Boettger established his business in 1877 and by 1890 had developed an Australia-wide market. Born in Elbetfield, Germany, in 1842, Boettger was apprenticed to an instrument maker and from 1866 to 1871 was foreman of a first-class establishment in St Petersburg, Russia. He also worked in Hamburg as an astronomer’s apprentice.
Boettger migrated to South Australia in 1877, where he began manufacturing and repairing scientific instruments. In 1890 his business was described as “a very large and extensive one, extending over all Australia ... He was also sole agent for Australia for the well-known microscope establishment of Dr Carl Zeiss”. Around 1899 Boettger sold the business to G.C.W. Kohler. Shortly afterwards, he died while on a visit to Germany but the Kohler family continued to operate the business under the Boettger name until it closed in 1974.
Better owned premises alongside the site of Observatory House from about 1879. G.C.W. Kohler, a manufacturing optician, moved into these premises in the early 1900s, and in 1905 engaged architects Edward Davies and Charles Walter Rutt to design new business premises next door. The tower was included in the plans to symbolise the instruments manufactured there for seeing clearly: spectacles and lorgnettes, binoculars and telescopes.
Observatory House is important for its individual form and detailing. The tower, the Marseilles tile roof and the quality joinery suggest influences from the Queen Anne style. However, the detailing of windows, the coved cornice and parapet panelling display Gothic-derived ornament.