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Heritage Politics in Adelaide By late November, the builder, AW Baulderstone Pty Ltd, harassed the Aurora picketers, and on 29 November the Supreme Court granted injunctions against leaders of the protest and the Building Construction Workers. Two days later, demolition of the hotel began, ending the longest public campaign against the demolition of a building in Adelaide’s history.
Kingsmead and Belmont House North Adelaide is South Australia’s oldest residential suburb, with a diversity of vernacular architecture ranging from two-storey terraced houses and grand mansions to Victorian worker’s cottages. Except for a major high-rise hotel, its two commercial thoroughfares, Melbourne and O’Connell Sts, mainly comprised a mix of small Victorian and modern shops and restaurants in 1978. However, from the 1960s the historic character of many of North Adelaide’s streets was gradually eroded by new developments: modern shops, motels, units, townhouses and apartment blocks of a style which did not suit the Victorian environment. The 1986–91 City Plan attempted to curb modernist development by specifying, for example, that ‘western Upper North Adelaide should remain one of the most impressive, historically intact residential areas in South Australia’ and ‘the conservation of the existing residential environment is the prime criterion for assessing development’.
Despite a conservationist trend in city planning, and although groups such as AHA and the North Adelaide Society objected to the demolition of historic buildings, small residential projects rarely were the subjects of public protest in the way that commercial projects were during the 1980s and 1990s. Two mansions in Brougham Place, Kingsmead and Belmont, were the exception.
Kingsmead, at 78 Brougham Place, was designed by leading Adelaide architect Edmund Wright, built in 1865 for Charles Jacobs and was later the home of EM Bagot, an early pastoral pioneer. It was described by the State Heritage Branch as ‘a two-storey Regency stone house with two single-storey wings added to each side’.
Belmont, adjacent to Kingsmead at 72 Brougham Place, was originally built as a Masonic Hall in 1858, ‘a rare example of early classical styling’ in a residential area.
Dr J Woodforde, surgeon to Colonel Light’s survey party in 1836, City Commissioner JB Neales, and AJ Tolley, founder of a major wine and spirit firm, were successive owners of the house, which thus had historic links to Adelaide’s elite community. Both buildings were recommended for inclusion on the Register of State Heritage Items in 1980, but the SAHC deferred its decision to allow time for the Heritage Conservation Branch to prepare documentation for the listing of Case Studies in Heritage Politics: Small Projects Kingsmead ca. 1983. Courtesy Adelaide City Archives Belmont House ca. 1983. Courtesy Adelaide City Archives
the Palmer Place/Brougham Place precinct as a state heritage area, an intact area of spacious homes built for early wealthy residents of North Adelaide, including the Anglican Archbishop. In 1982, the Lord Mayor’s Heritage Advisory Committee also approved both buildings for listing on the City of Adelaide Heritage Register, to take effect in 1987, and ACC requested that the Minister list them immediately on the Register of State Heritage Items. The Minister complied by placing the buildings on the interim register.
John Borthwick, an elderly property developer, owned the mansions and lived in a section of Kingsmead. He had received planning approval from ACC in 1982 to erect a low-rise residential building on the site, subject to retention of Kingsmead.
He lodged another development application in 1983, this time seeking demolition of Kingsmead and its replacement by a six-level apartment block, extending to the rear of Belmont. Lord Mayoral candidate Wendy Chapman led a protest of about 30 North Adelaide Society members at the site in the week before the election. Her opponent, John Chappel, was the architect for the new development and a defender of property owners’ rights. Chapman won the election, and ACC subsequently refused the development. However, Chapman’s reputation as a champion of heritage was short-lived as she voted in favour of the controversial demolition of the Aurora Hotel soon after her election.
In 1984, Borthwick lodged an appeal with the City of Adelaide Planning Appeals Tribunal (CAPAT) as a test case of the SA Heritage Act, the first time a heritage-listed item was the subject of a demolition appeal (but not the last). The appeal attracted extensive media coverage, partly because John Chappel, who wrote occasional columns on architectural issues for The Advertiser, sought publicity for what he considered the loss of Borthwick’s property rights, adding that Kingsmead was structurally unsound and its heritage value had been lost when it was converted to flats in the 1930s. However, he had a vested interest in the matter as the architect for the proposed replacement building. He admitted that there was a stronger case for listing Belmont. Several prominent Adelaide figures testified at the appeal hearings, with former Lord Mayors Sir James Irwin and JVS Bowen supporting the appeal, historians John Tregenza and Norman Etherington attesting to Kingsmead’s historic significance, and ACC and State Heritage Branch professionals confirming its heritage value. Judge JR Roder decided against the appellant in December 1985, stating that ‘to demolish “Kingsmead” … would be a private advantage [only] and not be of advantage to the common weal according to the evidence put before me’.9 Borthwick v City of Adelaide, (1985) 18 APA 435, 9c. Cf. Advertiser, 24 December 1985, p.9.
