It might surprise some that the Sir Samuel Way building, the home of a number of court services, was once a major department store built to challenge Rundle Street as the city’s retail precinct. The building was the brainchild of Charles Moore, a successful South Australian businessman who had arrived in the colony in 1881. After a brief stint working for John Martin and Co., Moore established his own merchant and import business on Rundle Street in the 1890s. Along with Hindley Street, Rundle Street was by this time regarded as a key retail area of the city.
In 1916, Charles Moore decided to build a new department store in Adelaide. However, rather than purchasing a block on Rundle Street, Moore instead took a risky gamble and acquired land on the corner of Victoria Square and Gouger Street. The new store, inspired by the Parisian buildings Moore had visited whilst at the Paris Exhibition in 1878, opened on 29 August 1916. It was considered a huge success, with the local newspaper, The Mail, even suggesting that, “Rundle Street must look to its laurels if its business emporiums are to remain the centre of activity, for the western corner of the city has come into its own.” A key feature of the new Moore’s department store was a central staircase, designed by English architect William Lucas. Lucas made a special trip to Adelaide from London for its installation.
On 2 March 1948, Moore’s was nearly destroyed by fire. The iconic staircase was one of the few internal features to survive the blaze, and much of the upper floors of the building had to be rebuilt. By the 1970s, the commercial viability of the store had begun to decline. In 1979, the building was sold to the South Australian Superannuation Fund Investment Trust. The building’s close proximity to the Supreme Court and strong public sentiment for its preservation saw the former department store redeveloped into law courts for the State Government. It was remodelled in the early 1980s and a terracotta tiled roof and dome were added at this time. Some of the buildings original features were retained, including the grand staircase. The new courts building opened in 1983 as the Sir Samuel Way Building, in honour of South Australia’s longest serving Chief Justice. It continues to be an important part of South Australia’s legal precinct in Victoria Square.