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Heritage Places of Adelaide

Adelaide General Post Office

141 King William Street, Adelaide

Commonwealth Heritage Place

General Post Office - Photo from Mr Gordon Walker in October 1927

Policeman directing traffic on King William St in 1927. The western side of the street is visible, looking south from The Advertiser building to the General Post Office.

The Adelaide General Post Office forms an important part of Adelaide’s central civic and administrative precinct, playing a critical role since 1872 in the delivery and development of postal services in Adelaide. The building, and broader precinct, are well-known images and are often used to illustrate the historical nature and prosperity of the city. The GPO was the most expensive building constructed to that time by the colonial government in South Australia. This emphasises its importance to the colony and the city of Adelaide, further underscored by the involvement of the Duke of Edinburgh in laying the foundation stone (Criterion a). Typologically, the Adelaide GPO seamlessly accommodated distinctly separate postal and telegraph functions within the one large structure. Where it differs from other GPO designs, however, is in the centralisation of a large public hall from which all transactions were carried out at counters to separate departments located around the perimeter in discrete offices, in place of an external arcade or loggia with service windows along its length. In this regard, Adelaide GPO can be considered an early exemplar of planning around an internal public space. Stylistically, the design of the Adelaide GPO included several characteristics associated with Italian architectural mannerism from around the late 1520s and the 1530s; this is seen in the balustraded parapet usage, the recessed concentric arches, the arch and flanking columns, the displaced pediments and asymmetrical elevations inflecting toward a common point that brings symmetry (Criterion d). The Adelaide General Post Office is important as a major public building erected in the Victorian Free Classical Renaissance revival style. Constructed from Glen Osmond and Glen Ewin stone, and ornamented with Bath limestone, the building features a prominent clock tower, and is a significant streetscape item on the corner of King William and Franklin Streets. In conjunction with the Town Hall, it forms an imposing gateway feature at the edge of Victoria Square (Criterion e). The architectural expression of the tower is unique and rests upon its distinctive flared cupola roof and upper stage consoles. The use of Glen Ewin freestone and in particular the extensive modelling and carved ornamentation is representative of the highest standards of workmanship and contribute to the style of Adelaide’s Renaissance Revival architecture which is outstanding nationally. The postal hall at the Adelaide GPO is also one of Australia’s finest public interiors of the mid-to-late nineteenth century (Criterion f). The GPO has considerable social significance for Adelaide residents owing to the building's lengthy connection with postal services and is important to the community as a well-known landmark (Criterion g). The Adelaide General Post Office is associated with several architects of note, including Edmund Wright, Edward John Woods, Edward Angus Hamilton and Robert George Thomas (Criterion h).

Listing Information

  • Date of Listing: 22 June 2004
  • Heritage Listing Criteria:

    Criteria A: The place has significant heritage value because of the place’s importance in the course, or pattern, of Australia’s natural or cultural history

    Criteria D: The place has significant heritage value because of the place’s importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of:
    a class of Australia’s natural or cultural places; or
    a class of Australia’s natural or cultural environments

    Criteria E: The place has significant heritage values because of the place’s importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics values by a community or cultural group

    Criteria F: The place has significant heritage value because of the place’s importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period

    Criteria G: The place has significant heritage value because of the place’s strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons

    Criteria H: The place has significant heritage value because of the place’s special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in Australia’s natural or cultural history