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The Palais de Danse

Elder Park (Park 26)

photo-icon Floating Palais, State Library of South Australia, B 23119, circa 1925
photo-icon Floating Palais, State Library of South Australia, B 4109, circa 1927
photo-icon Floating Palais, State Library of South Australia, B 60338, circa 1929
photo-icon Elder Park, State Library of South Australia, B 4511, circa 1929
photo-icon Floating Palais, State Library of South Australia, B 44607, circa 1930

The roaring 20s saw a surge in popularity of dancing and revelry. This led to the launch of the Palais de Danse in December 1924, a two-storey floating barge that was moored near the Rotunda. It was known as the 'Floating Palais'.

In efforts to attract recreation and activation along the river, Barcroft Teesdale Smith, an Adelaide-based entrepreneur, created the Palais. It had a large dance floor on the lower deck and a promenade on the upper deck. It also included a soda fountain, an orchestra performance pit and a buffet area.

The Palais' design was influenced by Moorish architecture, including a roof with five painted domes and arabesque decorations and motifs adorning the structure. Some sources cited that the design was inspired by the Taj Mahal. Even the waitresses of the Palais had costumes that were inspired by "those of a Moorish lady of the period".

The Palais opened to much fanfare, attracting a crowd of 1800 revellers. The Floating Palais Orchestra conducted delightful programs, afternoons were filled with regular tea dances, and entertainment and dancing went on into the night. The Palais was described in the Advertiser in March 1925 as "one of the finest in the Commonwealth", with decorations "highly praised by Sydney, Melbourne and London visitors" and the venue had "a perfect atmosphere of intimate seclusion, joie de vivre, and romance".

The Palais de Danse was constantly surrounded by controversy and issues.

Before the Palais was opened, legal action was threatened by the Council due to failure of compliance with the structure of the barge, as it was originally intended to be a single storey structure. Smith complied and completed the required amendments to avoid having the Palais immediately removed from the lake at his own expense.

Over the years, a few storm events affected the Palais' security on the lake. In 1925, the Palais broke its moorings, was blown ashore and left stranded after the water level was raised to re-float the vessel, an exercise that was billed to Smith at £25.

In 1928, vandals tried to sink the Palais, allegedly using rifles which were later found at the scene. Other theories included small bombs, exploding cooking appliances and gas fumes.

The gradual decline of the Palais' structure and the rotting of its underside timber support marked the end of its useful life. The barge was discontinued and dismantled in 1929.

In 2017, a temporary pontoon called the Riverbank Palais was erected, modelled after the Floating Palais. The pontoon similarly served as an entertainment venue, facilitating live music, festivals and night clubs. It was removed in 2019.

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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