A Grand Staircase

Worthy of a ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ moment, the Margaret Graham Building staircase is certainly impressive. 

The Margaret Graham Building opened in 1911 and started its life as a Nurses Home, providing accommodation for all the nursing staff of the (Royal) Adelaide Hospital.  Charles Owen Smyth, South Australian Superintendent of Public Buildings, designed the Nurse Home and James Thomas Brown constructed it. The Nurses Home was considered:

the best building of its class in South Australia, if not the Commonwealth. 

The Advertiser, 17 June 1911
Margaret Graham Building 2017

The ornate mahogany staircase has cast iron detailing, with carpet added later. The staircase services all levels of the building, from the basement to the top floor.  Although there was a very small lift, installed as an afterthought several years after the building opened, the staircase would have been the only means to get large items between floors.

The fret work on the staircase spells out SOS. In the middle of the ‘O’, is a Maltese Cross or St John’s Cross. This organisation was established during the Crusades to provide care for pilgrims in the Holy Land.  The Adelaide Hospital nurses who had completed their training could purchase a hospital badge, which had on the base a small red enamel Maltese Cross, the same shape as the one that appears on the Nurses Home staircase.  

Staircase ‘SOS’ fret work, Margaret Graham Building 1911

For over seventy years, the Margaret Graham Building served as a residence for nurses. When hospital staff no longer needed to live on site, the building was leased to the University of Adelaide. On the expiry of the lease, RAH designated the building for administrative offices.  Now part of the Lot 14 precinct, the Margaret Graham Building has been altered significantly to house occupants from innovative technology, space and defence industries.

Lot 14 – Margaret Graham Building – A Grand Staircase – Schiavello Group

Written by Margot Way, CALHN Health Museum