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“More Front than Foy and Gibsons”!

Remember your parents describing someone with, “He’s got more front than Foy and Gibsons”. It was a uniquely Adelaide saying that stretches back to before the middle of the last century and is now very rarely used.

Foy and Gibsons was a department store which originally opened in 1924 in a beautiful, large and opulent building that had previously been the Grand Central Hotel on the corner of Rundle and Pulteney Streets in the city, described as “Adelaide’s Dorchester ”.

Photo courtesy of Frank Hall. Previously Foy and Gibsons and the Grand Central Hotel, the building then housed several government departments until the mid-70s

Photo courtesy of Frank Hall. Previously Foy and Gibsons and the Grand Central Hotel, the building then housed several government departments until the mid-70s

The original building on the site had been the York Hotel, which dated back to the mid-1840s. That was demolished in 1909 to make way for an ambitious redevelopment, a grand hotel for the heart of the city and a building to equal anything in the Empire.

The Grand Central Hotel was completed in 1911. Its imposing proportions dominated Rundle Street, the giant facades were decorated with a complex pattern of string courses, pilasters and mouldings of every description. The bay windows rose to almost the full height of the building, and the corner bow window was capped with an open turret. It has been described as a strictly Edwardian building and the only example of giant high Victorian style that Adelaide possessed.

Photo from the State Library of SA. the Grand Central Hotel on the corner of Rundle and Pulteney Streets in the city, described as “Adelaide’s Dorchester ”.

Photo from the State Library of SA. the Grand Central Hotel on the corner of Rundle and Pulteney Streets in the city, described as “Adelaide’s Dorchester ”.

Despite all its grandeur and extreme comfort, and even royal patronage when the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) stayed there in 1920, it was a disappointment to the owners. They sold the building in 1924 to Foy and Gibsons, one of Australia’s earliest department store chains, modelled on the European and American Stores of the period. A large range of goods were manufactured and sold by the company including clothing, manchester, leather goods, soft furnishings, furniture, hardware and food.

Because the building dominated both Rundle and Pulteney Street, it gave the shop a huge frontage with large windows in both streets, thus the saying, ‘more front than Foy and Gibsons’ was born.

The company continued to trade from the famous building until 1955 when it was bought out by the Cox Brothers Group who moved the business to newly-built premises further west along Rundle Street and changed the name to Cox Foys.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps.In the mid-1970s, the building was finally demolished to make way for a multi-storey car park which also houses a Hungry Jacks on the street level

Photo courtesy of Google Maps.In the mid-1970s, the building was finally demolished to make way for a multi-storey car park which also houses a Hungry Jacks on the street level

The grand old building then housed several government departments, including the Electricity Trust of South Australia. Its new use led to a number of detrimental alterations, especially to the interior, although some of its former grandeur remained, including the marble floor in the foyer.

In the mid-1970s, the building was finally demolished to make way for a multi-storey car park which, although it has won several design awards, can never compare with the beauty of its ornate predecessor.

However for the boomer generation the name lives on as we can still remember it in a description of anyone who is thought of as too pushy or to big for their boots; “He’s got more front than Foy and Gibsons”.

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6 Responses to “More Front than Foy and Gibsons”!

  1. Pauline January 22, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

    can you please tell me , where the old saying comes from, (that I was bought up with ).”he has more front on him than John Martins”
    I worked at Cox Foys when I was just 16 yrs old for a couple of years, and know the building well, with the beautiful large “Ball Room” on the top floor. So many memories, so much lost…..

  2. Andrea Pring January 24, 2015 at 12:15 am #

    i was born in 1952 so can speak as a true baby boomer. As I was 3 when Foy and Gibsons was demolished I was too young to have any memory of there ever being a Foy and Gibsons. Perhaps this why I don’t recall this saying being used when I was growing up. Older baby boomers may disagree. In our house we always said “more front than Myers”.

  3. Pam Carter August 29, 2015 at 3:58 pm #

    My first bought dress was from Foy & Gibson’s and I remember being treated like a “Princess” by the assistant. The occasion…….Dad was going overseas in WW2 and wanted a family photo taken so we all got dressed up to the nines (another saying I don’t know the origin of) and headed off to a Photographic Studio.

  4. Geoff Chennells March 12, 2016 at 9:51 pm #

    Highways department was on the top floor. No aircon & boiling hot in summer – we draughtsmen used waxed blue linen drawing sheets which were used to make (“blue”)prints. Any sweat falling on the waxed sheets would result in a spot visible in the print. This was 1962-63.
    Mines department was next floor down, I think.

  5. Kevin Bockmann September 12, 2016 at 12:43 pm #

    In 1961I was a member of an audit section in the State Auditor-General’s Dept. that was involved in the audit of the following Government Departments that were located in Foys Building: Chidren’s Welfare and Public Relief; Highways; Wood &Forests; Mines; and Prices .Other Goverment Departments also located in the building were Hospitals and the Nurses Registration Board.
    I can confirm what Geoff Chennels said about the lack of air conditioning and the hot summers.

  6. ken August 1, 2017 at 3:25 am #

    Gov officers also, I had to beg to get a penny, remember that sh.t

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