In January 1895, Adelaide celebrated the opening of the South Australian Museum’s North Wing. The museum, which had housed both in the Institute Building and the Jervois Wing, had moved to the new building due to a lack of space. Just 18 months later, staff again sought more space for their growing collections.
In 1908 construction began on an East Wing. During the tough times of the 1890s, the architects of the North Wing had to compromise by building a modest brick structure. This time however, the plan was to match the architectural style and presence of the Jervois Wing.
Achieving a uniform look in the two wings built more than twenty years apart proved to be challenging and time-consuming. Construction of the East Wing took seven years, mainly because securing suitable stone was difficult. By the time the building was finished, the cost of the cut stones was so high there was little money left for the internal design, fixtures and fittings. And despite the desire for uniformity with the Jervois Wing, the new East Wing was roughly 4.5 metres wider and had one tower rather than two.
The East Wing opened on December 8, 1915 and only seemed to reinforce the plainness of the North Wing. The Advertiser grumbled that “As it is, the architectural scheme can never be entirely harmonious until the brick portion is removed and replaced with a connecting pile corresponding to the western and eastern wing.” A century later, little has changed.