Adelaide Panorama c. 1930

The images below give us a fascinating 180 degree snapshot, West to East through North, of Adelaide University from the top of the Exhibition Building. We have no date for the photographs, but it can be guessed that as the original Barr Smith Library looks complete (it was opened in March 1932) and the recently acquired Jubilee Oval was yet to be stripped of the old buildings adjacent to the Library (historian Rob Linn notes that this took place in late 1933)  the photographs were taken sometime during this period. They were certainly taken before 1935 as there is no sign of Bonython Hall. Also, a friend who knows something about vintage cars says that a late model vehicle  parked outside the Elder building suggests the images couldn’t have been taken before the early 1930s.

Panorama 1


Panorama 2


The panorama provides us with a remarkable view of the University and surrounds as it was in the early 1930s. Much of course has changed in the seven decades since it was taken. Most obviously the Exhibition Building, the roof of which can be seen in the foreground of some of the frames, and the Jubilee Oval to its north, have long since disappeared. Also worth noting, from left to right (west to east):

  • The Prince of Wales Building, behind the Mitchell Building, is still intact in its original form – much of it was demolished in 1972 to make way for the Wills and Hughes Buildings.
  • Directly behind Elder Hall can be seen the cluster of buildings that was also demolished in the early 1970s to make way for the Barr Smith Library extension and Hughes Plaza – the Jarrah Hut (labelled here ‘Temporary Chemistry’), the Anatomy Building and the old Staff Club. Looking northwest from these can be seen the newly completed original stage of the Cloisters, Refectory and Lady Symon Buildings – since significantly embellished. Northwest of Elder Hall there can also be seen the Spanish Mission style Hartley Building and in the distance the original Adelaide Oval Members Stand.
  • The brand new Barr Smith Library is evident and to its west the rundown looking Jubilee Oval and Exhibition Grounds. This area had been used for Royal Shows and rodeos but had recently been transferred to the University by the State Government, allowing the perpetually crowded institution greater certainty in planning future expansion. Economic depression and WWII prevented the use of this land in the manner and time frame envisaged by University architect Walter Hervey Bagot, but it would come to house buildings put up in the immediate post-War era such as Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Mathematics and the R.A. Fisher Labs.
  • Looking across Frome Road, suggests Rob Linn, is the original 1860s exhibition building (adjacent to the playing field). As you move further east to the final frame there are the western faces of the Brookman Building and the Royal Adelaide Hospital. A tram can be seen on North Terrace.

The image also gives us glimpses of the vision University architect Walter Hervey Bagot was in the process of realising during this period. Bagot was responsible for the distinctive style of structures such as the Barr Smith Library and the Darling, Physics, Cloisters/Lady Symon, and Brailsford Robertson buildings, all of which were constructed during 1920s and early 1930s. In his forthcoming history of the University Rob Linn writes that the Darling Building, finished in 1921, ‘was testimony to the first steps in Bagot’s use of a clean classical style that was adapted to the local environment; he used the simple lines of seventeenth and eighteenth century English design and manipulated an aesthetic distribution of windows and skylights so as to create the maximum use of sunlight without gaining too much heat within the building’.


Duncan, W.G.K. and Roger Ashley Leonard. The University of Adelaide, 1874-1974. Adelaide: Adelaide, Rigby, 1973.

Linn, Rob. The Spirit of Knoweldge: a social history of the University of Adelaide North Terrace Campus, unpublished manuscript, 2011.

“Notable Buildings Walking Guide: The University of Adelaide North Terrace Campus”. Pamphlet produced by Art & Heritage Collections, University of Adelaide, 2009.

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14 Responses

  1. REN says:

    Not sure whether it has the e-copy of “campus map” — or the university develpmental plan when it was first established.

  2. Andrew Cook says:

    Hi Ren

    The Archives holds a variety of early campus maps and plans and you are welcome to inspect these in our offices. Some of these are fascinating and would certainly be worth digitising and putting on the blog.

