This stately building in North Adelaide was built in 1882 as a college. For the last 90 years it has been owned by the Lutheran Church and used as an educational institution. But for how much longer will this role remain?
The block on the north-east corner of Jeffcott and Ward Streets in North Adelaide was the site of the North Adelaide Grammar School, established by John Whinham in 1854. When his son Robert took over the school, he built a large two-storey boarding house to cater for the growing enrolments. This imposing clock-tower building was opened in September 1882, together with a gymnasium-lecture hall, and the school was renamed Whinham College.
However, after Robert Whinham’s tragic death in 1884, the school declined and eventually closed in 1898. The new owner, John Howard Angas, set up an interdenominational missionary training school there and renamed it Angas College. After World War I it closed for lack of students.
It was at this time that a major step towards the unity of the Lutheran churches in Australia was taking place. In March 1921 at a meeting at Ebenezer, SA, five Lutheran synods (or churches) agreed to form the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Australia (UELCA). One of the additional decisions, made after a long and spirited debate, was to seek to purchase Angas College for the future training of Lutheran pastors in Australia. At the same time Immanuel College, which had become too large for its Point Pass location, would also move there.
First, the money had to be raised. An appeal for £15,000 was launched, and the new English-language church paper, Lutheran Herald, listed the donations from eager church members. But despite the enthusiastic response, only £10,000 came in. Disappointed, the Seminary Committee appealed again, and in 1922 three Victorians offered to lend the required amount. In July 1922 the UELCA became the new owner of Angas College.
Over the next seven months the buildings were renovated by a team of busy volunteers and tradesmen. The main building was to be used as boarding quarters, classrooms, dining room and staff residences.
So in February 1923 Immanuel College and Seminary took up residence in North Adelaide. There was much excitement among the 27 students, of whom eight were seminarians, as they moved to the city. Pastor J P Löhe (Loehe) was the director and he, together with Pastor W Riedel, taught the seminary students. The college teachers were G A Keller, A Doecke and A E Leidig. As the years passed, enrolments rose to reach 72 in 1929. The move to the city had proved to be successful.
During 1927 major alterations and additions were made to the north wing to accommodate the increased number of girl boarders. Then in 1930 the girls moved out to a nearby Jeffcott Street residence, which became the girls’ hostel.
World War II brought the next change. The Lutheran presence in North Adelaide came under close scrutiny from military intelligence. Reports were received of flashing lights coming from the tower at night. Were signals being sent to German ships at sea? Investigations revealed that it was only a lamp carried by Director Löhe during the night as he went to the bathroom and toilet, which were situated in the tower.
Early in 1941 the RAAF inspected the building with a view to requisitioning it for Air Force use. Nothing more was heard for over a year. Suddenly, in March 1942 the Air Force gave the college ten days to evacuate the buildings. The college hastily found a new site in the suburb of Walkerville, while the seminary used the girls’ hostel building.
At the end of the war the church decided that the college would stay at Walkerville until a new and larger site was found. The North Adelaide site would become Immanuel Seminary, and also provide accommodation for Lutheran university students. The gymnasium/lecture hall was used as the chapel until 1960, when it was converted into the library (known as the Löhe Memorial Library), which it still remains.
When Lutheran union occurred in 1966, the LCA decided that the two former seminaries be united at the North Adelaide site, taking the name of Luther Seminary. A thanksgiving appeal expressing gratitude for union was well supported, and a new boarding house (Graebner Hall) and refectory were built.
When Lutheran Teachers College and Lay Training Centre moved onto the seminary site in 1990, the name ‘Luther Campus’ was adopted. The main building was named Hebart Hall and received extensive renovations over the following years. Student apartment buildings and a student centre were also built. In 2003 the present name ‘Australian Lutheran College’ was adopted.
In April this year the LCA Convention agreed to endorse the North Adelaide Redevelopment concept. If the project goes ahead, it will involve great changes to most of the buildings on this site. However, the future use of stately Hebart Hall, purchased by the church 90 years ago, remains undecided. What will become of it?
Lyall Kupke is LCA Archivist.