The complex can be compared with the Baptist Church in Flinders Street which was built to consolidate the cause of the denomination in South Australia. Its continuous association with the Baptist Church is also significant. So many non-conformist church congregations failed to survive residential decline in the city and the often destructive changes to its social and environmental character.
The Tynte Street Baptist congregation had its beginnings in a church on Lefevre Terrace in 1850. It was the result of a division within the original North Adelaide congregation of the Ebenezer Chapel in Brougham Court. The late 1860s were important expansionist years for the Baptist Church in North Adelaide as the Lefevre Terrace property was sold to E.S. Wigg and the present complex built in Tynte Street. However, the Ebenezer Chapel could not match the attractions of the newly built premises and the two congregations amalgamated.
Before the Tynte Street premises were built, services were transferred from Lefevre Terrace to the Temperance Hall in Tynte Street under the pastoral care of the Reverend John Langdon Parsons. The foundation stone of the present church was laid on December 9, 1869, by Dr H. Wheeler. The North Adelaide Baptist Church was described in the South Australian Register of July 16, 1870 as “Venetian” in style with a roof of “very fine Willunga slate”. The substantial balustrading was finished, and when the ashlar freestone had been dressed, the edifice promised to “be second-to-none, in North Adelaide at any rate”. The reporter made the interesting general observation that “The style of work is now able to be carried out in consequence of the great reduction which has been made in the price of the freestone, rendering it now much more available than formerly.”
The chapel measured 75 feet by 46 feet and accommodated 600 people: “The seats will rise from the platform to the front ... and will be in circular form so that each person will look directly towards the preacher. The entrance will be by a double flight of side steps leading to a piazza ... The portico is composed of Gothic arches with white and brown freestone pillars and carved capitals, on which the sculptors are now engaged.”
Ventilation was provided by a space in the centre of the ceiling covered by perforated zinc. Hot air could escape into the roof, where there were louvre openings.
At the rear were vestries for minister and deacon. To the east of the chapel a separate building of Glen Osmond stone with cement dressings accommodated schoolrooms and a lecture hall seating 300. A passage led to 12 classrooms and a kitchen, “to be fitted up with boiler and other appliances necessary for tea meetings”.
The church was opened in November 1870 and the apse was finally completed in 1874. James Cumming was responsible for both design and construction.
It has been stated that “the idea of the church as an auditorium is most evident in this building, with its sloping floor, central organ, choir, and pulpit and the seating arranged in concentric arcs”. The architectural style and layout probably originated from the London tabernacle of the famous Baptist preacher C.H. Spurgeon.
The congregation remained under the pastoral care of the Reverend J.L. Parsons until 1876, when the Reverend L.G. Carter began his ministry. He was succeeded by the Reverend A.W. Webb, who was responsible for starting construction of the manse to the east, thus completing the group. The buildings are still in impressively original order. The two- storey addition to the rear of the church was built in 1907. The integrity of the complex as a whole is complemented by the boundary wall, which is topped with cast-iron railings to the Tynte Street frontage.