried out in 1874, 1875, 1877, 1879 and 1882. The Stanley Street frontage was completed by 1880, the Kingston Terrace frontage dating from 1879-82. The Cottage Homes Society was incorporated in 1878 and remained in possession of the property until late 1970. The Stanley Street cottages originally displayed the following plaque:
The Dean Marryat Homes. Named in Memory of the Founder 1872-1906. This house was erected by Margaret Elizabeth Andrews to the memory of her mother, A.D. 1877. This home was built with funds collected by Miss Woodcock.
The Kingston Terrace cottages were known as:
The Lady Ayers Homes. Erected by her husband, A.D. 1882.