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Architect Personal DetailsArchitectural works in South Australia
Firms or Professional PartnershipsBibliographic Sources

Architect Personal Details

Surname

McMichael

First name

Eric Habershon

Gender

Male

Born

13/06/1884

Died

21/03/1945

Biography

McMichael’s work helped to define the character of the city of Adelaide through his designs for many of its early tall buildings.

Eric Habershon McMichael was born at Georgetown in mid north South Australia on 13 June 1884. His parents were bank manager, Clunie McMichael, originally from England, and Fanny Hermione Amelia (nee Brice) of South Australia. McMichael was educated at Georgetown and then at Prince Alfred College. On completing his schooling McMichael worked in Western Australia at the Princess Royal mine at Norseman in the assay department. On his return to South Australia he was articled to Garlick and Jackman to begin his architectural training.

When McMichael had completed his articles he worked in the Architect-in-Chief’s Department for a time as a draughtsman. He married Constance Mary Verco, the daughter of Richard Verco, on 2 October 1909, and together they had two sons and a daughter. They lived at ‘Llandovery’, Robe Terrace, Medindie and also at ‘Craig-ard’ at Crafers in the Adelaide Hills (Who’s Who 1936). McMichael was involved in many clubs including: the University Club, Stock Exchange, Amateur Turf Club, South Australian Jockey Club, ARC Society and as a Mason at the Emulation Lodge, Norwood. Sports he enjoyed included tennis, golf, motoring and motor boating (Who’s Who 1929). He died on 21 March 1945.

In 1910 McMichael became a sole practitioner. ‘The story goes that Mr. McMichael’s practice commenced when his first child was born and Dr Verco, who was his wife’s uncle, enquired about his occupation. Finding that he was a draughtsman in the Architect-in-Chief’s Department he suggested he might like to handle a building on North Terrace – hence Verco Buildings at No 178 and McMichael was in practice’ (Cheesman 1984).McMichael travelled overseas in 1925 in order to visit ‘America and Canada to study the latest designs in large city building, blocks of which he had been commissioned to erect’ in Adelaide (Builder 1925: 3).

McMichael became partners with Alfred C. Harris in July 1927 and the partnership was known as E.H. McMichael and Harris (Cheesman 1984). Harris had arrived in South Australia from England in 1922 (Page 1986: 150). McMichael employed a young Jack Cheesman from 1927 to 1929 and was remembered by him as a ‘friendly “boss” – something of a paternal figure’ (Cheesman 1984). The practice became one of the largest offices of the time with McMichael, Harris, seven draughtsmen, a specification writer and a typiste-receptionist (Cheesman 1984). His nephew, David McMichael, who became an architect, continued the practice.

McMichael was active in the South Australian Institute of Architects (SAIA) and served as President from 1920 to 1921. In 1939 he was elected as a Fellow of the SAIA. McMichael was also an inaugural member of the Architects’ Board in 1940.

McMichael was reported to have ‘been responsible for the design of a number of handsome Adelaide buildings’ (Structure Designers 1929). The first of these was the Verco Building, North Terrace, Adelaide (1911) which was built in stages and was one of the first totally reinforced concrete buildings in Adelaide. Designed for occupation by medical professionals many of the surgeries and consulting rooms had plumbing, gas and sewerage connections (Structure Designers 1929). McMichael also designed the Kelvin Buildings for the Adelaide Electric Supply Company, North Terrace, Adelaide which was constructed in 1925.

The five storey classically inspired Darling building, Franklin Street, Adelaide was built in 1916 for John Darling and Son, a firm of millers, grain and general merchants (AHDB). This was reportedly ‘his favourite building … and the character of the cornice mould was one he used in many other buildings’ (Cheesman 1984).

The Holden factory (now demolished) on the corner of King William and Gilles Streets, Adelaide was completed in 1919. It was a four storey red brick building designed for McMichael’s personal friend Edward Holden (Collins et al. 2005). Holden’s continued interwar growth meant that it quickly outgrew its new King William Street factory as early as 1922. This led to the purchase of further adjoining property along Gilles Street, to which significant extensions were added. At the time it was most likely the largest factory in South Australia.

The Barker Kindergarten on Tynte Street, North Adelaide, which was designed by McMichael, opened in 1926 had a domestic appearance with wide verandahs (Marsden et al 1990: 311). After McMichael made a world tour in 1926 ‘one of the results of this was his use of glazed terra cotta faience for the Rechabite Chambers, at 195 Victoria Square … This was the first use of this material in South Australia.’ (Cheesman, 1984). Shell House, in commercial palazzo style (AHPI) was built in 1931-1932 and contained offices for the Shell Company. Its location on North Terrace, Adelaide just west of the Verco building helped define the commercial district of the city.

It took from 1938 to 1943 for the new Savings Bank of South Australia Head Office on King William Street to be completed owing to the wartime shortages both of materials and labour. The new office building was McMichael and Harris’ largest-ever commission (Page 1986: 180) and came just prior to the outbreak of World War Two. The pair was well qualified to take on what was to become Adelaide’s tallest building. According to the centenary history of the Savings Bank of South Australia (1948), the bank’s head office was designed after McMichael and the bank’s trustees and executives had visited Sydney and Melbourne to inspect the most modern buildings there. The style is Art Deco with Classical elements. The motifs depicting South Australian agriculture were significant in defining this style, as was the use of the parallel line motif, the polished granite base and the monumental entrance.

