Ayers House (Adelaide)
|Address||288 North Terrace|
|Town or city||Adelaide, South Australia|
Ayers House is the modern name for an historic mansion in Adelaide, South Australia located on North Terrace. It is named after Sir Henry Ayers, five times Premier of South Australia and wealthy industrialist, who occupied it from 1855 until 1897. It is the only mansion to have survived on North Terrace.
Plans for the historic two-storey mansion, which for the greater part of its existence was named Austral House, were developed in 1846 for William Paxton, an Adelaide chemist. In 1855, Sir Henry leased the property when it was a 9-room brick house. He transformed it into a mansion over a number of years during the 1860s. It is constructed of local bluestone and is Regency period in style. The mansion is thought to have been designed by George Strickland Kingston. It was one of the first properties in Adelaide to be fitted with gas lighting. During Sir Henry Ayers's parliamentary service, the house was used for Cabinet meetings, parliamentary dinners and grand balls.
Internally, the rooms of the mansion feature hand-painted ceilings, stencilled woodwork and contain memorabillia from the Ayers family, demonstrating the wealth of the property at the time it was built. Sir Henry also commissioned the building of a basement to allow him to escape the hot Adelaide summers.
Since Sir Henry Ayers's occupation, the mansion has had many functions including a dance hall, a club for injured soldiers (from 1918 to 1922) and an open-air cafe (from 1914 to 1932). The State Government bought the property in 1926 to house nurses and to become a training facility for nurses (it is opposite the Royal Adelaide Hospital). Further dormitories were added in 1946; these were removed in 1973. Ayers House ceased being a nursing quarter in 1969.
Ayers House is now the property of the National Trust of South Australia. For the last 30 years it has been used as a corporate function centre, restaurant and museum. On display are costumes, silverware, artworks and furniture, as well as a 300 kilogram chandelier. It also provides venues for social receptions. It was restored by the National Trust in 1970 - in the process the bedrooms and bathroom were demolished to make room for kitchen facilities, and the stables became a restaurant. The original gasoliers can still be seen in the large dining room. In recent years the house has been restored by Clive Holden, a decorative and heritage artist. The work included extensive stencilling, woodgraining, and artwork to recapture some of its former glory.
- Gunton, Eric Gracious Homes of Colonial Adelaide published by the author 1983 ISBN 0 959 2094 0 9
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