Historic Buildings Footpath Plaques

In mid 2020 we commenced a trial project that involved selecting a number of historic buildings in our area and creating plaques that were to be placed on the footpath in front of each of the selected buildings – five located at Berri and five located at Barmera.  The plaques show a picture of the building in its heyday and also a QR code that allows interested community members and visitors to link to more information and photographs about the building.  Little did we know when we started this project that COVID-19 would come along and slow things down but we are pleased that it has now come to fruition.

Find out more about the ten buildings selected for the QR code footpath plaque trial below:-

Britannia Picture Hall

The Britannia Hall was built by Mr H.B. Martin after the Blue Hall blew down in 1915. The Blue Hall was on the opposite corner across Denny Street and was known by that name due to the walls of the building being wallpapered in ‘Ricket’s Blue’ labels. The hall was used for meetings, dances and picture shows. After a late finish of the pictures, a small shop would remain open and the Martin family sold bakery items to the patrons. Mr Martin’s daughters also carried out a hairdressing salon from the site.
In about 1918, the Army and Navy Stores purchased Mr Martin’s various business concerns, including the hall. They traded as “General Providers” for many years. Part of the building was also used for meetings by the R.S.L. which later erected clubrooms at the river end of Vaughan Terrace, using huts from the Loveday Internment Camp.
In later years Mr G.V. Eitzen established a bakery on the site and it later became Eitzen’s Shoe store. The basic structure of the Hall still remains but without the balcony it is barely recognisable.

Britannia Hall in Berri

RSL moving day from Britannia Hall to new club rooms on Vaughan Terrace on the riverfront. Exact date unknown but circa 1940’s

Britannia Hall

Britannia Hall on the corner of Vaughan Terrace and Denny Street. Photograph most likely taken in the 1920’s

Britannia Hall

A very early photo showing Britannia Hall in Berri, from the bottom of Vaughan Tce

Britannia Hall in the late 1970’s. Th balcony has been removed and replaced with signage for Mr Peter Eitzen’s shoe store

Rivoli Theatre

This large hall and theatre was built by Mr Jack Harrington for Mr Joe Najar in 1922. A small projection box was reached by an outside stairway and films were shown by Mr O.E. B. Kunoth. In the heat of summer the pictures were shown out of doors.

Later Mr Kunoth built the dress circle, ante-rooms and imposing marble steps at the front of the theatre. This was the entertainment centre for the district.
Official balls, concerts, meetings, fetes, table-tennis, boxing matches and many other events have all taken place in the Rivoli.

Rivoli Theatre in Berri

Rivoli Theatre on Wilson Street as it appeared in the mid 1970’s

When the new District Council Offices and Public Library were built in front of the theatre in 1979, many people were left with nostalgic memories of happy crowds ascending and descending the marble steps on social occasions.

Rivoli Theatre in Berri

A colour photograph of the Rivoli Theatre, taken before the addition of the Council Offices, begun in 1978. The two lamp posts in front of the steps were removed to the entrance of the Berri Bowling Club in 1979 and after the club was relocated to Glassey Park recreational grounds, the lights were installed in the riverfront gardens.

A crowd of people on the front steps of the Rivoli Theatre. Thought to be taken during South Australia’s 1936 Centenary celebrations when the entire town’s buildings were decorated to celebrate the occasion.

Rivoli Theatre with the front facade removed prior to the construction of the Council offices which were opened in June 1979

Rowe’s Newsagency

This building on the corner of William and Wilson Streets looks very different today compared to how it did in it’s early years. What became commonly known as ‘Rowe’s Corner’ was quite an attractive building, the first two storey building built in Berri. It had balconies and lacework around two sides and was built in 1936 by by Mr Andary for H.F.Rowe to be a Newsagency and Store.

This new shop replaced Rowe’s previous Billiard Hall and Newsagency in Denny Street, a business and building Mr Rowe had purchased the from Syd Gilbert. The business began life as a store and newsagency about 1923 on the riverfront and then then moved to a new shop in Denny Street on the block at the bottom of William Street. In 1936 Mr Rowe sold the premises to H.S. Coombe who had his large Supply Store adjacent and Rowes moved into their newly built building at the top of William Street.

Rowe’s newsagency became one of the busiest shops in Berri, a general store, newsagency, tobacconist, early post office, ticket office for travel to Adelaide by train from Morgan then bus stop and general gathering place. In 1936 it was one of the many shops around the town beautifully decorated for South Australia’s Centenary celebrations.

Mr and Mrs Rowe also built the Belmont Guest Home in Denny Street in 1920 to cater for the floating population of the district. Parts of the building remain today behind the Uniting Church Hall. There were many Government work gangs in the area at this time, they needed accommodation and a number of guest houses opened to cater for that need.

In 1957 Herb and Rene Knight purchased the building along with the business of the newsagency and store. After a few years they relocated across the street to the opposite corner and ran it as just a newsagency for many years. The building has in more recent years been a lighting shop and Chinese restaurant.

