Urban Exploration – The Gerard & Goodman Building

Alfred Gerard started his career in the electrical industry in 1897 with the opening of his own camera shop.  He later worked with electrical firm Davis Purvis before moving on to the well-known company of Ellis & Clark. In 1907, with a loan of ₤100 from his father-in-law William Goodman, he set up his own contracting business and soon had enough work to hire an assistant. When his workforce reached five he moved the business into the basement of a bicycle shop at 200 Rundle Street Adelaide. The company name “Gerard and Goodman” was registered on 3 August 1908.   Alfred Gerard started his electrical merchandising business, Gerard & Goodman, in Rundle Street in 1907. The company quickly established itself as the major engineering manufacturer and retailer in the city. Soon Gerard & Goodman was the largest company of its kind in South Australia, manufacturing, importing, retailing and repairing a wide range of electrical accessories and operating a photography, radio and ‘talkie-movie’ department. One of its most well-known products, clip-on metal conduit fittings, provided electrical contractors with an innovative solution to the issue of size variation in metal conduits (ie: it clips-all). The name was abbreviated to “Clipsal”, a now famous South Australian brand name.  

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Gerard & Goodman warehouses, Synagogue Place, 1928 (source: State Library Of South Australia)

 

In 1921 the company purchased land in Synagogue Place, and showrooms, offices and a factory were built here. Starting as a two storey building, it was extended several times, with two further floors added to the original two-storey building in 1927-1928.  Whilst the main entrance was located in Synagogue Place, access to the bulk store was located at the rear entrance on Tavistock Street.  As business expanded and diversified, he bought the shop at 132 Rundle Street for an electrical and radio retail and repair shop. That arm of the business was later transferred to 192–196 Rundle Street east, adjacent to the Synagogue Place warehouse.

 

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Gerard & Goodman, Rundle Street, 1939 (source: State Library Of South Australia)

 

Alfred’s son Geoff eventually took over the company, and it soon spearheaded several manufacturing breakthroughs, including the invention of the first all-Australian switch in 1930. The company also did early R&D on thermoplastics in the 1950s.

 Gerard & Goodman eventually moved its manufacturing operations to Bowden where a factory was built in 1936.  Gerard & Goodman retained a retail presence in Rundle Street well into the 1970s.  In 2003 the Gerard family sold its interest in the Clipsal business to Schneider Electric but retained a number of other non-electrical accessories businesses.

 In March 2017, the Gerard & Goodman building in Synagogue Place was demolished to make way for a new student accommodation precinct and a new chapter in Adelaide’s history.

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5 thoughts on “Urban Exploration – The Gerard & Goodman Building

    1. I worked for Gerard and Goodman in this building from early 1984 to early 1986, straight out of high school. It was no longer owned by the Gerard family by then and in fact was bought and sold at least twice while I was there. It had the fading vestiges of a once proud family business. When I started, they were still using vacuum cash tubes to send sales over $100 up to the cash desk.

      For twelve months I was customer enquiries officer and that job kept me running up, down and around the eclectic rambling buildings all day.

      Verna the telephonist ran a double width plug and socket switchboard, single handedly, from its location under the stairs just inside the Synagogue Place entrance. She was incredible and could keep track of me all over the building. When she took her breaks they had to put two junior operators on the switchboard to keep up.

      Apart from the original 1920s building explored here, which was originally two stories and then extended to four; there was the retail showroom to Rundle Street East, with its Art Deco facade; a brick 1930’s to 1940’s warehouse building of about three stories on the northern side of Tavistock Lane; as well as a 1950’s to 1960’s besser block building, north of that again, which housed the receiving dock and was accessible from Frome Street. All of these buildings were interconnected.

      I have in my possession, salvaged from these buildings, a collection of intercom telephones from the between war era. Gerard family names, including A. E. Gerard appear against some of the buttons. I’d be interested in donating these to an appropriate museum.

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      1. Thanks Simon! It’s fantastic to get first hand commentary from someone who worked for the company. My uncle worked there for a while in the early 1970s.

        Despite its dilapidated state in the end, it was a fabulous building. That Gerard & Goodman signage was part of the Rundle Street landscape! Of course, I only had access to the section shown in these images. The old retail store is now the scout shop (who were generous enough to allow me on their rooftop to take images of the sign). Other sections demolished years ago – I assume to make way for the Frome Street carpark??

        I’d love to see the intercom telephones. I collect pieces of history such as these myself – often saving them from piles of rubbish and skip bins before the wrecking ball sweeps through. A few developers have generously allowed me to have a few pieces which I hope to one day exhibit alongside the imagery from these sites. Schneider Electric on Port Wakefield Road have an onsite museum and collection of Gerard Industries/Clipsal items – they may be interested in these also.

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      2. Thanks,

        The intercom phones are stored at my parent’s farm in the Adelaide Hills. I’m intending to visit in the New Year and will dig them out. I’ll also make contact with Schneider.

        Cheers,
        Simon.

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