Ruthven Mansions

Ruthven Mansions

Ruthven Mansions have had a colourful history. Among the earliest of Australia’s multi-storey apartments, they were built in two stages (1911-12 and circa 1914). The property was sold in 1954 to the state government and rapidly fell into disrepair. By 1976 the buildings had been shorn of their distinctive balconettes, the interior had been declared unsafe, and the Chest Clinic that had occupied the ground floor had moved to new premises. After lengthy negotiations, the buildings were renovated internally and partially rebuilt externally to resemble the originals.

Their remarkable change in circumstances coincides with a fall in the city population during the earlier part of this century, followed by a renewed interest in city living in the 1970s generated during the first five years of the Council’s City of Adelaide Plan.

The mansions are historically important because they represented a benchmark in providing luxury accommodation in Australia. They featured central vacuum cleaning, automated doors, mechanical ventilation, electric light and an electric lift. They are now greatly subdivided and refurbished, and few of their original internal details remain.

They were originally built for Ruthven Frederic Ruthven-Smith, whose name is also associated with a development of semi-detached and detached cottages grouped around Ruthven Avenue off Grote Street. Stage one of the mansions originally consisted of 12 large apartments. The prominent Kyffin Thomas family (of Register newspaper fame) lived in one of them. It was also the address of W.A. Webb, Commissioner of Railways. Such residents showed the desirability of these apartments for prominent Adelaide families.

The mansions were designed by architects Black and Fuller and built by A.R. Maddern and Son. Stage two of five storeys was built by W.C. Torode and consisted of about 28 flats, the facades to Pulteney and Austin streets continuing the design of the earlier four-storey section to the south.


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The design, strongly residential in character, is a distinctive interpretation of the Gothic and Art Nouveau styles unique in South Australia. The complex is one of the most successful recycling projects in the city.

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Images of Ruthven Mansions

  • Ruthven Mansions, 2014
Black and Fuller
A R Maddern and Son, W C Torode
Building materials
Brick, Iron, Cast iron
Architectural styles
3 Federation Period (c. 1890–c. 1915), 3.6 Gothic
1911 - 1912 

Additional Works

Second Stage

Construction commenced
Construction completed

Renovated Interior and Exterior

Construction commenced
Construction completed
Architecture and design features
Bay window, terra cotta tiles, conical roof, turret, art nouveau
Engineering features
Rundle Mall
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
Frederick Ruthven Smith
Original occupant
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Dwelling, Apartment
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 5172/163 S12753 U7 CT 5172/162 S12753 U6 CT 5172/180 S12753 U24 CT 5172/179 S12753 U23 CT 5172/178 S12753 U22 CT 5172/177 S12753 U21 CT 5172/176 S12753 U20 CT 5172/175 S12753 U19 CT 5172/174 S12753 U18 CT 5172/173 S12753 U17 CT 5172/188 S12753 U32 CT 5172/187 S12753 U31 CT 5172/186 S12753 U30 CT 5172/185 S12753 U29 CT 5172/184 S12753 U28 CT 5172/183 S12753 U27 CT 5172/182 S12753 U26 CT 5172/181 S12753 U25 CT 5172/196 S12753 U40 CT 5172/195 S12753 U39 CT 5172/194 S12753 U38 CT 5172/193 S12753 U37 CT 5172/192 S12753 U36 CT 5172/191 S12753 U35 CT 5172/190 S12753 U34 CT 5172/189 S12753 U33 CT 5172/208 S12753 U52 CT 5172/207 S12753 U51 CT 5172/206 S12753 U50 CT 5172/205 S12753 U49 CT 5172/204 S12753 U48 CT 5172/203 S12753 U43 CT 5172/202 S12753 U46 CT 5172/201 S12753 U45 CT 5172/200 S12753 U44 CT 5172/199 S12753 U43 CT 5172/198 S12753 U42 CT 5172/197 S12753 U41 CT 5172/172 S12753 U16 CT 5172/171 S12753 U15 CT 5172/170 S12753 U14 CT 5172/169 S12753 U13 CT 5172/168 S12753 U12 CT 5172/167 S12753 U11 CT 5172/166 S12753 U10 CT 5172/165 S12753 U9 CT 5172/164 S12753 U8 CT 5172/157 S12753 U1 CT 5172/159 S12753 U3 CT 5172/160 S12753 U4 CT 5172/161 S12753 U5 CT 5172/158 S12753 U2 CT 6029/373 D72414 A103 CT 6029/374 D72414 A104 CT 6029/375 S12753 U CT 6029/376 C24243 L1 CT 6029/377 C24243 L2 CT 6029/378 C24243 L3 CT 6029/379 C24243 L4 CT 6029/380 C24243 L5 CT 6029/381 C24243 L6 CT 6029/382 C24243 A7 CT 6029/383 C24243 ACP
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
2.4 City Dwellers: City, state and business leaders
4.4 Residential Development, Building Types and Living Conditions
4.4.2 Other Forms of Accommodation
Kyffin Thomas, A W Webb
Australian Curriculum references
Year 6: Australia as a Nation


  • Advertiser, 8 June 1976, 21 April 1978 (article by John Chappel); Beck, E., Adelaide architecture 1903-27, pp. 8-9; MLSA, Historical photographs (Town Acre 24).

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