Rowe’s Newsagency on the corner of William and Wilson Streets, pictured around 1937


A colour photograph of Knight’s Newsagency. Mr Knight purchased the Newsagency from Mr Rowe in 1957

Rowes Newsagency in Berri

The building looked very different in the 1980’s compared to it’s beginnings

Berri Irrigation Office

The first Berri Irrigation Office was built about 1917 and occupied as an irrigation office until 1937. As the South Australian Government became aware of the potential of the Ber-Beri Bend area, the post of “Officer-in-Charge of Irrigation and Reclamation Works in South Australia” was created in 1910 for Mr Samuel McIntosh. This was his early office. It is one of the few original Berri township buildings still standing and in use as offices for Destination Riverland. Over the years it has been the offices of Riverland Cultural Trust and an art gallery.

Berri Irrigation Office

Berri Irrigation Office on Wilson St, circa 1919

National Bank

The first bank in Berri was the National Bank which opened premises on Vaughan Terrace on 27th September 1918 with Mr Cyril Tamblyn as manager. The original wood and iron structure was replaced by the stone building in the early 1920’s. After the National Bank closed it’s doors, the new owners have given the building the name ‘Tamblyn House’.

National Bank building, Berri

National Bank building on Vaughan Tce, Berri, circa 1970’s

National Bank building, Berri

The National Bank on Vaughan Terrace, Berri. Photograph most likely taken in the 1980’s

Barmera Memorial Hall

With Barmera a growing township it was decided that a hall was needed to be built to accommodate community meetings and gatherings and that hall would be a memorial to comrades killed in the recent war. A block of land was obtained on Barwell Avenue with the RSL sub-branch leading the way with a committee for fundraising. The foundation stone was laid on 6th July, 1929 and the Soldiers’ Memorial Hall was opened later that same year. The building was of freestone with a classical front. The Council and various community groups used the smaller rooms in the building and the main hall was used for picture shows, meetings and dances. When the Bonney Theatre was built next door, the façade of the hall was plastered over to match with the theatre adjacent in an art deco style.

Barmera Soldiers Memorial Hall

Barmera Soldiers Memorial Hall, prior to the construction of the Bonney Theatre – photograph most likely taken in the early 1930’s

Barmera Soldiers Memorial Hall

Barmera Soldiers Memorial Hall, with the memorial horse trough in the foreground. The trough was built as a memorial to the Australian War horses in the 1914-18 war, the project initiated by the R.S.L. Reputed to be the only such memorial in Australia and in its original form it served as a much sought after drinking trough for the many ‘blockers’ horses on their trips to the town drawing the family one horse dray.

Bonney Theatre

The Soldiers Memorial Hall proved a popular social venue, but by the 1930’s its capacity was somewhat overtaxed. With visions of large extensions, the District Council took over the hall from the R.S.L. Hall Committee and made plans for the remodelling of the front of the building (Hawdon Chambers) and the construction of a new larger hall on the adjoining block, to be known as The Bonney Theatre, with a seating capacity of 850.
To finance the project, the Council borrowed £1500 (pounds) and W.M. (Bill) Lucas who had designed the Hotel six years earlier, was engaged as architect. The contract was let to R.L. (Ron) Gambling, a local builder, for £8,340 (pounds). The Foundation Stone was laid by the Hon Tom Playford, Minister of Crown Lands and Irrigation on 25th July, 1938, (with building operations well under way) and the Theatre was opened on December 10th 1938.

Bonney Theatre, Barwell Ave, Barmera

Ron Gambling’s work gang outside the Bonney Theatre during construction in 1938

Opening day of the Bonney Theatre, December 10th 1938

Bonney Theatre, Barmera on opening day in 1938

Another photograph of the Bonney Theatre taken on opening day December 10th 1938, showing cars on Barwell Avenue with the theatre adorned with flags for the opening

Barmera Hotel

The Barmera settlement was barred from holding a liquor licence in the beginning by The Irrigation Act of 1922 but with the nearest hotel at Berri over nine miles of rough roads, the need to establish a hotel at Barmera was apparent.
An architect involved with the early Soldiers Settlement Department, W (Bill) Lucas was prevailed upon, and the plans and specifications were drawn up. The submission was accepted, and the licence was finally granted on May 5th, 1930. A lack of finance delayed building operations, but in early 1932, H. Pike and Co, of the Oakbank Brewery, came to the rescue with a loan of £15,000 (pounds).
The original proposed site for the Hotel was on the lake front (approximately present site of the caravan park) but the specific licence to the committee chairman U.B. Anderson) showed the site moved to the present one on Barwell Avenue. ‘The Barmera Hotel Association’ was formed in June 1932, and H.S. Jarvis awarded the building contract on August 5th for a single storey hotel of 21 rooms. The Hotel was incorporated on November 30th, 1932, W.E. Dobson appointed manager and trading commenced on December 3rd. The official opening took place on December 10th, 1932. The popularity of the Hotel in its early years was such that the building was extended to two storeys to provide 52 rooms, catering for 84 guests. The new extensions were opened on December 4th, 1936.
For the first 30-40 years of operation, trading was very profitable, with thousands of pounds (later dollars) being distributed, through the Community Centre, to local charities and sporting bodies. The Hotel also maintained the gardens in the Barwell Avenue median strip. The proliferation of Licensed Clubs in the area in the 1970’s, made it difficult for the Hotel to compete, and profits gradually declined. Despite the efforts of a succession of Boards, including the building of a two storey motel unit, financial difficulties continued, and the Hotel was sold to private interests in October 1992.

