This enormous home dominates Montefiore Hill. It is an impressive vantage point from which to view the city below. However it was not the original house on the site. The first was a two-storey house built in the 1840s. Pastoralist James Chambers bought it from architect Edmund Wright in 1861.
Chambers is best known for his sponsorship of John McDouall Stuart’s 1861 expedition. This was the first successful European crossing of Australia from south to north through the centre of the continent. McDouall Stuart and his group had lunch at Chambers’ home before they set out. That event is commemorated here by a wall plaque (see images).
The property was taken over by Hugh Robert Dixson in 1896. In 1901, Dixson had the current house built in 1901 and named it Stalheim. The house was designed by architect John Quinton Bruce, who also designed Electra House. He was associated with Bruce and Harral, who also designed the Freemasons Hall on North Terrace.
In 1908 Marie Louise Frederica Bonython bought the mansion. She renamed it Carclew after a Cornish home once owned by the Bonython family. Her husband, Sir John Langdon Bonython, was a well-known South Australian whose generosity supported may other landmark buildings in the colony. They include Bonython Hall and the east wing of Parliament House on North Terrace. He was also heavily involved in establishing the School of Mines and Industry on North Terrace.
Carclew stayed in the Bonython family until 1965. It was then sold to the Corporation of the City of Adelaide. Briefly, it was mooted as the site for the Adelaide Festival Centre. In 1978 the state government bought Carclew, and in 1985 it became the Carclew Youth Performing Arts Centre.