Best known for his designs for the Adelaide Workmen’s Cottages located in the suburbs of Adelaide, Charles Rutt was a prolific South Australian architect.
Born on 7 August 1875 at College Park, Charles Walter Rutt was the first son of Walter Rutt, an English Engineer who had come to South Australia in 1869 to work in the Engineer in Chief's Department, and Elizabeth Sarah Hailes, daughter of Nathaniel and Eliza Hailes. They had three other children, Ernest, Edith Elizabeth, and Alfred who died aged one. Charles attended the nearby St Peters College where he was a notable schoolboy athlete playing both cricket and football. In 1899 he married Lillian May Nienaber, third daughter of Mr O.H. Nienaber, who had come to South Australia from Hamburg with his parents at the age of three. Charles and Lilian had a son Walter Bevan Charles Rutt in 1916, who later went on to become an architect, and three daughters. He maintained a close connection with the local area in which he was born, living at ‘Menelurra’, Third Avenue, St Peters, and was associated with the nearby College Park Congregational Church. He later moved to Tusmore Park.
Rutt was one of South Australia’s first motor car owners and was described as ‘a lover of fine cars’ (B. Rutt 1983) owning many over his lifetime. However it was riding his horse ‘Portlight’ that he completed his Saturday morning supervision rounds of works (Page 1986: 125). Rutt also maintained a love of sports. He was Vice-President of St Bartholomew’s Football Club, a club associated with the Norwood Football Club. In 1926 he embarked on a world trip for nine months, leaving his practice in the hands of his partner, architect G.G. Lawson. He died at Tusmore on 17 February 1932 aged 56, leaving his son, then aged only sixteen.
Rutt received his architectural education through being articled to Adelaide architect Edward Davies for five years from 1892. What was evident was his ‘zeal and enthusiasm in his calling which was manifest from the very start of his apprenticeship’ (Burgess 1907: 540).
After continuing with Davies as a draftsman he was offered a partnership in 1899, so forming the practice of Edward Davies & Rutt. The partnership ‘was really a deserved recognition of the ability displayed in securing the first award in the competition for the Adelaide Workmen’s Homes (Incorporated), an achievement which firmly established him amongst his brethren’ (Burgess 1907: 540). He remained the Adelaide Workmen’s Homes architect until 1928. He then acted as a judge for the competition to find new designs for cottages to be built at the Hilton estate (McDougall 1998: 256). During this partnership the practice took on pupils including Philip Claridge and Louis Laybourne Smith, who later became well respected architects.
In 1910 Rutt became a sole practitioner for a number of years under the name of C.W. Rutt, yet he continued to take pupils, with Keith Yelland articled to him from 1917 to 1921. In 1921 Rutt went into partnership with J. Seppelt and the practice became C.W. Rutt and Seppelt until 1922 when he again practised solo. In 1925 Rutt embarked on another new partnership, this time with George Gavin Lawson, which lasted until 1927. From then onwards he practised alone.
Rutt was made a Fellow of the South Australian Institute of Architects and then the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. He was a member of the Council of the South Australian Institute of Architects in 1907 (Burgess 1907: 540). From 1914 to 1915 he was the Vice-President of the South Australian Institute of Architects and then the President from 1915 to 1917. He also served on the Building Act (1923) Advisory Committee.
Rutt was Senior Deacon at College Park Congregational Church and Superintendent of the Sunday School with which he had been associated since its beginnings in 1880. He was Chairman of the Congregational Union of SA from 1920-1921. Charles Rutt was also a President of the Adelaide YMCA and sat on the Board of Directors of Kings College when that School was founded in 1924.
Rutt belonged to the Masonic fraternity, as did many architects, and served variously as Master of St Peters Masonic Lodge, Foundation first Principal of St Peters Royal Arch Chapter, Grand Superintendent of Works of the Grand Lodge of South Australia, Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge as well as being a member of a number of other Masonic orders including the Duke of Leinster Lodge.
Although Rutt was a prolific architect possibly his best known works were designed at the very beginning of his career. In 1899 he won the ₤100 competition to design forty-eight semi-detached workmen’s cottages constructed for the Trustees of the Adelaide Workmen’s Homes (Incorporated), a body established through the philanthropy of Sir Thomas Elder. The intention behind these cottages was ‘to benefit workmen by providing them with suitable dwellings at a reasonable rental’ (AHPI). Rutt’s design for the cottages at the corner of Frome and Angas Streets, Adelaide was for comfortable stone and redbrick buildings which included split-level planning having a ‘raised bathroom, reached by a half-flight of stairs, above a cellar entered by another half-flight’ (Page 1986: 125). A further group of cottages was built at Rose Terrace, Mile End (State Heritage Register) to plans by Davies and Rutt (McDougall 1998: 254); these featured castellated parapets above the entrance porches. Rutt’s 1918 designs were used on a third estate at Hilton where twelve cottages had been built by 1926.
Commercial work by Rutt and his partners included a department store for John Martins on Rundle Street, Adelaide, the Hayward Building, Charles St, Adelaide and Youngs’ Shoe Store (State Heritage Register) on Rundle Street (now Mall), Adelaide, designed by the partnership of Rutt and Lawson in 1925. The last stands out as an example of Dutch Expressionism probably influenced by Lawson with glazed dark brown brickwork and a rounded façade with a gable roof line. In 1922 Rutt designed the News Building, North Terrace, Adelaide (now demolished). Amongst the Savings Bank buildings that he designed was the Victor Harbor branch.
Hotel work formed a significant part of Rutt’s opus. He did some work on the Lion Brewing Company brewery and associated Old Lion Hotel at North Adelaide which had been originally designed by Garlick in the 1870s. He also designed the Flagstaff Hotel at South Road, Darlington and the Cremorne Hotel, Unley Road, Unley. Rutt designed the Banquet Hall alongside St Peters Town Hall, in 1912 in a Federation free style with vaulted ceiling. Rutt and Seppelt designed the Henley Beach Town Hall at Henley Beach. The partnership of Rutt and Lawson produced the Burnside Town Hall, corner Portrush Road and Greenhill Road, Burnside in 1927 but with Rutt travelling overseas between January and June 1926 Lawson was left to oversee this project.
Another building by Rutt was the Congregational Church built in 1922-23 on Military Road which is unusual amongst South Australian church architecture of the time because of its octagonal plan. It features ‘English bond brickwork with rendered detailing. Pointed arch windows and openings with lead-lighting …. Decorative motifs in moulding and ornate hinges to door[s] … the interior walls are of Mt Gambier sandstone with brown glazed bricks to form a dado’ (AHPI). It features an octagonal cupola with small paned windows to the centre of ceiling and exposed roof beams which are supported on ornate cast iron columns.
The 1928 Freemasons Hall, Commercial Road, Port Adelaide is another of Rutt’s designs. With its heavy massing and Egyptian style is unique among Freemason’s halls in South Australia. As architect for the South Australian Cricket Association at Adelaide Oval he designed the John Creswell Stand and entrance gates to the Adelaide Oval and integrated the western stands under one roof with a continuous rear wall.
Collins, Julie, 'Rutt, Charles Walter’, Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, 2008, Architects of South Australia: [http://www.architectsdatabase.unisa.edu.au/arch_full.asp?Arch_ID=50]