Our Boys Institute – façade only


The former Our Boys Institute building is of heritage significance because of its association with the Our Boys Institute movement. Modelled on and supported by the Adelaide Branch of the YMCA the OBI fostered the physical and mental health of 13 to 18 year old boys and was a forerunner of the various youth groups which flourished in the first half of the twentieth century. Constructed for the OBI in 1897 the building housed various lecture and games rooms a library and reading room a large gymnasium indoor running track and swimming baths at the rear. Built at a total cost of over 4000 pounds all raised by public subscription and staffed by volunteer instructors and officials the OBI Building illustrates the commitment of a group of prominent South Australian businessmen to the physical moral and spiritual development of boys and young men.

As well as offering self-improvement classes and a variety of sporting activities the Institute also ran an annual camp for its members and assisted them to find employment. The OBI occupied the building until 1961 when it amalgamated with the Youth Clubs Association of South Australia to become the South Australian Sports Club (OBI) Incorporated based at Woodville. Designed by F W Dancker in the Venetian Gothic style of which there are few other examples in Adelaide the building exhibits a high quality of design and its elaborately detailed three-storey sandstone facade is of particular note. The remainder of the building which has been substantially altered is not included in the State Heritage listing.

Current status and listings

ACH Status:
Heritage Protection:
NTSA Listed, State Heritage Listed
State Heritage ID:

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6 thoughts on “Our Boys Institute – façade only

  1. My brother & I attended the OBI starting in 1948 as 8 year olds for two years and thoroughly enjoyed the activities of gymnastics and running relay events.
    This gave us both a great physical start to our early years.
    Are there any photos of the interior of the building showing the running track and ship type ladders, which spanned across the rood rafters?
    I would love to acquire some if available.
    I thank you in anticipation.
    Mal R. Phillips

    • Hi Mal, we can’t find any images of indoor activities (there are some of the Institute’s roller skating rink), but there are a few images of outdoor activities in the State Library of South Australia’s collection, some of which can be viewed online here: http://bit.ly/2jOzWJJ

  2. In 1939 my late mother Pearl (nee Hastwell) met the man (who would later become her husband and my father) on a wet Anzac Day at OBI at the roller rink. Mum mentioned that there was a “downstairs” rink for beginners … is this correct? I have seen a photo of them dressed as clowns Pierrot and Pirouette in a fancy dress competition, but whether it first appeared in a newspaper, I do not know.

    • We’ll have to do some digging on that one, newspaper records of the time don’t seem to mention a beginners rink. We’d love to see the clown photo if you can still find it?

  3. My father james Palmer 91907-1998 spoke of swimming at lunch time when he was a student across the road at Christian Brothers College. It was forbidden to the boys and one of the Brothers would come across and catch them swimming and they would be sent back hastily to school. The give-away they eventually realised was wet hair after lunch!

    • What a great story! Perhaps swimming caps were needed to successfully hoodwink the teachers? Thanks Wendy.