  3. My initial comments relate to the buildings behind the Prince of Wales Blg & Elder Hall. I was an undergraduate from 1945 to 1948; at that time the Jarrah Building was called the Hut. I think the Staff Club was instituted in about 1950, in which case it doesn’t make sense to write of the old staff club building. It is true that the Staff Club was housed in the old Anatomy Building for a while (along with a room for the University Wives Club room – later University Women’s Club); it would require “research” to work out the exact dates, but Anatomy moved over Frome Road after the new Medical School Building opened about 1948. The Computing Centre was housed at the Western end of the old Anatomy Building from 1961 for a time. When I was an undergraduate, academic staff had lunch in the refectory at a special table distinguished by a white table cloth, but queued with students!

    Hope this is helpful. BK

  4. Andrew Cook says:

    This is helpful, Barbara. You make some good points and corrections are always welcome.
    As someone who inhabited the campus only a few years after it was captured in the above images I guess you have a more vivid sense of the layout and feel of the place at the time.
    I’m interested that when you were studying staff and students were still ‘segregated’ in the refectory. It’s good to be reminded too that it was over half a century ago that the University first started using computers for research and administrative activities.

  5. I noticed in the panorama that a building is being constructed on the northeast corner of Frome Road/North Terrace; that building would be the new Outpatients Clinic for the Adelaide Hospital, which was constructed 1932-35 (A History of the Royal Adelaide Hospital by J Esccourt-Hughes).


    • Andrew Cook says:

      Thank you, Barbara. Numerous people have viewed these images and you’re the first to make that connection.


      • REN says:

        Thanks for the comments from both Barbara and Andrew, I went to the Barr Smith Lib on the other day and saw a campus map a

  6. REN says:

    Thanks for the comments from both Barbara and Andrew, I went to the Barr Smith Lib on the other day and saw a campus map aT 1929, did not believe how small the campus is and lots of the buildings were never knocked down and changed the functions, there was to Hugh bldg before and it was the anatomy deprtment and the Darling building is the Medical school etc. If that map and others can be available on line, it is going to be great.

  7. Andrew Cook says:

    It’s a good point, Ren. I’ll start thinking about some interesting maps to put up. There are people in the Archives volunteer group who are interested in the early layout of the campus. Just out of interest, which map are you referring to in the BSL?

    • REN says:

      There were lots of maps in the exhibition boxes before, there are some maps that were removed earlier, but these ones that are removed are still very interesting, i.e. there was a map showing the city council divided the land into different functions, it shows at the very start, how small the city council gave to the university. This is an interesting map, but it is removed, anyway, the map I talked about, I believe it is drawn at 1929-1930, it is bit hard to describe the map since it does NOT have a title, but I believe it is still on exhibition of BSL, I am not sure how long the exhibition will last. They may stop the exhibition at any stage, since it has been running over a month, the map is in one of the glass exhibition box on the left once you walk in to the main entrance of BSL. I am not sure whether this helps, Andrew, hopefully it is clear, this is all what I can see at this stage, I am sorry if it is still confuing.

      • Andrew Cook says:

        Hi Ren

        I know what you mean now – thanks!

        And you’ve inspired me to get some maps of the University up. We have a volunteer who is good at taking digital images of bigger items so I’ll get him onto it.

    • REN says:

      There is something I forgot to say earlier, last year was the Medicial School 125 yrs, BSL had lots of old students recods or pictures on exhibition, i.e. there was some documents for each medical students at the end of the year and it needs to be signed by their department to show that they attend 75% of their LECTURE parts as well as pass their exams in order to move into the next level. There are some pictures of the old Medical School — Darling bldg etc, not sure whether you have access to these resources.
      P.S. There is an old photos of the Stirling LT around late 1940s or early 1950s in Medical school,at that time, it is still using chalk and blackboard, not sure whether you have access to it, it might be good that if the community can share some of it.

  8. REN says:

    Hi Andrew, thanks for the information, I did use these website a few times before, but I am not sure whether I typed in the wrong keywords or what other reasons it might be, those pictures I saw in the exhibitions tends not to be found in the website data base.