The National Mutual Life Association of Australia began in Melbourne in 1869 and is the oldest such institution in Victoria. It opened a branch in Adelaide in 1878 and erected its first building in Victoria Square in 1884. The company soon realised that the commercial hub of Adelaide was closer to Hindley Street and in 1898 had local architect Edward Davies design a bigger and more florid building designed.
Edward Davies was born in Wales in 1852 and travelled to Melbourne as a baby with his parents. He was apprenticed to Melbourne architect Albert Purchas and then joined the architectural branch of the Victorian Education Department. He came to South Australia in 1876 and worked as a senior draughtsman in the South Australian Education Department under E.J. Woods. He then entered the architectural firm of James Cummings, later became a partner, and by 1884 had set up his own practice. Davies designed Clayton Church and the East Adelaide Congregational Church, and the former head office of the Savings Bank of South Australia at 23 Currie Street (1902). He died in 1927.
This building is unusual in its design and detailing. The arcading on the facade is not common in Adelaide. Although the design is largely classical, the architect has drawn from many sources for the detailing of the upper gablets, the elliptical arches and the semi-circular headed openings. The steeply pitched roof is distinctive on King William Street, as is the dressed limestone facade with granite accents (now painted) and its sharp interplay of light and shade.
The original building has been modified by the redevelopment in 1986-87 of this and adjacent sites for the State Bank. The building now comprises of offices and a bar in the basement.