Ayers House holds a special place in the hearts of South Australians, more than a treasured icon, it’s a home filled with 160 years of memories. Just a decade after the state’s inception in 1834, Town Acre no. 30 was bought by William Paxton. Sir Henry Ayers arrived in 1840 from England to make his fortune and fortunately for us he did! Ayers leased the property from his friend for 16 years before finally securing the sale in1871 and created the House as it stands today, enlisting Kingston as an architect to style a Colonial Victorian house of grand proportions. Kingston’s mark is not only on this house but Adelaide as a whole; he surveyed the city site and was the chief designer of Adelaide city for Colonial William Light, the founder of Adelaide.
South Australia’s Central Man Sir Henry Ayers was an illustrious and renowned man about town, Premier of the State seven times, Cabinet Minister 11 times and involved in many of the state’s institutions – its little wonder he chose to live in the city! To name a few; secretary of the Burra Copper Mines, founder of the Bank of Adelaide, trustee of the Savings Bank of South Australia, chairman of South Australian Gas Co., governor of the Botanic Gardens Board and treasurer of the University of Adelaide. ‘Mr’ became ‘Sir’ in 1872 when Henry was knighted for his government’s role in bringing the overland telegraph service from Darwin to Adelaide opening up communication with England, a vital link for the fledgling colony.
The house was the centre of Adelaide society for thirty years. Henry famously gave twice yearly parties in September and October with dancing in his Ballroom, coloured lighting festooning the trees and wines carefully selected from his cellar.
After Sir Henry’s passing in 1897 the house stood vacant for some years, it was then bought by Austral Gardens Ltd in 1914 turning the grounds into an open air theatre and for some time was occupied by the Returned Soldiers League. Then from 1929 it was a nurses home and training centre for the Royal Adelaide Hospital until 1969.