The northern block: Freeman Street and McHenry Street

Courtesy of this marvellous map - or more correctly "block plan" - from the collection of the State Library of South Australia, we can get a glimpse of the layout of the Lewis operations as they were prior circa 1905. All Lewis activies were concentrated in this area from 1893 until 1905.

Block Plan c1905, State Library of South Australia

The two-storey Lewis Cycle Shop building (where Vivian Lewis started the Ormonde Bicycle Depot in 1893) fronted onto what was originally in Freeman Street, renamed Gawler Place by the time this plan was produced. Its facade is shown in photograph 01 of the Lewis album, while the narrow showroom, with its skylight and light well designated on the plan as "SWH" (Sky-light with Well-hole under), is beautifully illustrated in photograph 06. The floor above the showroom presumably housed offices, such as the one shown in photograph 29. Both floors of the large Workshop area to the rear of the showroom are shown in photographs 30 - 38.

Out the back lane and across McHenry Street we see the Lewis Cycle and Motor Works, built by Lewis in 1895. The original of the block plan is coloured, and the green coding used for this building signifies that it carried an iron roof. The annotations on the plan - created for fire insurance purposes - are fascinating. We find, for example the note "G.E. 5 h.p." which tells us that the gas engine used to drive the machinery (seen in the background of photograph 13) was rated at 5 horsepower. The number in the corner of each building gives the number of floors, so the dotted square in the south west corner of the building labelled with "2" denotes the mezzanine floor shown in the background of photographs 14. The forge in photograph 02  is labelled, and "E.F." (under the word "Works") denotes "Stone, brick, concrete or earth floor". As it turns out, we know from a period description that the floor was asphalt.

The wavy lines for the north and south walls of the building indicate that they were corrugated iron. We have seen that this is the case for the northern wall, for example in photograph 15. Interestingly, this photograph shows a door in this wall not shown in the plan. By contrast, the plan shows a door and a widow in the brick wall that separates the Lewis Cycle Works from the offices next door (the Alma Chambers, unrelated to Lewis). These indeed existed - the doorway closed off with corrugated iron - and can be seen in photograph 11.

The McHenry Street facade of the Lewis Cycle and Motor Works must have been unglamorous in its corrugated iron; possibly even a little embarrassing. When in 1900 the Lewis car was wheeled from the works, and the entire Lewis workforce assembled around it for a famous photograph, the backdrop chosen was not the Lewis Works, but the brick facade of the Dittmar stables next door. If you look to the left side of the photograph there is just a glimpse of the Lewis works. The things we do for status...

The southern block | Location index

Copyright Leon Mitchell 2008

The Lewis Project Home | Leon's Vintage Motorcycle Page