The Adelaide Club was built for some of South Australia’s most influential political, rural and business men. Many of the state’s who’s who have been members, including Robert Barr Smith, Sir Thomas Elder and Peter Waite.
It was designed as a social club, but its proximity to South Australia’s political institutions, including Government House and Parliament House, show the power and influence of its members. The club has been the site of many business negotiations and transactions. It is said that the idea of establishing the Festival of Arts in Adelaide was conceived in the dining room of the Adelaide Club in the 1950s.
Social clubs for men like this one were influenced by similar clubs in Britain and other colonies. The first men’s club, the South Australian Club, was formed in 1838. However it closed due to a depression in 1843. The Adelaide Club was formed on 2 July 1863, and work on a building began in that year.
Members contributed to the cost of construction. Many of these men had profited during the economic expansion of the early colonial period and were very wealthy.
The building was completed by 1864. Its design was based on the London gentlemen’s club, the Travellers Club on Pall Mall. It is built of Dry Creek stone with brick dressing, and moulded bricks for the window surrounds and strings. Apricot-coloured marble steps greet guests at the entrance.
Between 1866 and 1890 there were several additions, inlcuding extensions at the rear. There have been few changes since, except for the shortening of the North Terrace balcony.
Access to the building is limited to members but the Adelaide Club has an online virtual tour of some parts of the premises.