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July 17, 2018

Bringing back Federal Hall

The Adelaide Central Market, with the help of Crafty Design, is harking back to its earliest days in bringing back the Federal Hall signage to its Grote Street façade.

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  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Image 1-3: Johnny von Einem
  • Image 4-7: supplied

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Adelaide Central Market became the iconic structure we know it to be today.


The Adelaide Central Market will celebrate its refurbished façade and reinstated lettering with an event on Thursday, 19 July at 10:30am-11:00am.

Built in two parts – the Grote Street-fronted side in 1900 and the Gouger Street-fronted side in 1906 – the “existing sheds” (as described in the 1990 City of Adelaide Heritage Study) were converted into the current-day structure, featuring “handsome plate-glass fronts,” red bricks “laid in a Flemish bond… always designed to be exposed,” and featuring “an 80 feet x 32 feet assembly room on the first floor where wedding parties, dances and parties could be held.”

This building would house the markets underneath, but despite the destination being known as City Market (becoming Central Market in the 1960s), the freshly laid bricks needed a name of their own. With moments of celebration being at the heart of the first floor venue (a far cry from its contemporary use as Council offices), and there being a lot to celebrate in the waking years of the 1900s – namely Australia’s federation – so the new build was christened Federal Hall.

For Adelaideans of the era, this was a fact that could not be ignored. Emblazoned across the Grote Street façade in bold white lettering read: FEDERAL HALL.

For we of the modern era, much of this history has been obscured by the removal of the lettering and the pleasant (and generally delicious) distraction of the market stalls within. But with a restoration underway, the Council’s history buffs saw opportunity to bring back the official moniker.

Elizabeth Pashalidis documenting the process. This image supplied.

“Heritage people, I don’t know if you’ve ever dealt with them before – we have a team at Council – they’re really passionate about bringing back the heritage and reinstating what was there,” Elizabeth Pashalidis, office and projects administrator at Adelaide Central Market, says.

“When we went to Council for a [development] application, we noted in there that we would love to restore the lettering as per what was there, being in a heritage building, and they loved the idea.”

The task of reinstating the Federal Hall signage was laid at the feet of Adelaide design firm, Crafty Design, who reconstructed the typeface from eye using what little historical photos were available as a reference.

“It’s handcrafted, because I couldn’t find a match – I tried,” Candice Papagiannis laughs, “so we just had to recreate it from eye, basically.

“It’s as simple as… referencing the old imagery, keeping in mind how the process would have worked back then as well, because obviously fabricating the letters, they wouldn’t have been acrylic, they wouldn’t have been flat, they wouldn’t have been backlit, they wouldn’t have been anything like that, so it was just sort of staying true to the traditional process.”

Recreating history makes for a tight design brief, but did present challenges, such as the oppositional triad of heritage requirements, historical accuracies, and rules of good design.

“It was funny, because some of the things that we wanted to do to keep it spot-on, heritage knocked back at the same time,” Candice says.

“So we had to reduce the depth of the letters and that kind of thing, whereas they would have been quite deep, the fabrication.

“As a designer, I’m picturing all the other designers looking at the typography,” she laughs “comparing all the x-heights and that kind of thing… The spacing is quite wide, but it was quite wide at the time. So I guess we did break some current rules, but all in the name of preservation.”

Minor anxieties aside, there is nothing quite as alluring to a designer as the opportunity to have such an impact on one of Adelaide’s most recognisable landmarks.

“It’s really fun. I enjoy the historic aspect of it,” Candice says.

“It’s funny because to me it’s a small job, in that it didn’t take me much time – I knew what I had to do, I got it done – but it’s a job that’s going to attract so much attention.”

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