Case Studies in Heritage Politics: Small Projects The matter did not rest there. The irascible Borthwick refused to restore the badly neglected buildings, as he was obliged to do under the Act, or to sell them. In 1987, Minister Hopgood compulsorily acquired the properties to save the buildings.
It was an experience fraught with difficulties for the state government. Borthwick refused to vacate the premises, indicating to the Lord Mayor, among others, that he would continue to let the buildings rot, forcing the government to gain a court order obliging him to vacate the premises. After the uncomfortable experience of evicting a 92-year-old man from his home, the government sought to sell Kingsmead and Belmont on condition they be restored. At a public auction in May 1989 Kingsmead sold for over $1 million and Belmont for $845,000, about $400,000 more than the government paid Borthwick for them, but court costs more than offset the government’s gain.
The CEO of the REMM Group purchased Kingsmead while the Oberdan Group of developers bought Belmont. Both developers were soon struggling to meet their restoration commitments under the agreement with the state government because of overextended property loans. The state government and ACC granted several extensions to the owners for commencement of restoration, in addition to granting them funds for conservation work. Kingsmead’s owners resold it in 1992 and the owners have restored it. Belmont continued to deteriorate as the Oberdan Group failed to meet the terms of the heritage agreement. The manager of the State Heritage Branch wrote in 1994 that the SHB preferred to continue to work with Belmont’s owner rather than compulsorily repurchase the property that was the subject of ‘this unfortunately protracted case’. The developer undertook some work to stabilise the building, which became a local eyesore, but it remained vacant and sometimes occupied by squatters. The owner sold Belmont to another developer in 2003, who undertook major restoration, but the building still remains vacant more than two decades after it was acquired by the state.
The SHB had prepared documentation in 1980 that showed that Kingsmead and Belmont qualified for state heritage listing on architectural, historical and streetscape grounds, but the SHB moved very slowly in submitting the documentation to the SAHC. However, given the determination of the buildings’ owner to redevelop the properties, the delay probably made no difference. No doubt, Borthwick would have lodged a planning and demolition application and then appealed against the refusal no matter when the listing had occurred. The challenge in the CAPAT strengthened the SA Heritage Act by confirming the authority of the government to protect heritage properties. The Kingsmead and Belmont case also tested the limits of the government’s powers under s.3 of the Act. While the government could Heritage Politics in Adelaide and did acquire the properties compulsorily, it had limited funds for compulsory acquisition and heritage conservation. The state government did not want to restore the buildings itself, and having acquired them once, the government was reluctant to repurchase the properties, particularly during a period of economic downturn.
Ultimately, private owners restored Kingsmead. State and local authorities continued to extend the deadlines and to grant funds for restoration work on Belmont House with little effect, demonstrating how limited were their powers to compel owners to restore heritage buildings.
St Paul’s Church, Pulteney Street St Paul’s Anglican Church at the northeast corner of Pulteney and Flinders Sts, Adelaide, was built in 1860 ‘of the ugliest stone ever found in Adelaide’, according to Alderman Chris Douglas.10 The congregation could not afford to complete the building, and its northern tower was never built. The manse in Flinders St had been listed on the Register of State Heritage Items, but the church itself was passed over for listing on both the state and city heritage registers in 1983. Instead, it was included in Appendix 2 of the 1982 City of Adelaide Heritage Study as an item on the city’s Character Schedule.
With Adelaide’s population declining since the 1930s, the congregation of St Paul’s dwindled until it was nonviable. The church was deconsecrated and sold in 1982. Three years later it reopened as a nightclub,11 but the owner went into receivership and was forced to sell the building. In 1989 the developer Moore Corporation applied to demolish the former church on behalf of its new owner and to replace it with a four-storey office complex, with the manse converted into a tavern.
ACC refused the application in a stunning vote of 14 to 2, even though the church building was not heritage listed, on the grounds that it was a prominent part of the streetscape and listed in the Character Schedule. All of the pro-development members of ACC voted for refusal except Councillor Charles Mouschakis (the other dissenter was Alderman Chris Douglas). ACC held that the proposal would be contrary to principles 19 and 20 of the City of Adelaide Plan and to its desired future City Messenger, 6 September 1989, p.1.
