Worthy of a ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ moment, the Margaret Graham Building staircase is certainly impressive.
The Margaret Graham Building was opened in 1911 and started its life as a Nurses Home, providing accommodation for all the nursing staff of the (Royal) Adelaide Hospital. Designed by Charles Owen Smyth and built by James Thomas Brown, the Nurses Home was considered “the best building of its class in South Australia, if not the Commonwealth”.
The ornate mahogany staircase with cast iron detailing, services all levels of the Margaret Graham 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 and in the middle of the ‘O’, a Maltese Cross, also known as the St John’s Cross, which was an organisation 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.
For seventy years, the Margaret Graham Building served as a residence for nurses, but once hospital staff were no longer required to live on site, the building was leased to the University of Adelaide for teaching purposes and on the expiry of the lease RAH designated the building for administrative offices. Now belonging to the Lot 14 precinct, the Margaret Graham Building has been altered significantly to house occupants from innovative technology, space and defence industries.
Written by Margot Way, CALHN Health Museum