The Lewis Cycle and Motor Works, Freeman Street / Gawler Place, Adelaide

This building figured prominently in the early days of the Lewis businesses, and was their most enduring presence.

It is notable among city buildings in that it changed both streets and numbers during its lifetime. Initially listed at Freeman Street, west side, it became 31 Freeman Street in 1903, then 31 Gawler Place when the street was renamed around 1904, before settling in at 111 Gawler Place under a new numbering system in 1910. Regardless of its street address, it was located on the west side of what is now Gawler Place, about 15 metres north of Pirie St and only 10 metres south of McHenry Street, where Lewis had an early workshop. The layout of the building and its relationship with the McHenry Street works is shown in an early block plan of Adelaide.

According to the Sands and McDougall Directory, the "Ormonde Cycle Co. (Lewis, Vivian, manager)" first occupied the building in 1893. In photograph 1 of the Lewis Album we see the building some twelve years later, by which time the facade was proudly signed Lewis Cycle Works, and U. Fauser, Tailor and Outfitter, occupied the rest the shop front under the veranda. It was around this time that Lewis split off their growing motor business to The Motor House on Victoria Square and concentrated their bicycle activities in this building. The photograph is taken looking north-west, and in the background McHenry Street can be seen going off to the left.

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The interior had a rather charming feel in 1905, with a style of wall paper more often associated with the Victorian front parlour than a cycle shop. We see a couple of motorcycles on the shop floor, even though the newly-built Motor House also featured a motorcycle showroom.

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Notice the strong overhead lighting on the motorcycle near the counter: although two storey, a light well between floors allowed light from the roof-top skylight to illuminate the ground floor showroom. The following picture appeared in the 1912 Lewis Cycles Catalogue. Externally the Lewis part of the building looks unchanged, but Mr. Fauser has contracted his business into a smaller shop front, and allowed room for Pritchard Brothers, Book Binders, Printers and Stationers, to move in next door. Interestingly, there is a Lewis motorcycle on display in the front window even though the motorcycle showroom was by now officially located at the Motor House on Gawler Place South. The "Established 1892" banner is of interest for its date: other sources suggest that 1893 might be more appropriate.

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The same catalogue gives us an insight into the development of the Lewis business and buildings:

For many years the cycle and motor departments were carried on conjointly, but with the great increase of business the Directors reserved the whole of their premises at 111 Gawler Place to the construction and sale of bicycles.

Later on the catalogue tells us about the building uses in 1912:

111 Gawler Place.

CYCLE SHOWROOMS     'Phone 1369

Inside a little redecoration has occurred, and some shuffling of the glass display cabinets, but the floor plan is unchanged:

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Building, Repairing and Enamelling of bicycles occurred in the two-level factory to the rear of the showroom: photographs 30 - 38 from the Lewis album show the factory part of the building.

Lewis maintained the cycle showroom and factory at 111 Gawler Place for more than 60 years. When Vivian Lewis Limited was formed in 1907, real estate was specifically excluded from the assets acquired by the new business: the building was owned by Vivian Lewis personally. When Lewis Cycle Works Limited began trading in 1924, they leased the building from the estate of Vivian Lewis for 550 per annum. It continued to be owned by the estate until it was sold in 1951, whereafter it was leased by Lewis Cycle Works until 1956.

The State Library holds the following photograph of the building  taken in 1956, the last year for Lewis at the site before their move to Gouger Street.

The site is currently occupied by an office tower.

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