Charles Moore's bold/ beautiful vision for Adelaide store gutted by 1948 fire; now law courts

Moore's on the Square store was officially opened around the grand central staircase in 1916 by the mayor of Adelaide, Isaac Isaacs. It became the Sir Samuel Way law courts building from 1983.
Image courtesy State Library of South Australia

Moore’s on the Square was the bold and beautiful gamble by Charles Moore who, in 1914, opened a department store in Victoria Square away from Adelaide’s main retail streets, Rundle and Hindley, at that time.

Moore had arrived in South Australia in 1881 and worked briefly for John Martin and Co. store before starting his own merchant and import business on Rundle Street in the 1890s.

Moore’s bold vision for a new store extended to wanting to match the palatial emporiums, such as Galleries Lafayette, that he visited while at the Paris Exhibition in 1878. Arthur Garlick and Herbert Jackman were architects for his Adelaide building and William Lucas came from England to fit the grand marble central staircase he’d designed. The store was officially opened in 1916 by the mayor of Adelaide, Isaac Isaacs.

Moore’s store traded successfully until 1948 when it was gutted by a spectacular fire that only some ground floor structures, the external shell and the staircase survived. The shop was rebuilt under the architects Garlick, Jackman and Gooden and business returned until a gradual decline in the 1970s.

In 1979, the building was sold to the state government’s South Australian Superannuation Fund Investment Trust. The building’s closeness to the supreme court and strong public sentiment for it to be preserved saw the former department store redeveloped into law courts for the state government.

It was remodelled in the early 1980s, with a tiled roof and dome added. Some original features were retained, including the grand staircase, as it became home to 26 courtrooms, library and administration from 1983, as the Sir Samuel Way Building, in honour of South Australia’s longest serving chief justice. It continues to be an important part of South Australia’s legal precinct in Victoria Square.

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