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Victoria Park: The First Racecourse (Historic Buildings)

Victoria Park / Pakapakanthi (Park 16)

photo-icon Victoria Park Members Enclosure, City of Adelaide Archives, HP0095, date unknown
photo-icon Crowds of racegoers at Victoria Park racecourse, State Library of South Australia, PRG 280/1/20/145, circa 1920

The Kaurna name for this Park, Pakapakanthi, means "to trot" (as in horses).

The group of buildings in this corner of the Park are all that remains of the extensive racecourse facilities in this Park. When racing ceased here in 2007, the stables, members' stand and betting ring were all demolished. The buildings which remain remind us of how important horse racing was to the colony of South Australia since its earliest days.

A feature of the east Park Lands since the 1840s, the first official horse race meeting was held here in 1846. In 1888 the Adelaide Racing Club (ARC) was formed to control racing here, and later amalgamated with other racing clubs to form the South Australian Jockey Club (SAJC).

The Heritage Grandstand (built in 1882) designed by Bayer & Withall Architects, is an impressive structure built in response to the rivalry between the ‘new course’ at Morphettville and this ‘old course’. It represents an important use of decorative cast-iron in a non-domestic building.

The Turnstile Building (built in 1926) was also known as the Grand Stand Entrance. It was designed by Kenneth Milne, one of South Australia’s best-known and most prolific architects. He was known for the Georgian-revival style and his home, “Sunnyside” on Stanley Street in North Adelaide, is a fine example of this style. He also designed another important building in the Park Lands, the Adelaide Oval scoreboard (built 1911).

Inside the Turnstile Building were ten cast iron turnstiles through which the racing public entered the racecourse, of which three remain. These are rare surviving examples of turnstiles of this quality and age.

The Entrance Gates and Adelaide Racing Club offices (built in 1954), also known as the Bookmakers' League, were designed by Glover & Pointer Architects. The fine detailing includes "ARC" emblems which can be seen on the doorway, in wrought iron and in the terrazzo entrance floor.

These racecourse buildings were designed around elegant racecourse gardens featuring exotic trees, roses and golden privet hedging. The centrepiece of the gardens was the magnificent Dragon's Blood Tree (Dracaena draco) - one of the oldest specimens in Adelaide of the Canary Islands native. The racecourse gardens included a beer garden, which featured two weatherboard-look kiosks, of which one remains.

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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