Young Women's Christian Association Headquarters

Young Women's Christian Association Headquarters

In 1879, Mary Colton (later Lady Mary Colton), the premier’s wife, formed a Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) from a bible class of young women attending the Pirie Street Wesleyan Methodist Church Sunday School. The YWCA was closely identified with Wesleyan Methodism and concentrated upon spiritual guidance and moral welfare. It also shared the views of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union on the importance of evangelism, temperance and social purity.

After Lady Colton’s death in 1898 there was a dramatic shift in the YWCA away from religious instruction. When the vibrant Mrs Birks became president, she introduced new activities for young women of all denominations who were seeking vocational, social and recreational opportunities. The association planned a new building, and in 1899 repealed all its existing rules and adopted new ones.

When the Lady Colton Institute in Hindmarsh Square opened on November 22,1900, it provided the YWCA with its first permanent premises and allowed it to organise many new and more varied activities. It attracted increasing numbers of young women living away from their families to work in factories and businesses, and membership increased from 156 in 1901 to 1000 by World War I. By 1912 there were several branches: the Lady Colton Guild for girls of leisure, the Lyceum Club for young businesswomen, the Girls Progressive Club for young girls, a tennis club, a rowing club, and a savings club for factory girls called the Thrift Club. During this progressive period ideas on organisational policy, aims and staffing came not only from the national level but from England and the US.

The association also provided an employment bureau aimed at recruiting women for domestic service. Although by the early 20th century this was not a popular choice of work for women, recruitment increased during the Depression years of the 1930s.

After World War I there was a downturn in membership and the association again changed its rules to suit the times. It was no longer compulsory to be a member before being granted privileges. By the 1930s the YWCA had adapted again by affiliating with several sporting organisations. However it never lost sight of its original aim of protecting the moral welfare of young women.

The foundation stone for this building was laid by Miss Colton, with Sir Samuel Way presiding. It was designed by G. de Lacy Evans and R.J. Haddon of Melbourne.

R.J. Haddon arrived in Australia in 1891 and worked in Perth, Adelaide and Hobart before settling in Melbourne at the turn of the century. Variously described as the champion of art nouveau and a pioneer of architectural modernism, Haddon designed the building in partnership with G. de Lacy. The corner turret and the rear facade, together with the dramatic detailing, would seem to be of Haddon’s design.

The South Australian Register of November 10, 1900, described the Lady Colton Institute building as “a handsome ornament to a part of the City where architectural beauties are quite unknown”.


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This is one of the best surviving examples of an Edwardian/Federation-style building in Adelaide. Its notable manneristic details interpreting neo-classicism in a form that makes good use of the site. Although overshadowed by later development, the building is still an attractive feature of the western side of Hindmarsh Square. It has been marred by the breaking out of the northern wall and the link with the modern Royal Automobile Association building. The RAA used the old building from March 1929 until the 1950s then repurchased the building in the 1980s.

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Images of Young Women's Christian Association Headquarters

  • Young Men's Christian Association Headquarters, 2014
G de Lacy Evans, R J Haddon
Building materials
Brick, Render, Stucco
Architectural styles
3 Federation Period (c. 1890–c. 1915), 3.8 Queen Anne
1900 -
Architecture and design features
G de Lacy Evans, R J Haddon, parapet, gable, balustrade, turret, portico
Engineering features
East End
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
Young Women's Christian Association
Original occupant
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Recreational, Clubs and association
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 6023/536 D77697 A2
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 classified
Date of NTSA listing
Section 23 (4) crtiteria
Risk status
Historic Themes
3.7 Working Men and Women
3.7.5 Domestic Service
6.2 Recreation and Entertainment
6.2.6 Other Amusements
Wesleyan Methodist Church, Women's Christian Temperance Union
Australian Curriculum references
Year 5: The Australian Colonies


  • Burgess, H.T., Cyclopedia of South Australia, 1909, Vol. 2, pp. 62-3; MLSA, Historical photographs (Gall Collection), The Blue Triangle, June 1929, p. 10; South Australian Register, 10 November 1900, 23 November 1900; Stewart, V., 'A history of the Adelaide Young Women's Christian Association, 1879-1939', BA Hons. thesis, Flinders University,
  • 1985.

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