The offices were built between 1847-50 for Thomas Greaves Waterhouse, a notable financier in colonial Adelaide and a director of the South Australian Mining Association. Waterhouse had arrived in South Australia in 1840, and he and his brother John conducted a grocery business in Rundle Street. In 1845 Thomas was one of the celebrated “shop-keeping nobodies” whose bold investment in the South Australian Mining Association soon paid handsome dividends from the Burra Burra “monster mine”.
When building work commenced, it was an act of considerable faith in the young colony. Waterhouse used profits largely derived from the Burra Burra “monster mine”, and for many years the South Australian Mining Association had its offices there. Waterhouse moved to the new building in February 1848.
Waterhouse became very wealthy and could afford to adopt the philosophy that one should donate one-tenth of one’s income to charity and religion. He is particularly remembered for his involvement in the establishment of Prince Alfred College, which he said “was an object worthy of his life's work”. He retired to England and died in 1885.
The complex he built on the busy intersection that for a time was known as Waterhouse Corner is one of the oldest office developments in Adelaide. It also provides a direct link with that original period of consolidation and development in the colony that drew upon the copper boom of the mid-1840s.
Waterhouse Chambers and the Beehive Buildings on the opposite corner of Rundle Mall represent a marked architectural punctuation on King William Street in scale, style and building construction.
The use of subtle projecting surfaces, the arrangement of windows, recessed curved corner element and the simple bracketed window hoods are reminiscent of the Regency period. The ground floor of the building was remodelled in 1869, with the introduction of plate glass.
Balconies and original barred sashes to the windows were removed from the upper floors in the 1920s. Many other superficial changes have occurred but these have generally been restricted to alterations to the interior and ground floor shop fronts.