Electricity was used throughout the city in the second half of the 19th Century, but early use was often for novel purposes and spectacle. Privately-owned plants powered electricity for shops, theatres and hotels across Adelaide. The colonial government assumed responsibility for electric power supply following an Act of Parliament in 1897, which authorised the South Australian Electric Light and Motive Power Co. to supply power throughout the colony.
The company built a power house in Port Adelaide in 1899. It changed hands a number of times, first to the Brush Electrical Engineering Co. Ltd., and then in 1900 to the Electric Lighting and Traction Co. of Australia. This company continued to supply the whole city with electricity from Port Adelaide until 1907 when the 4000 volt single phase supply became available from the new Grenfell Street power station. In 1904 the Adelaide Electric Supply Co. took over operations, and by 1907 was supplying all electric power in Adelaide.
This Grenfell Street building was constructed for office space in 1901. The structure was modified between 1912-1913 when the second storey was added and the building was extended. Between 1925-1926 the company had a new office space, Kelvin House, constructed on North Terrace.
The Grenfell Street power station eventually closed in 1925 when the Osborne power station took over all operations. Today the former power station is now the home of Tandanya, Australia’s oldest Aboriginal-owned and managed multi-arts centre. The centre opened in 1989 and offers year-round exhibitions and events. ‘Tandanya’ is the Kaurna world for ‘place of the Red Kangaroo’. The Kaurna people are the traditional owners and custodians of the Adelaide Plains.