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Ayers House (Adelaide) facts for kids

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Ayers House
Ayers House (National Trust South Australia) North Terrace, Adelaide, 15 March 2015.jpg
General information
Architectural style Regency
Address 288 North Terrace
Town or city Adelaide
Country Australia
Coordinates 34°55′18″S 138°36′34″E / 34.92167°S 138.60944°E / -34.92167; 138.60944
Construction started 1846
Completed 1876
Design and construction
Architect Sir George Strickland Kingston (attrib.)
South Australian Heritage Register
Official name: Ayers House and former Coach House/Stables and Wall
Designated: 24 July 1980
Reference #: 10849

Ayers House is the present-day name for a historic mansion on North Terrace, Adelaide, South Australia. It is named after Sir Henry Ayers, five times Premier of South Australia and wealthy industrialist, who occupied it from 1855 until 1897. It is the only mansion on North Terrace to have survived. The house has been listed on the South Australian Heritage Register since July 1980.


Plans for the two-storey mansion, which for the greater part of its existence was named Austral House, were developed in 1846 for William Paxton, an Adelaide chemist. It is constructed of local bluestone and is Regency period in style, thought to have been designed by George Strickland Kingston, who interpreted the work of Robert Kerr, a leading architect of the period in Britain.

In 1855, Sir Henry Ayers leased the property when it was a 9-room brick house. He transformed it into a 40-room mansion mainly during the 1860s; it was finally completed in 1876. It is well preserved. Internally, the rooms feature hand-painted ceilings, stencilled woodwork and memorabilia from the Ayers family, demonstrating the wealth of the owners at the time it was built. Ayers also commissioned a basement to escape the hot Adelaide summers. During its owner's parliamentary service, the house was the venue for cabinet meetings, parliamentary dinners and grand balls. It was one of the first properties in Adelaide to be fitted with gas lighting.

The names given to many of the rooms, and their functions, were revealed in notes made by Sir Henry when he recorded the temperatures in various places in the house during Adelaide's very hot weather. The first such record was dated 1874.


In 1897 Ayers died, and in 1909, following an Adelaide Club ball at the house, Henry Newland proposed the club purchase the property. Plans were drawn up then abandoned. Eventually, it was sold in 1914 to Arthur John Walkley and Henry Woodcock's company, Austral Gardens Ltd. They built a dance hall, "The Palais Royal", on its western side and entertainment areas on the east. Since then, the house has had many uses, including a club for injured soldiers from 1918 to 1922, and an open-air café from 1914 to 1932.

The Government of South Australia bought the property in 1926 to house nurses and nurse training premises (it was opposite the now-closed Adelaide Hospital). Further dormitories, built in 1946, were removed in 1973. The house was closed as nurses' quarters in 1969, after a new residential wing was built at the back of the hospital.

In 1970 Premier Don Dunstan overrode his cabinet colleagues to save the historic building from being demolished. His high priority for tourism led him to order the mansion's renovation as a tourist and cultural centre with a museum and fine-dining and bistro restaurants. In addition, much of the house was conserved to original condition. Today costumes, silverware, artworks, furniture, a 300-kilogram (660 lb) chandelier and the original gasoliers are displayed in the museum area. The bedrooms became the well-known "fine dining" Henry Ayers Restaurant, and the stables a bistro. There are four private event rooms; Ayers House is a popular wedding and event centre.


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