The General Havelock is a typical example of Adelaide’s commercial buildings from the 1870s. Built in 1873, the hotel was originally quite severe, without verandahs or balconies. These were probably added in 1887, when plans for alterations were approved. It was altered again several times between 1899 and 1939.
When this hotel opened, the southeast corner was one of the city's least populated areas. An engraving of Adelaide published as a supplement to the Illustrated Sydney News in July 1876, while not totally accurate, shows clusters of cottages and shops with large stretches of vacant land in the area east of Hutt Street.
The Smith Survey of 1880 records that the vacant areas were beginning to be developed and that some of the developed town acres were becoming more densely filled. The General Havelock and the Arab Steed (on the corner of Gilles Street and Hutt Street) were the first hotels in this southeast corner.
The hotel’s namesake, Major General Sir Henry Havelock, led British troops against an uprising in its Indian Empire in 1857. Several hotels in the UK also bear his name. He is also memorialised as a war hero in London’s Trafalgar Square and throughout other former British colonies such as New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and Singapore.
The building is typical of commercial development in the 1870s with its chamfered (right-angled) corner and standard distribution of doors and windows. The expansive balcony and verandah supported by cast-iron columns adds much to the special character of the area, mirroring the verandah of the shop on the opposite corner of Carrington Street.
The exterior is mainly original and strongly relates to the adjoining terrace building to the south. However, it is now painted and partially covered by a ceramic tile public house dado. The hotel has an imposing presence both outside and inside.