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July 21, 2008

WAITER, THERE’S A FIRE ENGINE IN MY SUITE


John Crook & David Ellis


SOME people collect toy trains, others antique cars or weird postcards, one bloke we know of seeks out the most tacky fridge magnets he can find while on his travels, and of course most families have someone with a penchant for postage stamps.

But as well as running their Adelaide antique business, Rodney and Regina Twiss have also been collecting something more out-of-the-ordinary – vintage buildings. And at last count they'd bought and meticulously restored no less than twenty of the things in leafy upmarket North Adelaide.

With a lifetime in the antique trade, it probably came as a natural progression for the Twiss' to go a step further from gathering what goes into buildings, to gathering the buildings themselves, and turning them into themed heritage accommodation.

Their acquisitions have ranged from a one-time fire station that's been converted into three luxurious B&B suites – and which have proven the big drawcard for those seeking something definitely out-of-the-ordinary – through to a building that was once a chapel for the Society of Friends, probably more better known as the Quakers.

A couple of nights in the Fire Engine Suite of that old circa 1866 bluestone fire station is considered by those who've done it one of their most delightful B&B experiences in the South Australian capital… possibly made the more so by the fact that the Fire Engine Suite's unique decoré includes a gleaming red antique fire engine and an original fireman's pole.

But when it comes to home-comforts there's every mod-con including a large spa.

Other North Adelaide properties the Twiss' have restored include Buxton Manor, a "gentlemen's residence" owned for many years by Sir Josiah Symon, a respected jurist, parliamentarian and one of the Fathers of the Australian Constitution; there are five suites here, including the popular Butler's Apartment.

Then there is Bishop's Garden, a cosy courtyard suite set in the century-old gardens at the Twiss family home, Palmview Villa. This mansion was built in the 1890's for South Australia's 4th Anglican bishop, Nutter Thomas whose 'Adelaide Diocese' covered the whole of South Australia, until the church took pity on the travel-weary Bishop and created a separate Diocese in 1915 to cover the vast north of the State.

The grand homestead is situated close to the site from which Colonel Light surveyed and sketched-out his plans for a capital city; a statue commemorating him stands on the spot where he had his grand vision of a city that would be one mile square, surrounded by parklands to the north, south, east and west.

Every one of the properties owned by the Twiss family has some connection with South Australia's glorious past, and for lesser mortals the decorating of these could have ended up somewhat on the disastrously tacky side.

But Regina and Rodney have been able to cleverly maintain real quality with each of their "babies," with "class" written across every one of their projects.

North Adelaide is old money territory, with glorious mansions dotted throughout its streets, quite a few of which have also felt the winds of change and been converted to upmarket rental or B&Bs.

Together with hotels, a wonderful range of restaurants and coffee shops, developments over recent decades have added to the cosmopolitan image of the area, much to the delight of guests who have chosen to stay in any of the Twiss properties.

And while some of the tariffs may surprise, these are properties that offer travellers a true touch of class: the Fire Engine Inn for instance starts from $285 a night for two people including Continental Breakfast, a pamper pack, bottle of wine and chocolates, while the 5-star Bishop's Garden comes at $330 a night.

Marketed under the name of North Adelaide Heritage Group, there is one underlining feature about the style of accommodation the Twiss' offer, and that's the level of quality and the convenience of each location.

But a little word of warning: such is the reputation surrounding these properties, you will be competing for the few suites available with not only local holidaymakers, but international travellers as well so it definitely is advisable to book well in advance.

For enquiries and reservations telephone (08) 8272 1355 or email res@adelaideheritage.com
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PHOTO CAPTIONS:

. SEEING red: nothing like a fire engine in your bedroom.

. ROOM with a view – looking out to the 100-year old gardens from a suite in the Bishop's Garden B&B.

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