Changing of the guard at Adelaide Railway Station
With its large glass panels, stone-polished surfaces, tasteful use of gold and warmly-lit, intimate leather booths, The Guardsman reminds us of a time when Adelaideans were swinging to jazz, doing the foxtrot, and heading out to hear the Wurlitzer at the Regent Theatre.
Lovingly restored in the opulent vision of the original 1928 dining hall, which has been vacant for more than a decade and all but lost from public memory, The Guardsman celebrates everything that was optimistic and vibrant in South Australia during the 1920s and 1930s.
“The Guardsman aligns perfectly with Renewal SA’s broader plans to revitalise the Adelaide Railway Station and turn it into a place where people want to meet and spend more time,” says Matt Hunt, Director of City Projects at Renewal SA.
“It will make a major contribution towards transforming the station into a vibrant, uplifted space that offers an increased number of shopping and dining experiences in a refreshed, historic setting.”
The $6 million restoration project delivered by SKYCITY Adelaide (owners of Adelaide Casino) has been three years in the making. The sprawling 900-square-metre space includes an open kitchen, grand central bar, internal dining area, separate wine room and on-concourse dining.
It also features a concourse-facing coffee window that sells a range of pastries, baked goods and breakfast items.
The original jarrah floorboards and heritage ceiling and lighting have been restored and local craftspeople and heritage architects have been brought in to make sure that all the details—from the reverse-painted glass panels to the timber panelling and brass detailing—are true to the era.
“Our aim was to bring this space back to the original look and feel of the former dining hall and bring it back to life, where South Australians could once again visit and enjoy a contemporary dining and bar experience,” says Greg Stirling, General Manager Marketing, SKYCITY Adelaide.
“The original heritage features have been seamlessly merged with new fixtures so you simply can’t tell the difference between what is old and new, which was our ultimate aim.
“The Guardsman looks like it has always been here, which is the best possible outcome for the Adelaide Railway Station and its ongoing revival, which seeks to honour the history of the precinct while introducing fresh, new businesses,” Greg says.
Grand but not pretentious, The Guardsman offers an immersive experience that allows patrons to ‘step back in time’ to a more lavish era and celebrate South Australia’s amazing produce, beer, wine and spirits.
“The Guardsman really is a place where we celebrate our heritage and share stories with friends and families,” says Greg.
The Guardsman is one of several new tenants that will be introduced to the station over the next few years, as part of Renewal SA’s vision to transform Adelaide Railway Station and bring a feeling of connectedness back to a much-treasured but under-utilised public space.
“Our aim is to offer an enhanced visitor experience so that the station can fulfil its true potential as a significant economic and social asset for our city,” Matt Hunt says.
The revitalisation project will be undertaken in stages and will include the restoration of heritage facades, a remodelling of the station ramp, new architectural lighting, the expansion of retail outlets and a new northern entry incorporating a major public artwork.
What was the Overland Dining Hall?
The Overland Dining Hall at the Adelaide Railway Station opened in 1928 and was intended to be meeting place for travellers to stop, refresh and enjoy a meal. It was named after The Overland train that brought travellers overnight from Melbourne to Adelaide.
At the time it was trumpeted it as being the ‘finest dining hall in Australia’, with a menu of ‘comprehensive character’, accommodating 200 diners and featuring floorboards suitable for dancing, Manchurian oak panelling, and three private dining rooms off the central dining area.
It was particularly celebrated for its mechanical kitchen reminiscent of the Savoy, which featured progressive labour-saving appliances, such as an electric potato-peeling machine and a dishwasher that could wash and dry 3,000 pieces of crockery and cutlery per hour.
Life in Adelaide during the 1920s-1930s
For Adelaideans during the 1920s, life was high-spirited and hopeful. Families took their horses and buggies down to the beach, dance halls were open almost every single night, including the floating ballroom on the River Torrens, and children lined up for rides on Lillian the elephant at the Adelaide Zoo. The streets were full of an increasing number of automobiles alongside bicycles and horse-drawn vehicles.
Even when the Depression hit in the 1930s, much of the community endeavoured to ‘keep up appearances’, buoyed by the cricketing triumphs of Don Bradman, the extraordinary feats of Phar Lap and the very first John Martin’s Christmas pageant.