Jubilee Exhibition Building

Until 1962, the Jubilee Exhibition Building stood on North Terrace, one of many stunning buildings that create a boulevard of Victorian-era architecture in this precinct that includes the Museum, Art Gallery and Adelaide University.

To celebrate the jubilee of Queen Victoria’s coronation, the building was opened on 20 June 1887 having taken about two years to build. The jubilee of the proclamation of the colony of South Australia (28 December 1836) was also recognised in the celebrations.

The Exhibition Building was designed by architects Withall and Wells, and the builder was W Rogers. To enable building materials to move freely from the railway station, a railway line was built especially to the site, passing under King William Street and running between the Parade Grounds and Government House.

The building was truly magnificent featuring a large dome and several fountains. A huge variety of exhibits were offered and in 1887, nearly 800,000 people visited the building to see 2,200 exhibits from 26 countries. After the jubilee celebrations were finished, the building was used for many events. Night shows became popular after electricity was connected to the building in 1900. Dame Nelly Melba performed there.

Later, between 1895 and 1925, the Royal Agricultural Show was held in the building until being moved to the new showgrounds at Wayville. The land was transferred to the University of Adelaide in 1934 after which time it eventually fell into disrepair. It was demolished in 1962 and replaced with the Napier Building which still remains.

One of the fountains from the Exhibition Building was later restored and is now at the Rundle Mall entrance to Adelaide Arcade. Another fountain is in Creswell Gardens near Adelaide Oval. At the rear of the Napier Building there is an imposing section of the external staircase and wall that was part of the Exhibition Building. This small relic gives an idea of the size of this long gone building which is loss to South Australia and its architectural heritage.


Historic photos from State Library of South Australia collection