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The Adelaide City Baths, owned by the Corporation of the City of Adelaide, stood on King William Road in a prominent position beside Parliament House and opposite Government House. The first baths opened in 1861, and Turkish Baths were added a few years later. In 1883 the baths underwent major refurbishment, with a new two-storey Tarlee stone building fronting the street, designed by the city surveyor in a strange mixture of Jacobean and Italianate styles. At their opening, Mayor Edward Glandfield said he had been ‘told the building was in the Elizabethan style and added to the beauties of King William Street, but he did not altogether agree with that’. For 78 years the baths were operated by a family dynasty, leased from their inception by Thomas Bastard, and then from 1883 to 1939 by his son Charles. A second refurbishment in 1940 saw the baths fitted with an Olympic-sized pool and a high diving platform, while given a bland Modernist façade. The City Baths were an important social institution for over a century, particularly when the inner city supported a large residential population. Less used after the post-Second World War population shift to the suburbs and changed recreation patterns, the baths were demolished in 1969 to make way for the Adelaide Festival Centre. The Festival Plaza now occupies their site.

By Peter Bell

This is a revised version of an entry first published in The Wakefield companion to South Australian history edited by Wilfrid Prest, Kerrie Round and Carol Fort (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2001). Revised by the author. Uploaded 25 June 2014.

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Adelaide City Baths

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Image: A two-storey brick building with ornate facade is located at the corner of two dirt roads. A lamppost and tram tracks are visible in the foreground
Image: A two-storey building with plain façade at the intersection of two streets. 1940s-era auto-mobiles and pedestrians are on the street in front of the building
Image: A two-storey building with plain façade at the intersection of two streets. 1960s-era auto-mobiles are driving on the street in front of, and adjacent to, the building

Non-Swimming Events

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Image: A small sail boat on exhibit in an indoor pool
Image: A large, empty swimming pool in a vast open building with a roof. A wrestling ring is positioned within the empty pool
Image: A wrestler jumps on the back of his competitor while another man acting as referee looks on

Swimming

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Image: A crowd of men and women in late Victorian attire sit on benches around a large swimming pool
Image: A crowd of people in early twentieth century attire are gathered at the side of a large swimming pool
Image: A crowd of people in early twentieth century attire are gathered at the side of a large swimming pool
Image: A young woman in bathing attire sits on a diving board above a large swimming pool
Image: large number of children in and around swimming pool
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