The State Herbarium houses the Adelaide Botanic Gardens library, the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA and the State Herbarium collection, retaining more than a million plant specimens and accommodating a large number of scientific and technical staff of South Australia’s Department for Environment and Water. With the adjoining Goodman Building this attractive façade was also constructed in 1909 as ‘Tram Barn A’ to house the City’s new fleet of electrified trams.
‘Tram Barn A’ was also designed by architects H. E. Sibley and C. W. Wooldridge under the direction and engineering input of Mr Goodman. Again, the construction was carried out by Smith, Timms and Co. The building is constructed using English bond brickwork. The dark red brickwork contrasts nicely with the attractive rendered neo-Classical details and mouldings.
‘Tram Barn A’ was the first of four matching tram barns to be constructed at the Hackney depot site, housing Adelaide’s main centre of electric tramway operations until 1958. After 1953 a preference for the use of buses resulted in the demolition of the three later Tram Barns to provide bus parking space. Sited to the immediate north of the current building, the site of the three former tram barns now features the eastern gardens of the Bicentennial Conservatory.
After the closure of the Hackney depot in 1992, there was some controversy regarding what to do with the remaining Tram Barn. Identified in the 1980s as being of heritage significance, for some this industrial building marred the beauty of the new Bicentennial Conservatory and the subsequent National Wine Centre, resulting in numerous bids for demolition. In 1999 the former Tram Barn was extensively refurbished by Grieve Gillett Andersen working with DIAS as the Plant Biodiversity Centre to house the State Herbarium collection, retaining the industrial look and feel of the space while retaining important heritage features.