Adelaide High School was established in 1908, but not on this site. It was originally set up on two sites: one in in Grote St (on the corner of Morphett St) and the other in Currie St.

Those two historic school buildings still exist. The one in Currie Street is now the Adelaide Remand Centre. The old building in Grote Street is used as a pre-school. They were the two sites of the Adelaide High School. When it opened in 1908, Adelaide High was the first free high school in Australia. In the 1920's it was the largest High School in Australia with over 1,000 students.

The idea of putting a campus building on the Park Lands was first raised in the 1930's. At that time, in the early 1930's, a site on Frome Road was approved – in the area between the old Royal Adelaide Hospital and the Botanic Gardens. However, that provided to be too difficult to arrange so in April 1939 the State Government picked this alternative site on West Terrace; to replace the old Adelaide Observatory.

There was a design competition which attracted 60 entries and the winning design was selected in 1940. However, the disruption caused by the Second World War (from 1939 to 1945) intervened and nothing was done until several years after the war ended.

Firstly, the Observatory was relocated to the Adelaide University, where it was rebuilt in 1948, as part of the Physics building off Kintore Ave. The Observatory and its telescope remain in use to teach physics students. Only after the Observatory on this site was removed, could work begin to construct this High School. The last of the Observatory buildings were demolished in 1952, while the school was still being finished. Students were enrolled from 1951.

The original cost of the High School, as designed, was supposed to be 60,000 pounds. However, when the construction tender was awarded in 1946 to Baulderstone's it had blown out to 90,000 pounds.

When the school was first built here, it was exclusively for boys. The girls stayed in Grote Street. In the late 1970's public high schools were “zoned” so fewer boys were eligible to attend Adelaide High. That allowed the Education Department to bring the boys and girls together on this one site, from 1979.

This Adelaide High School had a 25-million two-storey expansion in 2014 on the southern side.

In 2018, another seven-storey High School was constructed on Park 11 – a Park Lands site next to the Botanic Gardens. There is some irony that the new Botanic High School is very close to the site that as originally picked in the 1930's for this Adelaide High School. The Adelaide High School has been on the State Heritage register since 1985.

In 2019, Adelaide High School was used as a location setting for an Australian TV drama series. “The Hunting” starred Asher Keddie and Richard Roxburgh was a four-part mini-series. It was shown on SBS-TV, debuting from August 2019.

In 2020, the State Government announced its intention to expand the High School further with two new four-storey buildings on its West Terrace frontage, at a cost of $23 million.

From this point, walk a short way to the north, to Glover Avenue to see the mini-forest next to the High School.

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West Tce Adelaide