North Adelaide Institute Hall and Post Office

North Adelaide Institute Hall and Post Office

North Adelaide’s remarkable stock of historical buildings provides an excellent example of some of the processes of Australian 19th-century urban development. The juxtaposition of shops, residences, workplaces and cultural institutions that characteristises much of that development is superbly illustrated in the largely intact streetscape of Tynte Street. This complex is perhaps the ultimate example of multiple-purpose development, the one building being financed co-operatively by public and private funds as a cultural centre, post office, meeting place, private residence and handsome public monument.

The Post Office has occupied a prominent part in local affairs of North Adelaide. It was erected and still operates as the mail clearing house and receiving house for North Adelaide. The date of construction in 1884 also marks the rapid expansion of telegraphic communication that took place during the 1880s. The building of the adjoining Institute testifies to the capacity of Adelaide residents in the 1870s to remedy the cultural shortcomings of the colony. Other cultural buildings, such as the Art Gallery of South Australia, Mitchell Building, Jervois Wing of the State Library, Public Baths, Band Rotunda and Torrens Weir were also constructed during this period of unprecedented prosperity and confidence. The North Adelaide Institute was part of that dynamic phase of urban and cultural development, and a milestone for the North Adelaide community.

In 1880 the desirability of establishing an institute at North Adelaide was affirmed at a large meeting of the residents. No action was taken until mid-1882 when a further call for residents’ support went out. The proposed erection of a local post office appears to have been the necessary catalyst, for in August 1882 at a public meeting it was resolved that the Institute buildings be erected on land provided by the government adjoining the post office site. The sum of 220 guineas was subscribed at the meeting, a building committee formed, and encouragement given by the chief justice and the Honourable J.L. Parsons (minister for Education). By July 1883 the committee had enough money subscribed to accept the tender of R.C Rees for £3470, allowing for the entire Institute building to be erected except for rooms at the rear of the hall dating from 1885.

The foundation stone for the North Adelaide Institute was laid by the Governor Sir William Robinson on September 10,1883. A contemporary account of the opening ceremony in 1884 described the Institute as part of a large and handsome building that would also contain a post and telegraph office. There was a hall, library and a large assembly room fitted with a stage. “The hall is provided with four doors opening outwards, so as to minimise the danger in case of panic among the audience.” On the upper floor was a reading room and committee rooms.

“The front is in the classic style of architecture, with red brick facing and cement base and dressings. In the Post Office there will be complete accommodation for the postal as well as for the telegraphic and telephonic departments, also for night clerks and messengers. On the upper floor are seven apartments for the resident Postmaster.”

The Post and Telegraph Office was opened on November 1, 1884, the cost of the entire project being £6942. The complex consists of three main areas, the Post Office and the Institute offices that together make up the street frontage of the building, and the large hall at the rear. The facade of brick and cement dressings was a radical departure from the constructional vernacular of the time of bluestone rubble and stuccoed dressings. This may be explained by the growing reaction against the use of bluestone and stucco coinciding with an increased availability of quality face bricks.

The composition of the building is strongly derived from the classical tradition. The institute and post office sections are differentiated by setbacks, the juxtaposition of entrances, the grouping of openings, and the use of classical orders and pediment to centralise the institute frontage. The building is visually unified by a strongly rusticated plinth, the banded base to the first floor, and a decorative frieze linking the impost level of first floor window openings. The street frontage is an impressive combination of two discrete functions architecturally linked by continuity and similarity of detail. The use of the salmon-coloured brick with stuccoed dressings is distinctive and attractive. By comparison, the hall is constructed of roughly squared sandstone with brick dressings. The institute section has an impressively original interior.


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The architectural qualities of the building give it additional significance as a major element in Tynte Street the traditional High Street of North Adelaide. In a streetscape dominated by large and robust buildings of great and varied architectural character, the North Adelaide Institute and Post Office Building are pre-eminent.

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Images of North Adelaide Institute Hall and Post Office

  • North Adelaide Institute Hall and Post Office
Rowland Rees
Building materials
Brick, Render, Stucco, Stone, Sandstone
Architectural styles
2 Victorian Period (c. 1840–c. 1890), 2.9 Italianate
1883 - 1884 

Additional Works

Rear Rooms Constructed

Construction commenced
Construction completed
Architecture and design features
plinth, frieze
Engineering features
Upper North Adelaide
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
Australia Post
Original occupant
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Commercial, Office, Dwelling, Apartment, Recreational
AS2482 classification
11500 - Business: Commercial/Retail
Public Access
Business/trading hours
State Heritage ID
ACC Reference No.
DPTI Heritage No.
Certificate of Title No.
CT 5845/212 F102652 A2 CT 5892/367 F183523 A251
NTSA file exists
Heritage Status
State Heritage listed
State heritage listing
State Heritage listed
Date of State heritage listing
Local heritage listing
Date of Local heritage listing
NTSA listing
NTSA registered
Date of NTSA listing
Section 23 (4) crtiteria
Risk status
Historic Themes
2.3 City Dwellers: Householders, Boarders and Tenants
4.1 Development of City Services
6.2 Recreation and Entertainment
meeting place
Australian Curriculum references
Year 5: The Australian Colonies


  • Frearson's Monthly Illustrated Adelaide News, May 1884, pp. 70, 77; MLSA, Historical photographs (Town Acre 862); Nagel, P., North Adelaide 1837-1901, 1971, pp. 51-3; National Trust Register, 1980, p. 11; South Australian Register, 13 December 1883,
  • 1 January 1884, 19 April 1884, 31 December 1884, 1 January 1885, 3 January 1885,
  • 31 December 1885.

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