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Look beyond Adelaide High School

Ellis Park / Tampawardli (Park 24)

Did you know that the design of the Adelaide High School was the result of a national architectural competition?

photo-icon Adelaide Boys High School, State Library of South Australia, B 12475, circa 1952
photo-icon West Terrace, State library of South Australia, B 9173, circa 1877
photo-icon Observatory, State Library of South Australia, B 23931, circa 1883
photo-icon The Todd family pictured in the grounds of the Adelaide Observatory, State Library of South Australia, B 69996/70, circa 1897
photo-icon Observatory building being demolished, State Library of South Australia, B 36761, circa 1978

Tampawardli is a Kaurna word derived from “tampa” meaning plain and “wardli” meaning home. The Kaurna people are the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the Adelaide Plains.

On 22 April 1844, the area west of here was reported as being the scene of an historic “inter-tribal battle” between the Adelaide (Kaurna), Encounter Bay (Ngarrindjeri) and the Murray River people. Reportedly, the mounted police interrupted the intended battle and confiscated and destroyed the weapons, which outraged the participants.

In 1860 the main building of the Government Observatory was constructed here, with remaining sections added by 1873. Sir Charles Todd, superintendent of telegraphs, government astronomer, postmaster-general and meteorologist lived here for many years with his family. Sir Charles was the pioneer of a network of telegraph lines to connect the new colony to the world.

The Observatory’s Latitude 34°55’38”S and Longitude 138°34’58”E was the standard geodetic survey point for South Australia. The Observatory was joined by the Commonwealth Weather Bureau building in 1941.

The complex was demolished by 1952 to make was for the Adelaide Boys’ High School.

In 1908 Adelaide High School was formed in Grote Street and became the first in the South Australian High School system and the first free High School in the Commonwealth.

The current Adelaide High School on West Terrace opened in 1951 as Adelaide Boys' High School. Adelaide Girls' High School remained on the Grote Street site.

The design for Adelaide High School was the result of a national architectural competition. Recognised as a nationally significant gem of the 20th century, the building was designed in 1940 by E B Fitzgerald and John Brogan.

Its construction was delayed by World War II. A State Heritage Place, the building's sweeping horizontal curves are recognised as an exemplar of modernist design. Additions over the years to cope with expanding student numbers have been sympathetic to its heritage status.

City of Adelaide acknowledges the traditional Country of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains and pays respect to Elders past and present. We recognise and respect their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land. We acknowledge that they are of continuing importance to the Kaurna people living today. We also extend that respect to other Aboriginal Language Groups and other First Nations.

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