History Beneath the Streets

People are curious creatures. The thought of dark hidden tunnels and secret passageways underground fuels an adventurous spirit. There is on such building in the Adelaide central business district which can fulfil your adventurous curiosity. The Old Treasury building is oldest colonial and most historically significant building in the city with a mysterious tunnel system beneath.

Located on the corner of King William and Flinders Streets, this historic building was constructed in 1839 from the designs of George Strickland Kingston. It was home to the first South Australian Parliament in 1874 which continued until 1968. During that time the Old Treasury building held many historically significant events including the landmark decision which gave women voting rights. South Australia was also the first in Australia to give women to power to vote.Today, the Old Treasury building is home to a four star hotel, the Adina Apartment Hotel. However, the National History Trust of South Australia continues to run tours of the building and tunnels beneath.

The tour starts with a look at the most significant rooms of the building before you descend beneath the streets. All rooms visited have been converted into guest rooms or meeting rooms so you must be quiet while passing along the corridors.The first room you are taken to is Apartment 19 on the ground floor. This was once the offical waiting room for the Governor before he was called before Cabinet. The Cabinet rooms are on the first floor which have been restored to their old Colonial days charm.

From the late sixties the South Australian Land Titles Office took up residence in the building but first known as the Office of Sir Robert Torrens. He introduced the first secure land title system (the Torrens Title system) to track owners legally, before if you brought land there was no way to know if the land you were buying was from the legal owner. On your tour, you will pass by the fireproof Registry Room where all the the land registry documents were stored.

As you pass through the hallways, take notice of the photos and paintings along the walls. Each tells a story about early life in Adelaide as well as providing a glimpse of how some famous landmarks looked before the city was built around them.

Your descent to the basement will take you passed the heated indoor pool and conference rooms to reach the tunnel entrance. As a guest, you can visit the tunnels throughout the day. These tunnels are also open during the Fringe Festival for performances, for art exhibitions and even group functions.Walk through the entry tunnel which may seem like it goes on forever over red brick and rocky ground. This tunnel was used as a storage tunnel for the clerks of the Parliament and Land Titles Office to wheel files and documents through for storage. These tunnels were originally vaults used during the gold rush days to store coal and gold bullion brought in from the Victorian gold mines in the 1850s.

However, now the tunnel opens up into a small alcove which contains the original furnace. The furnace was used to mint gold coins during a currency shortage in South Australia. The coin was known s the Adelaide Pound the size of a 10 cent coin, but there were only 24,000 made.These tunnels originally ran the length of King William Street up to the Governor’s house on North Terrace and even as far as the city’s only railway station. However, the tunnels stop at the road because of the heavy traffic passing overhead.

There was also a second tunnel that ran south towards Wakefield Street under the Torrens Building, which also housed the State’s Lands Titles Office surveying branch. However, the tunnel has since been sealed for safety reasons. It was within the Torrens Building during the 1960s the mapping branch developed the first innovative map technology; a photo lithographic technique now used across the world.

A visit to the Old Treasury Building and its secret tunnels is not only a a journey through time, but it gives you an opportunity to learn more about South Australia’s history, its scandals and historical decisions which defined the State for future growth.

One Reply to “History Beneath the Streets”

  1. My sister in law gives tours of the catacombs in Paris, and she has a graphic that shows the depth of things under the street level that just astounded me–and opened my eyes to how much of a city is below view! Cool post–and a good idea to look for other underground tours in places we visit!

    Liked by 1 person

Please share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s