Ever since it was built in 1874, the bluestone ‘High Victorian Eclectic’ mansion at 28 Dequetteville Terrace has been no stranger to important events or significant people – and no stranger to business success.
Hotel proprietor Charles Hornabrook was the first owner – he was an important local businessman who for 21 years held the license for Adelaide’s finest hotel, the York Hotel.
Another prominent entrepreneur was the next resident in 1879. Thomas Graves had arrived in Australia in 1846 on the ship “Lady Bruce”, and quickly established a grocer and ironmonger business. A stratospheric career followed, including appointment as Director of the Bank of Adelaide.
Subsequent owners between 1903 and 1924 included a president of the South Australian Cricket Association (who named the house ‘Kalymna’), a proprietor of a well-known tailors, and two sisters with a substantial inheritance. In 1924, Harry Dutton – whose country home was the celebrated ‘Anlaby’ estate – acquired the property as a town house.
Harry Dutton brought an injection of fast-paced glamour with him. He had been a University Eight rower at Oxford University in 1900, and had always retained an appetite for adventure, for example becoming the first person to drive a car overland from Darwin to Adelaide in 1908.
The soon to be Sir Edward Holden followed, whose self-made entrepreneurial father had guided Holden’s into motor body production and who was instrumental in making the company the biggest motor body builder in the British Empire by the 1920s. Edward Holden was an MLC in the South Australian parliament and a strong advocate of industrial growth and technical education. He served in the Commonwealth government during WWII and the house was taken over by the Army Intelligence Corps during this time.
Sir Edward Holden’s daughter Nancy (later Dame Nancy) was also a highly significant figure – the first South Australian woman to serve as a Member of Parliament and a senator for more than 16 years.
1949 saw a major new chapter in the house’s history, when it was bought by the SA Education Department as a student hostel. The first students arrived in 1950, thanks to finance from the Schools Patriotic Fund (with its origins in money collected by children during WWII). A renaming to ‘Adelaide Meithke House’ followed, in honour of the school teacher, educationalist and women’s activist, who had been awarded an OBE in 1939.
Students remained in the house for the next couple of decades or more, and the house was taken over by commercial tenants in the 1980s, most recently by Zurich Insurance when the building was known as Zurich House. In 1978 the house earned its place in the Australian Heritage Commission Register of National Estates.
Oreon Partners breathed new life into this important local landmark in 2014, and it now plays host to entrepreneurial activity and business growth once more.