As with the nearby Adelaide Club, this imposing building was constructed as a meeting place for men. Specifically, it was for men who belonged to the Freemasons.
Freemasonry is an organisation that evolved from stonemasons’ guilds in Great Britain in the 17th Century. Eventually membership expanded to include non-masons. Lodges were set up around the world, including in Australia.
Freemasonry was one of the earliest associations in South Australia. In fact, the South Australian Grand Lodge was formed in London in 1834, two years before the colony was settled. Among the first Freemasons were many important South Australians, including George Strickland Kingston, Robert Gouger and John Morphett.
At first the Freemasons met in various buildings around the city. In 1869 they built permanent offices and a Masonic hall on Flinders Street. However, by 1913 the organisation had outgrown this space and began plans for a new Masonic hall. In 1921, the Grand Secretary, Charles Glover (later Adelaide’s first lord mayor) toured overseas to find architectural inspiration for the new building.
A year later land was purchased on North Terrace. Architects John Quinton Bruce and William H. Harral (a Freemason) designed a hall. The original design was for the structure to be made of cut stone and granite. However, rising costs meant much of it was reinforced concrete.
The new hall, completed in 1927, was still impressive. The six levels, including the basement, housed administrative offices, reading and billiard rooms, a ballroom, banquet room, lodgerooms, and 24 rooms to accommodate visiting members. The Great Hall, at the rear of the building, was used for Grand Lodge functions and for public events.
Today this is still the home of South Australia’s Freemasons. It also hosts public events and is a lecture space for the University of Adelaide. There are weekly tours of the building on Thursdays at 2pm.