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 on North Terrace to have survived.
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' 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 memorabilia from the Ayers family, demonstrating the wealth of the owners 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' 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). In 1909, following an Adelaide Club ball at the house, Henry Newland proposed the club purchase the property and plans were drawn up then abandoned. Eventually, it was sold in 1914 to Arthur John Walkley and Henry Woodcock's company Austral Gardens Ltd. They built a dance hall "The Palais Royal" on its western side and entertainment areas to the east. The State Government bought the property in 1926 to house nurses and to house a nurse training facility (it was opposite the Adelaide Hospital). Further dormitories were added in 1946; these were removed in 1973. Austral House was closed as a nurses' quarters in 1969.
Ayers House is now the property of the South Australian State Government. For the last 40 years it has been used as a wedding & event center and museum. In 1970 Premier Don Dunstan overrode his Cabinet colleagues to save the historic building from being demolished. With his tourism brief he moved to renovate the North Terrace mansion as a tourist and cultural center with a museum and fine dining and bistro restaurants. In additional much of the house was conserved to original condition and today on display in the museum are costumes, silverware, artworks and furniture, as well as a 300 kilogram chandelier and the original gasoliers. The bedrooms became the famous "fine dining" Henry Ayers Restaurant, and the stables a bistro. Today there are 4 private event rooms.
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