This modest brick building on Grote Street alongside the arched entrance to Chinatown is easy to miss. Semi-industrial buildings like it were once found throughout the city. But as businesses moved further out, many of their former premises were radically altered, neglected or demolished.
The Vardon and Sons Printing Works is a reminder of the city's semi-industrial past. Its first owner, Joseph Vardon, was born in Hindmarsh on 27 July 1843 - seven years after the founding of the South Australia colony. At 14, Vardon was apprenticed to Henry Denyer Hamilton, a printer on Hindley Street. Later he became the head of the printing department for the South Argus newspaper.
In 1871 he set up the Webb, Vardon and Pritchard firm, which eventually became Vardon and Sons. Joseph and his three sons managed the printing business. In 1911 he bought land on Grote Street for this building. Thomas English and George Klewitz Soward were probably the architects.
Joseph Vardon made important contributions to local, state and federal politics. He held several positions on the Adelaide City Council, as well Hindmarsh and Unley councils. He was a member of state parliament. He also served as the Public Works Department commissioner from 1904 to 1905. He was also a South Australia senator in Federal Parliament.
There have been some changes at the ground floor level of this building. However you can still see signs of its former semi-industrial use. It is no longer a printing works, but the firm's products can still be found on library shelves today. Vardon and Sons printed many publications in South Australia, from souvenir guides to the Botanic Gardens, to children's books such as Little Boy Blue, and handbooks on sheep and wool for farmers.