Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Back in Adelaide, but with a different lens

I'm writing this from the State Library of South Australia, having returned to Adelaide for a day's work (I lived and studied here two decades ago). This morning I got off the airport shuttle bus in the city and started walking.

As far as ghost signs go, there seems to be precious little here. Adelaide's always been a tidy state capital. It's ordered and somewhat controlled, including its public spaces. It was never a colony with convicts, more a new home for a different kind of immigrant, including disgraced members of the British upper crust looking for a new start and restless adventurers with fortunes to make. These people began the Adelaide 'squattocracy': the families who made their fortunes on the cattle stations and grain farms, and who still inhabit the leather armchairs of the Adelaide Club.

Adelaide was never subject to Melbourne's commercial bustle and jostling for attention, with its 19th century gold money, manufacturing pulse,and waves of boom-bust speculation. And so there's not as much to find here, ghost sign wise. But what is here -and something I never paid any attention to when I lived here - was a lot of gorgeous small but grand 1920s and deco buildings in the city's heart (many of which, surprisingly, seem to be empty or underutilised). So it was a great pleasure this morning to amble through my former city with a new perspective, and discovering things I had never known existed. Here's what I've found so far (ghost signs first):

just a tiny a laneway above public toilets

another hint...
...rewarded when explored, just behind the Adelaide Club

Not a ghost sign, but original
Waiting room in the Elders building, with details of the Elders pastoral history on display

A great wooden rococo-esque entrance, in a building that is now (and wonderfully) the Migrant Resource Centre

...and with a disused hall behind.

And here, on the wall of the State Library: a couple of ghost signs before they were ghost signs:

They already had big car workshops in 1906

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