Barmera Hotel

Barmera Hotel as it looked originally as a single storey building between 1932 and 1936

Barmera Hotel

Barmera Hotel, showing the addition of the second storey, added in 1936

Barmera Hotel

Vintage trucks parked in front of Barmera Hotel, circa 1940’s

Barmera Hotel

Crowd on the balcony of the Barmera Hotel, thought to be the opening of the second storey December 4, 1936.

Barmera Hotel

Barmera Hotel front entrance facing Barwell Avenue, circa 1936

Barmera Hotel

Colour photograph of the Barmera Hotel gardens showing Lake Bonney in the background. This is a copy of a tourist postcard from about the 1950’s

Barmera Hotel welcome card

Barmera Hotel welcome card

Barmera Hotel welcome card

Barmera Hotel welcome card

Barmera Hotel

Photograph showing the Barmera Hotel dining room, about 1936

Barmera Hotel ale card

Barmera Hotel ale card

Barmera Irrigation Office

H. L. (Harry) Porter, a Nookamka fruit grower and professional builder, was involved in the construction of many buildings in both the town and settlement areas including the brick and concrete structure of the imposing Irrigation Offices. The building was opened in November 1932 as the Department of Lands (Irrigation Branch). It has been well maintained over the years and serves the district well as the offices of Central Irrigation Trust.

Barmera Irrigation Office

Barmera Irrigation Office, circa 1930’s

Barmera Irrigation Office

Barmera Irrigation Office, date unknown

Barmera Bakery and First Barmera Shop

When Barmera was just a town-to-be, it’s first shop was a weatherboard building on Lot 55 near the corner of Laffer Street and Barwell Avenue. It was opened by William Struthers, a returned soldier on December 1919. Struthers did well in the booming construction months and erected a second shop adjoining the first and added a post office cube. It was known as ‘The Lake Bonney Store’.

The Army and Navy Stores Ltd. purchased the store in 1922. The building still stands on the site today behind the corner newsagency building with frontage to Laffer Street. Until the late 1970’s the verandah was still a board footpath.

The new Barmera Bakery opened to the Barmera community on Friday August 23, 1935. The proprietor Mr. W. O. Garrard, had been a popular resident of Barmera since its inception, and took pride in the share he had in its development. With the Survey Department on Lake Bonney in 1919 “before Barmera was thought of”, Mr. Garrard helped survey the town site, and then decided to make his home there. He opened Barmera Bakery in partnership with Messrs. Bert Whitmore and Andy Collins at the end of 1921, on the eastern side of Barwell Avenue. He eventually bought the other two gentlemen out, Mr Whitmore going into the butchering business.

By the end of the first year the business had been extended to take in various other lines besides bread, and later further expanded to include practically everything in groceries, hardware and sporting goods. From its humble beginnings, developing first on the eastern side of the avenue , the business steadily grew eventually taking over the old Army and Navy premises on the other side of the avenue when the Army and Navy store closed in 1924. A new building was added to the Army and Navy shop and the new premises, very modern in every respect, occupied a commanding corner position in the town. It was built by Messrs. R. D.Rumbold and Son, with Mr. E. J. House as mason, both of Barmera.

The spacious interior was later further renovated to take in Mr Najar’s shop. Eventually the new building ran right through to the old reconstructed Army and Navy Stores and was equipped to give good service with jarra floor, show cases, refrigerator and a roomy cellar beneath. The business employed fourteen staff when it reopened in the new premises in 1935. Mr Garrard continued to operate the business until his death in 1957.

Most of the early business premises in Barmera were flimsy wood and iron structures, sometimes white-washed hessian, and it was only when Ron Gambling began building brick and concrete shops in the 1930’s that Barwell Avenue took on a civilized appearance.

A early photo of the Barmera Bakery, showing Barmera’s first shop to the right. Photograph probably taken mid 1920’s

Barmera's first shop

Barmera’s first shop, located alongside the Barmera Bakery on Laffer Street

Barmera Bakery

Barmera Bakery during the 1936 SA Centenary celebrations. This shop is now the newsagency