Firm Grows Under Family
How Numbers Have Changed
In the last 50 yeors of its 100 years of life, the business of Wendts Ltd. has seen the advent of three new generations of, the family which
founded it. In those years too, it has seen exten sive - remodelling of the Rundle street premises, which have been its home since the first years of its reminding, fo make the modern - showroom and offices which exist today.
IN 1872, Joachim Wendt, the founder, married Johanna Koeppen, the widow of an old family friend. In 1903, their son. Jule M. Wendt, and Hermann Koeppen. son of Johanna Wendt's first marriage, were taken into partnership with J. M- Wendt, each with a quarter interest Jule Wendt was sent to London to look after over seas buying and shipping for the firm.. In 1907, he retired from the partnership, and J. M. and H. K. Wendt became equal partners. H. K. Wendt became the sole proprietor of the busi- ness on the death of his stepfather in 1917. In 1919 his son, Mr. A. K. Wendt. joined the firm on lis return from World War I. H. K. Wendt's younger son Kenneth, had been in tended to enter the busi- ness, but' he was killed while serving in France in 1917. Travelled . During the 1920s and early 1930s, H. K. Wendt travelled widely in England and on the Continent, con acting the firm's agents in London and Switzerland, and buying the latest goods and novelties. These were shipped direct from the factories to the firm in Adelaide* In 1927 Mr. A. K. Wendt was taken into partnership, becoming an equal partner with his father. Like his stepfather. H. K. Wendt had taken a pro minent part '.in many ac tivities. He was interested in free masonry, all his life, and rose to the offices of Pro. Grand Master and Past Grand Master. ChairityiWorlc He aided the work of many charitable institu tions, notably the Home for Incurables, at Fullarton. He was on the committee of the home for many years, and was president from 1931 to 1938. Other institutions in which he played an active part were the Walkerville Boys' Home and the Pro- testant Children's Homes at Morialta. Before be enlisted in 1915, Mr. A. K. Wendt
had- farmed 3,000 acres of land at Tintinara, in the area opened up by J. M. Wendt's company. Enlisting as a second lieutenant in the Third Light Horse, he rose to the rank of major, and was mentioned in despatches.. After the war he joined the militia, , and remained with it until he was placed on the reserve of officers, with the rank of brigadier, in 1942. After the death of H. K. Wendt in 1938, Mr. A. K. Wendt continued in sole charge of the business until a fourth generation took an executive part, in the firm. In 1946, on his discharge from the RAAF, Mr. Peter K. Wendt, son of -Mr. A. K. Wendt, joined the firm. In 1947, the business be came a private company, with Messrs. A. K. and P. K. Wendt as directors. Rebuilding Much of the changes in the old stone building in which J. M. Wendt estab lished his jewellery and sil- verware workshops took place during his lifetime. In 1903 came the first and major alterations, When 'the old premises were pulled down and re built substantially as they are today. In 1915, show- windows. of new, arcade type, among the most modern jewellers' windows in Australia, were erected. In 1937. difficulties ex perienced , by optical patients in climbing to the first floor in a building without a lift, were re moved. Modern testing rooms and a reception room were built on the ground floor in the space occupied by office and packing rooms, which were removed to the first floor. In 1940, show-windows were again modernised, and in 1946 alterations, were made to the layout of the showrooms, new cases were installed and the lighting was modernised. For nearly 70 years, the firm leased the land on which its premises were built from an estate in London, administered by the old English legal firm of Churcher and Chur cher. Revenue from the estate was devoted to charity. In 1923, the firm finally bought the land in Rundle street' on which its building stands, at £1,250 a foot— at that time considered a very high price.
The three pictures here, taken at different dates, are evidence of how the numbering of Wendt's premises, along with other buildings in Rundle street, has changed over the years. The first shows the building before 1884, when the street num ber was 70. The sec ond shows the same building soon after the rebuilding in 1904, when it was numbered 76, and the third shows it in 1915, bearing the street number 74, which is its number today. The change was not due to a change of pre- mises but, as early directories of Adelaide show, changes in street numbering. From 1874 to some time between 1884 and 1888, the present build ing was numbered 70. Sands and Mc Dougall's directories of 1885, 1886 and 1887 do not record street num bers, but in the 1888 edi tion Wendts is num bered 76. Possibly street num bers were in such a state of flux in those years that they were not recorded in the direc- tory. The neighbors of the premises were the same in 'each year, 'George Macklin's Dragon boot warehouse on the west, and Martin Brothers, clothiers and outfitters on the east.
The rise in the num bering appears to have taken place mainly on the west side of Gawler place, where the num ber of separate estab lishments increased. The change to No. 74 came between 1921 and 1922, as the result of the Adelaide City Council's general change to a fixed plan for number ing in city streets. , Under this system, which is still in use, ten street numbers are al lotted to each town acre frontage. Wendts had an earlier change in number in Rundle street, but this was due to a change in premises. Before. 1874, Wendts was at No.; 84 Rundle street, next door but one on the west of the King of Hanover Hotel, the site of which is now oc cupied by the western end of John Martins.