Adelaide’s “Old Treasury” Building and the Underground Tunnels

In Australia National Family History Month is held during August, so it was timely that a historical place I’d been wanting to check out had another open day during the month. Not that they had planned it as far as I know, but hey I’m counting it towards my National Family History Month (NFHM) activities.

Adelaide’s old Treasury Building (which is now hotel apartments, “the Adina Apartments Hotel“) on Flinders Street in the heart of Adelaide, has a history dating back to the early years of the colony.

the Old Treasury Building, Flinders Street, Adelaide

the Old Treasury Building, Flinders Street, Adelaide

This former Treasury Building was built in stages from 1839 to 1907, and is a building that has been at the centre of South Australia’s administrative and governmental affairs for more 130 years. And one of the original walls still stands. It housed the Cabinet Room from 1876 until 1968, before that moved to another building. For more on this history of this magnificent building you can read about it here.

Anyway it’s been a long, cold winter, so I was pleased that Adelaide put on a blue sky, sunny day (still cold, but sunny) for my day trip to the city with Mr Lonetester to check out this building.

Booked in for the 11.00am tour, we were joined by about 60 other people keen to explore the history of this place. Divided into two groups for the actual tour, the group I was with was led by Grant who’s a volunteer at the National Trust, and clearly loves what he does, knows his history, and shares it with enthusiasm.

Firstly Grant showed us the “Records Room” that was made as a fire proof room …  which originally had with slate floor, and arched brick ceiling – and held together without any mortar, just simply by the curvature of the bricks. From a genealogical perspective, it’s so good to know that they were looking after the records, not only ensuring that they were kept, but they were also kept safe!

Anyway you will see from the photo below they have now added steel rods as reinforcement, but the ceiling is still there, and is still the original one, and looks amazing. The room itself is now an actual apartment … and an very nice one at that.

the arched brick ceiling

the arched brick ceiling

the "fire proof" room at the Adina Apartments Hotel

the plaque on the wall outside the “fire proof” room at the Adina Apartments Hotel

Then it was upstairs to check out the “Cabinet room”, though on the way we passed some huge WW1 Honour Boards which give details of many men from government who enlisted in WW1, including some who never returned. Also we were shown a large glass cabinet full of artifacts that have either been found in the building when renovations were being done, or that were related to others who were associated with the early history of the old Treasury Building.
one of the three Honour Boards in the old Treasury Building, Adelaide

one of three Honour Boards in the old Treasury Building, Adelaide

The Cabinet Room itself is off-limits to everyone except those on a tour, and it is like stepping back in time. The huge conference table, the bookcases full of Parliamentary Papers going back years and years, the framed old portrait photos of many former parliamentarians, and the enormous map of South Australia on the wall … but what I loved was the hat stand. I know, I know … a hat stand … really? But this wasn’t just ANY hat stand. It was one that was made for top hats, umbrellas and canes. Trust me it was very cool!
the huge map of South Australia in the Cabinet Room

the huge map of South Australia in the Cabinet Room

here's the hat stand

here’s the hat stand

After hearing numerous interesting stories relating to people and events that were connected to the Cabinet Room, we made headed down to the basement to check out the “tunnels”.
heading down the tunnels

heading down the tunnels

The tunnels underneath the Treasury Building were constructed in 1850 and predate the existing building, and it is understood that gold discovered by South Australian diggers in the Victorian Goldfields was stored and smelted in there tunnels, as they contain a furnace and a well.

There are two tunnels, one that runs from the Adelaide GPO on Franklin Street so that government mail could be delivered in secret, and another is thought to lead under Flinders Street to the Torrens Building on the corner of Wakefield Street and Victoria Square, however, it has been blocked for many years.

they used to lead somewhere, but now they're blocked off

they used to lead somewhere, but now they’re blocked off

... and even a window too

… and even a window too

If you were to go on the “tunnels tour” expecting to walk everywhere under Adelaide, you would certainly be disappointed. The one hour tour ended up being an hour and a quarter anyway, but most of that wasn’t on the tunnels themselves. But if you are interested in the history of building, and Adelaide’s history – do yourself a favour and book in for a tour, you’ll certainly be fascintated hearing all the stories.

seeing the town hall clock tower from the courtyard of the Old Treasury Building

a view of the Adelaide town hall clock tower from the courtyard of the Old Treasury Building

3 Responses to “Adelaide’s “Old Treasury” Building and the Underground Tunnels”

  1. GenieJen says:

    Thanks. Have always heard about that building -most interesting

  2. Where were the places shown in last 2nd and 3rd picture are? They seem to be quite old and swollen by water.

    • Alona says:

      I don’t believe they were water damaged, but rather damage from uncovering the tunnells from them being filled in.

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