The collection of buildings at the corner of King William Street and Flinders Street were once the centre of state government affairs, housing the South Australian government and administration from the 1830s until the 1960s. The Governor, Chief-Secretary/Premier, Treasury, Survey and Crown Lands, Public Works and Attorney-General’s offices were all located here at one time.
In 1839, a one-storey building, designed by George Strickland Kingston, was constructed on Town Acre 236 to house the colony’s public offices including the Treasury. This original building was mostly demolished in stages to make way for two and three-storey additions that were built between 1858 and 1907. Part of a wall and arched window from Kingston’s 1839 building is still visible today and has been carefully preserved. The Treasury building is architecturally unique as each of the seven new sections added over time were designed to blend harmoniously with the original structure.
During the 1850s, vaults were added to the Treasury building to receive the gold brought back to South Australia during the Victorian Goldrush. Armed escorts arrived with boxes of gold that were unloaded at the southern entrance of the building and deposited in the vaults. The Treasury was also the site of the ‘Beef Riot’ of 10 January 1931. During the Great Depression, a riot broke out over the government’s decision to exclude beef from the ration tickets give to the unemployed. A huge crowd of men, women and children marched from Port Adelaide to the Treasury where a violent clash between the group and mounted police occurred. The premier watched the scene unfold from one of the Treasury windows, and many of the rioters sought shelter in the General Post Office across the street.
In the 1990s, the final government offices were removed from the Treasury building, and the question of what to do with the iconic site was raised. Architecture firm DASH Architects along with SJB Architects from Melbourne were engaged to adapt the former government building into a new boutique hotel. Between 2001 and 2002, the building was renovated to fit its new purpose while many of the original features were carefully preserved and restored including the original high ceilings. During the restoration work, a number of 19th Century objects were discovered on the site including glass bottles and ceramic dishes. The successful adaptive reuse of the former Treasury building was recognised by UNESCO in 2003, and awarded the Asia-Pacific Heritage Award of Merit.