The Barr Smith House

In 1920, the Sisters of Mercy purchased the Barr Smith House in Angas Street. This attractive red brick house was, until his death in 1915, the town residence of Mr. Barr Smith, once said to be the wealthiest man in South Australia. The house was a mansion (although the Barr Smith’s referred to it as their ‘cottage’), consisting of several reception rooms, three main bedrooms, four servants’ rooms and a servants’ hall, plus cellars and stables. Joanna Barr Smith died in 1919 and the Sisters purchased the house using the proceeds of Sr Cecilia Cunningham’s substantial inheritance.

The house became a multi-purpose facility: convent novices were trained in Barr Smith, the community kitchen was established in the building, and the ballroom became the community’s refectory. There were bedrooms and bathrooms for elderly sisters, and for the Mother Provincial. The community library was housed there together with a laundry, common rooms and the bursar’s office.

(Residence of Robert Barr Smith 1903, SLSA PRG-631-2-281)
Barr Smith house
(Barr Smith house, Angas Street, St Aloysius College Archives)

In the front garden of Barr Smith, the sisters built a grotto, at the front of which stood statues of Mary and Saint Bernadette. This grotto became a place of prayer and contemplation for both the sisters and the students of the college.

The Barr Smith House and Grotto were demolished in 1982 to make way for the Dame Roma Mitchell Building.


Residence of Robert Barr Smith 1903, PhotographState Library of South Australia PRG 631/2/281, viewed 20 October 2023, <>.