St Mark's College - Downer House

St Mark's College - Downer House

This prominent building was constructed in 1876-77 on land owned by Moss Judah Solomon and Benjamin Solomon. It was probably designed by Rowland Rees. It does not feature the exuberant stucco dressings typical of Rees but has robustly detailed chimney tops, and the unusual combination of brick strings, sandstone ashlar walling and sandstone detailing suggest a creative designer such as Rees.

A billiard room and ballroom, designed by Rees and Patterson, was added to the rear in 1882-83.

In 1880 the property passed to John William Downer. Born in Adelaide in 1844, Downer was from a family of talented lawyers and legislators. He was called to the bar in 1867, became a Queens Counsel in 1878, and practised with his brother Alexander George Downer. Downer was the MP for Barossa from 1878 to 1901, attorney general in the Bray ministry from 1881-84, premier and attorney general from June 1885 to June 1887, premier from October 1892 to May, 1893, chief secretary in 1892-93 and treasurer in 1893.

Most importantly, he was a member of the Federal Conventions of 1891 and 1897-98, which considered and finally drew up the commonwealth constitution. He was a South Australian senator in the first commonwealth parliament 1901-03 and state MLC from 1905 till his death in Adelaide in 1915.

The property remained in the Downer family until 1924, when St Mark’s bought it for use as a residential college of the University of Adelaide.


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As the home of a prominent South Australian the consolidation of his career, the house has major historical associations, especially with Downer’s work in assisting the formulation of the constitution and his role in the early government of the nation.

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Images of St Mark's College - Downer House

Rowland Rees
Building materials
Brick, Iron, Cast iron, Render, Stucco, Stone, Sandstone
Architectural styles
2 Victorian Period (c. 1840–c. 1890)
1877 -  

Additional Works

Rear extended to design of Rees and Patterson

Construction commenced
Construction completed
Architecture and design features
Rowland Rees, string course, frieze, plinth, chimney
Engineering features
Lower North Adelaide
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
Benjamin Solomon, Moss Judah Solomon
Original occupant
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Dwelling, House
AS2482 classification
16010 - House
Public Access
Limited public access
State Heritage ID
ACC Reference No.
DPTI Heritage No.
Certificate of Title No.
CT 5813/743 F183382 A110
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
3.6 Professional Services
3.6.3 Lawyers and the Legal Profession
John William Downer
Australian Curriculum references
Year 6: Australia as a Nation


  • ACA, Assessments, Smith Survey 1880; Chronicle, 21 April 1923; MLSA, Historical photographs (Town Acre 705); Morgan, E.J.R., & Gilbert, S.H., Early Adelaide architecture
  • 1836 to 1886, 1969, p. 98; South Australian Register, 27 September 1876, 8 September 1882; Walkley, G., 'Downer House', article for St Marks College magazine, The Lion., n.d; Woods, Bagot, Ledger of commissions.

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