Government House is not only one of the oldest remaining colonial public buildings in Adelaide but it also the oldest Government House in Australia. The eastern Regency Wing was constructed in 1839–40. Government House is the home and headquarters of the governor, the representative of the Queen of Australia. The governor once presided over the government of the colony of South Australia. Meetings of the Legislative Council were held in the governor’s sitting room. The granting of responsible government in 1856 reduced the role of the governor to a largely ceremonial one.
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The first governor’s residence was constructed by marines from the Buffalo on a site between the present railway station and the River Torrens. ‘Government Hut’ was built of timber slabs, wattle and daub, with a thatched roof, calico ceiling and external stone chimneys. Governor Hindmarsh described it in May 1837: ‘I have but one end of my mud hut finished and all my family lay on the floor in one room while two smaller ones serve for Mrs H., myself and a female servant’. Lieutenant-Colonel George Gawler succeeded Captain John Hindmarsh in 1838. Gawler complained bitterly that only half of his family could fit into the hut; the rest being accommodated in tents. Moreover, the hut had only one fireplace and no kitchen, storeroom, servant’s room or outbuilding. Gawler wanted the structure replaced with a much higher standard of accommodation.
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The earliest part of the House to be built was the east wing of the present building. It was completed and occupied in May 1840. Government House is thus probably the second oldest continuously occupied house in the State, after a small cottage in Pennington Terrace, North Adelaide, which was first occupied in mid-1839. When completed, Government House consisted of the present main Drawing Room, Morning Room, Hindmarsh Dining Room, and upstairs there were three bedrooms, a dressing room and two small servants’ rooms. The location of the kitchens and ancillary rooms was in a separate but adjacent building following the custom of the time. These were built on an east-west axis approximately 9 metres to the north of the house. In 1846 there were other additions to the north of this block.
Government House, South Australia