Observatory House

Observatory House

This distinctive building was constructed in 1906 for Otto Boettger, a scientific instrument maker. Architecture aside, the building is of historical interest as it marked a significant development in skills and interests in the local economy.

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.


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The roof form and the facade, combined with the eclectic detailing of the building, give it considerable distinction in the Flinders Street streetscape. The structure embodies many of the changes in architectural taste prevalent around the turn of this century.

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Images of Observatory House

  • Observatory House, 84 Flinders Street
Building materials
Brick, Iron, Cast iron
Architectural styles
3 Federation Period (c. 1890–c. 1915), 3.8 Queen Anne
1906 -
Architecture and design features
fenestration, tower, Marseilles Tiles
Engineering features
Victoria Square- Tarndanyangga
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
Otto Boettger
Original occupant
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Commercial, Shop
AS2482 classification
11510 - Business House - Offices
Public Access
Business/trading hours
State Heritage ID
ACC Reference No.
DPTI Heritage No.
Certificate of Title No.
CT 5866/461 F181679 A837
NTSA file exists
Heritage Status
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
2.2 Immigration
2.2.3 German Settlers
6.6 Arts and Sciences
Australian Curriculum references
Year 6: Australia as a Nation


  • ACA, Assessments; MLSA, Historical photographs (Town Acre 2 3 1); Morrison, W. F., The Aldine history of South Australia, Vol. 2, 1890, p. 702; Observer, 26 May 1906; South Australian directories, 1882, p. xxxix of Trades Directory, 1905-08; South Australian Register, 27 July 1905.

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