Bank of South Australia Head Office Building
The former ANZ Bank Building in King William Street, Adelaide, now owned by the South Australian Government and named Edmund Wright House, was designed by E. W. Wright and was built in 1875-78 as the Bank of South Australia. The building is notable for its architectural accomplishment and the significant role it played in developing awareness of the risks to Adelaide’s built heritage.
In a booklet published during the campaign for its preservation in the early 1970’s, it is described as follows: “As a city building it is remarkable in that it is fully three dimensional and not just a facade. Stately and sumptuous, each side relates completely to the next and all are superbly proportioned and detailed.
“The magnificent front, with its thicket of composite and Corinthian columns, is an architectural masterpiece equal to any in Australia. The pillars are delicate things, finely proportioned, each hand carved. The entrance leads through a corridor, flanked with fluted polished columns in richly figured marble, to the superb banking chamber.
“The skills and craftsmanship that have gone into this building are almost unknown today. Every stone has been hand worked, the lavishly used columns are perfectly proportioned, the entasis subtle and the fluting immaculate.
“The capitals, keystone heads, and friezes are the work of William Maxwell, who in his time was Australia’s finest sculptor. In addition to his statues of Burns and John McDouall Stuart in Adelaide, he also carved the Altar in St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, and the E.S. & A. Bank in Melbourne.
Since its purchase by the State Government it has had a range of occupants. Currently it houses the Migrant Resource Centre.
Current status and listings
The Bank of South Australia (Edmund Wright House) is historically significant for its association with the development of financial institutions in South Australia and in particular the Bank of South Australia one of the earliest banks in the State which was initially connected with the South Australian Company. The building was in continuous use by three of the major banks in Australia for over 90 years and is one of the few significant architectural statements of 1870s commercial architecture remaining in King William Street. The building represents the combined work of two significant architects – South Australian Edmund Wright and Victorian Lloyd Tayler – and is of exceptional architectural merit as an example of Victorian era Classical architecture with Renaissance influences.
Victorian aesthetic principles of commercial architecture are also illustrated in the design of this building and its position highlights the focus of the commercial district of Adelaide in the nineteenth century. It also features quality craftsmanship and the use of both imported and local materials epitomising the wealth and status of banking institutions in South Australia during the boom time of the 1870s. The building is also significant for being a catalyst for public debate and concern for the built heritage of South Australia when it was scheduled for demolition by Mainline Corporation in 1971. A prolonged public campaign culminated in its purchase by the State Government in November of that year.