Commercial buildings by the partnership include the Olympic Tyre Company building, a new arcade for Harris Scarfe and Company on Grenfell Street, Adelaide, and the Kelvin Building, North Terrace, Adelaide, which provided offices for Adelaide Electric Supply Company Limited. Further commercial premises for shops and department stores along Rundle Street, Adelaide included those for the Myer Emporium, Charles Birks, Birks Chemist Ltd., and Allans Ltd.

Hospitals were also designed by the practice such as Memorial Hospital at North Adelaide and Wakefield Street Hospital in Adelaide. Further hospitals were designed McMichael designed in country locations including those at Loxton, Balaklava, Orroroo, Pinnaroo, Eudunda and Hawker. Residences designed by McMichael included those for Mr Sidney Wilcox at Brougham Place, North Adelaide, in Spanish-American style and for Mr Harold Bickford at Broadway, Glenelg.

Julie Collins

Citation details
Collins, Julie, 'McMichael, Eric Habershon’, Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, 2008, Architects of South Australia: [http://www.architectsdatabase.unisa.edu.au/arch_full.asp?Arch_ID=47]

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Architectural works in South Australia

Name Suburb Year Designed
Verco Building Adelaide 1911
Darling Building Adelaide 1916
Holden factory Adelaide
Barker kindergarten Adelaide
Rechabite Chambers Adelaide
Shell House Adelaide
Savings Bank of South Australia head office Adelaide 1938
Olympic Tyre Company building
Kelvin Building Adelaide
Memorial Hospital North Adelaide
Wakefield Street Hospital Adelaide
Wilcox Residence North Adelaide
Bickford Residence Glenelg
Goode residence Brighton 1923
Richards' Buildings Adelaide 1925
Barnet Glass Rubber Co. Premises
Residence Port Noarlunga
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Firms or Professional Partnerships

Name Dates Worked
Garlick and Jackman c1900 
Architect-in-Chief's Department 1909 
E.H. McMichael 1910-1926 
E.H. McMichael and Harris 1927-c1940 
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Bibliographic Sources

Name

PUBLISHED
Books
(1929) Who’s Who 1929, The Herald, Melbourne.
(1936) ‘Who’s Who’ South Australian Centenary, 1936, Amalgamated Publishing Co., Adelaide
Apperly, R, Irving, R. & Reynolds, P. (1989) A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture, Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
Buttfield, N. (1979) So Great a Challenge: The Story of the Holden Family in Australia, Sydney, Ure Smith.
Collins, J., Ibels, A., Collins, S. and Garnaut, C. (2004) "Growing up: The rise of the multi-storey building in interwar Adelaide", Town Talk, 13th State History Conference, Adelaide 29-30 May.
Freeland, J.M. (1971) The Making of a Profession, Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
Marsden, S., Stark, P. and Sumerling, P. (1990) Heritage of the City of Adelaide: An illustrated guide, Corporation of the City of Adelaide, Adelaide.
Page, M (1986) Sculptors in Space: South Australian Architects 1836-1986, RAIA (SA), Adelaide.
Savings Bank of South Australia (1943) The Savings Bank of South Australia, Souvenir of Opening of New Head Office, SBSA, Adelaide.
Savings Bank of South Australia (1948) Our Century 1848-1948, SBSA, Adelaide.

Periodicals
‘Holden’s Motor Body Builders’, Bulletin, 19 July 1923: 24.
‘Kelvin Buildings’ (photograph only), The Builder, 24 June 1925: 1.
‘Rebuilding Richards' Buildings’ (photograph only), The Builder, 30 September 1925: 1.
‘Shell building’, Building and Construction, 20 November 1930.
‘Shell building’, Building and Construction, 26 February 1931.
‘Personal’, The Builder, 15 April 1925: 9.
‘Personal’, The Builder, 22 July 1925: 3.
'Past Presidents, SA Chapter: Eric McMichael', PLACE, July 2011: 11.

Newspapers
‘A Noted Architect,’ The Mail, 20 October 1923.
‘Death of Mr E.H. McMichael. Prominent city architect’, Advertiser, 23 March 1945: 7g.
‘Structure designers - Mr Eric H. McMichael,’ The News, 10 April 1929.
‘The Pride of Adelaide. – The Biggest Motor Body Works in the Southern Hemisphere’, Register, 28 June 1923: 7.

UNPUBLISHED
Registers
‘Officers and Members of the South Australian Institute of Architects – Members of the Council, 1915-1916’, The Salon, February 1916.
(1940) Sands & McDougall’s South Australian Directory, Adelaide.

Reports
McCaul, Patricia (n.d.) ‘Shell House, North Terrace, Adelaide’, unpublished student project, held at University of SA Library.

Archival
History of South Australian Architects 1984, including biographical notes on South Australian Architects, Cheesman collection, S209/2/20/1-3, Architecture Museum, Louis Laybourne Smith School of Architecture and Design, University of South Australia (LLSAM).
Savings Bank of South Australia, Architectural drawings and specifications, Hurren, Langman and James collection, S248/2/7, LLSAM.

ELECTRONIC
Websites
Darling Building, Australian Heritage Places inventory, online at http://www.heritage.gov.au/ahpi/index.html
Shell House, Australian Heritage Places inventory, online at http://www.heritage.gov.au/ahpi/index.html
Savings Bank of South Australia, Australian Heritage Places inventory, online at http://www.heritage.gov.au/ahpi/index.html
Barker Kindergarten, Australian Heritage Places inventory, online at http://www.heritage.gov.au/ahpi/index.html

Other
Willis, Julie (1998) South Australian Architects Biography Project CD Rom, held at Architecture Museum, University of South Australia.

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