Elder Park is one of the city’s favourite public recreation spaces, but had less appealing beginnings. What is now the tranquil Torrens River Lake was once a highly variable waterway prone to flash flooding. Until the establishment of proper drainage and sewerage systems in the 1870s, the riverbank could be a dirty and dangerous place. The first dam constructed in 1867 failed within a matter of months following a sudden deluge.
The second attempt at damming the river was finally successful in establishing the Torrens Lake in 1881. With the new lake and landscaping of its banks, a number of recreational uses opened up including boating, fishing, swimming and rowing.
In 1882, the band rotunda was opened to provide musical entertainment for the public. It became a focal point for gatherings and recreation. In 1907 the park was renamed Elder Park in honour of Sir Thomas Elder who had contributed the funds to construct the rotunda.