Adelaide’s only Tiffany stained-glass windows were removed and are now owned by the Art Gallery of South Australia. A mezzanine floor was fitted without compromising the building in a remarkable design and engineering feat by award-winning architectural firm KMH Neighbour Lapsys. Advertiser, 19 November 1988, p.26.
Case Studies in Heritage Politics: Small Projects
St Paul’s Church, Pulteney St. AHA collection
character statements for the Pulteney St and Frome St precincts. Those principles restrict development of heritage buildings and new development adjacent to heritage buildings, in this case the manse in Flinders St.
The developer lodged an appeal with the CAPAT in December 1989, while ACC sought ways to preserve St Paul’s. Pro-development Councillor Jim Crawford moved that the Lord Mayor establish a public fund to save the building. ACC also sought its interim listing on the Register of State Heritage Items and even considered purchasing St Paul’s. Sentiment in ACC and in the community for saving the building was high. A residents’ ‘Petition to save St Paul’s Church’ with four pages of signatures was presented to ACC in June 1990. In August, AHA mounted an information picket outside St Paul’s and garnered 1500 signatures on another petition presented to the SA House of Assembly by Greg Crafter, MP. Lord Mayor Steve Condous predicted at the time that public pressure would save St Paul’s in the end.
In June 1990, ACC learned that the developer had won his appeal, which gave Moore Corporation 18 months in which to commence the project. The developer then negotiated with ACC and the Minister for Environment and Planning for Heritage Politics in Adelaide concessions in return for retaining St Paul’s, including a five-year rate holiday and $500,000 compensation. Consistent with its response to the demands of the REMM-Myer developer, ACC refused to grant the concessions. Without these concessions, the developer could not proceed with the project, and ultimately put the building on the market. This enabled the Minister for Environment and Planning to place St Paul’s on the interim list of the Register of State Heritage Items and to issue an urgent conservation order for its protection in December
1990. ACC followed the Minister’s lead by adding St Paul’s to the City of Adelaide Heritage Register in March 1991 after public hearings by an ACC committee. The St Paul’s experience had revealed the truth in a remark by AHA spokesman Gerry Patitsas that the fate of heritage buildings still rests in the hands of the development lobby. In this exceptional case, the pro-development members of ACC favoured heritage listing, but ACC and the Minister could only act to save the building when the development application lapsed.
The concerns of many councillors and the Adelaide community about the possible destruction of St Paul’s Anglican Church impelled ACC to protect other items on its 1982 Character Schedule. In August 1990, ACC voted to begin a process of reviewing all of the buildings on the schedule to consider whether they met the criteria for heritage listing, a move opposed by the development lobby, but the vote on the motion occurred at a meeting when the residential members were in the majority due to six absences. While the review of heritage items was undertaken by the City of Adelaide Heritage Advisory Committee (COAHAC), ACC also began its prolonged and bitter campaign to protect the built character of Adelaide through its townscape initiative (see chapter 5).
Somerset Hotel Across Pulteney St from St Paul’s Church stood another building listed on the Character Schedule, the Somerset Hotel. Along with St Paul’s, the imminent demolition of this hotel and its impact on Pulteney St caused ACC to revisit its heritage policies.
The Somerset Hotel was rebuilt in 1878, during an economic boom, on the site of its 1850 predecessor. The 1982 City of Adelaide Heritage Study described the hotel’s ‘picturesque overtones’, including its ‘distinctive windows, coupled chimneys, gable and verandah/balcony’. The consultants added, ‘it is a distinctive building due to its prominent corner site … and notable stylistic departure from more usual Italianate hotel genre. …The environmental significance of this item is high because Case Studies in Heritage Politics: Small Projects
Somerset Hotel in Flinders St with St Paul’s in Pulteney St. AHA collection
of its positive contribution to the streetscape’.12 By 1989, the exterior of the 1878 hotel was intact, with an undistinguished extension in Pulteney St, but its interior had been significantly altered. In March 1989, an application by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to demolish the building led to a review of its heritage value.
Four members of ACC opposed its demolition while others felt it was not worth saving. They argued that there had been ample opportunity to have the building placed on either the city or state heritage registers but it had failed because it lacked historical merit.
By May 1990 the builder was experiencing financial difficulties which were delaying the development. At a meeting on 28 May 1990 Alderman Mark Hamilton moved that ACC seek interim heritage listing of the hotel by the state government to protect it from demolition before the development proceeded, a move supported by the National Trust, CCSA, AHA, the Square Mile Residents Association and the Federal MP for Adelaide, Dr Michael Armitage. The residents association had submitted a petition to ACC asking that the Somerset not be demolished.