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March 23, 2017

Sydney-siders on Sturt Street

After working on the policy behind Adelaide’s transition to a medium-density city, Lois Boswell and husband Don Frater decided it was time to follow-through by making the move into the CBD.

  • Words: Farrin Foster
  • Pictures: Andrè Castellucci
  • -
  • *This story has been updated

Lois Boswell and Don Frater are early Adelaide imports.

Long before the city began appearing in Lonely Planet top ten lists, the couple decided to relocate here from their native Sydney.

Soon after they made the move in 1987, they found themselves living in a little cottage on Store Street – “just off Gouger Street,” says Lois, “and we loved it”.

But, that was only for six months and as the lifelong public servants established themselves here, they settled into a family home in the suburban Blackforest.

Three-and-a-half years ago though, the pull of the city drew them back in.

Lois and Don provide a lovely backdrop for the star of the show – Sam the dog

Greenery can be found throughout the property – particularly in the many outdoor areas


“Our son had left and I think we got sick and tired of gardening and mowing,” says Don. “And we had a pool, and the kids were grown up and not using it. Most of the time it was being used was me trying to clean it.

“So we came to the decision that it was better to downsize.”

“I was involved in doing the 30 Year Plan for Adelaide,” adds Lois. “I got to go out and try and sell the concept of medium density to Adelaide – I think it actually changed the way people thought about the city.”

It’s been a highly successful transition as Don and Lois relocated into the CBD; Don describes their experience as being “everything we expected plus more”, and much of that hinges on the singular home into which they’ve moved.

The kitchen is filled with light from the afternoon sun


Located in Adelaide’s south-west corner, the house is a double-storey edifice with a distinctly historic feel that looks more like a shopfront than a residence from street level.

Lois and Don discovered it after some experiments attempting to buy land and build in the city.

“We actually were driving past on the way back from work one day and saw the sign up and that was it,” says Don.

“I just fell in love with it from the street,” says Lois.

Part of a Royal Doulton dining set Lois and Don inherited from a dear friend

Reminders of the home’s heritage are in every room


“And it’s just been such a fun place to live. We’ve had more parties and dinner parties in this house in three years than we did in the last house in probably 20 years.”

The home has enough history to match its heritage-listing, and has been an important part of the neighbourhood for almost the entire 150 or so years of its existence.

“There was a guy who lived here, Mahomet Allum, who was a really famous cameleer,” says Lois.

“He’s on the plaque at the front and he lived here in the ’30s and ’40s. He was a philanthropist healer and quite famous in his time – there’s news reel footage of him someone gave us.

“I’m told the area was actually pretty slummy and he would use various medicines to improve the health of the people in the area… and he helped finance the mosque around the corner.”

“We’ve had more parties and dinner parties in this house in three years than we did in the last house in probably 20 years.” — Lois Boswell

The view of the city mosque, which one of the home’s early tenants – Mahomet Allum – helped establish


The Peter Drew ‘Aussie’ poster Lois and Don have put in the front window, which depicts Mongha Khan – another early cameleer, is a nod to this history and Lois’ role as President of the Australian Refugee Association.

The poster is not the only piece belonging to the couple that seems to fit right in at the residence. Alongside Don’s rolltop desk, a classic piece once owned by his father, there’s some other furniture that hasn’t ever quite felt at home prior to here.

“This MayDay poster, we got given it as a wedding present, so that’s 28 years ago,” says Lois. 

This rolltop desk was once Don’s father’s, and is still in use today


“It’s never really looked good anywhere else – it’s always been ok, but it’s always been too big or too red or something, but it looks like it was made to go there really.”

And it’s a sentiment that could just as easily be applied to Lois and Don.

As they bike and walk to work, host dinner parties and visit local spots like My Kingdom for a Horse, Cantina Sociale and Five O’Clock Somewhere, they give the distinct impression that the city is where they were always meant to be.

Small footprint living with Lois and Don

While Lois and Don’s house doesn’t have an apartment size floor plan, it still isn’t quite big enough for the kind of long table dinners they are keen on hosting.

But they’ve found an easy solution by taking their parties out the front onto the footpath.

At any given weekend lunch or dinner time, a bevy of Lois and Don’s friends can be seen chatting, laughing and making the city feel more homely by bringing some life to the pavement.

“We just take over the street, we figure that’s fine,” says Lois with a laugh.

“We had a fundraiser for Camp Quality, because our son’s girlfriend’s niece died of cancer so she wanted to have a fundraiser, so we did it out the front on a beautiful day and raised money for Camp Quality, which was great.”

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