Parliament House

This Parliament House, on the corner of North Terrace and King William Road, is the second one built for South Australia. It replaced its neighbour Old Parliament House.

By the early 1870s the colony’s population and prosperity was growing. There was a need for greater parliamentary representation and the existing Parliament House would not accommodate this expansion.

In 1873 a parliamentary committee considered whether a new chamber could be built quickly for a modest amount. Parliamentarians fiercely debated how it should look. As it turned out, the high cost of the proposed designs meant the new building was put on hold. Instead, additions were made to Old Parliament House.

The question of building a new parliament soon came up again. Proposed locations included Victoria Square, west of the Institute Building (near the National War Memorial), and the site of the Jervois Wing of the State Library.  However the government decided on the parkland location at the corner of North Terrace and King William Road. The choice of site was controversial. Many believed it should be left for future development of the nearby railway yards.

Work began on the western end of the building in 1883. South Australian materials were used to represent the economic prosperity and growth of the colony deriving from its natural resources. The main building material was Kapunda marble, used for its strength and aesthetic qualities.

Tension soon arose between the Kapunda Marble Company, the architects and the builder over delays and quality of materials. Things got so bad that by July 1885 the government decided to break the contract with the company, effectively halting all work on the site. However, by February 1886 work was back on track. The west wing finally opened in June 1889.

The west wing was widely praised, but the eastern section was not finished for another 50 years. This was only made possible by a generous donation of £100,000 from Sir John Langdon Bonython.

Work on the east wing began in 1934. Compared to the experience on the western side, building this wing was easy and conflict free. Kapunda marble was used again to ensure that the two wings would look the same despite the time gap. After just five years, the Parliament House was finally finished.  The east wing opened on 5 June 1939.

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