No. 1287 - West Hobart - Landsdowne Crescent - Salvation Army 'Rescue Home' - Elim (1897)

This article is one of a series about buildings associated with Tasmania’s historical churches and religious orders. These buildings include Sunday schools, parish halls, convents, orphanages, schools and residences of the clergy. Ancillary buildings are often overlooked and rarely feature in published histories. My aim is to create a basic record of these buildings, including of those that no longer exist.

The purpose of rescue homes was to ‘rescue’ women from their old lives. Spiritual improvement was seen as paramount, with an emphasis on the women gaining salvation. In addition, skills were taught that would help women find work after leaving the home. The Salvation Army defined a “fallen woman” as ‘a woman who has lost her chastity, honour, or standing, or who has become morally degenerate; (sometimes) a prostitute’.

The following information about the Landsdowne Crescent Rescue Home is provided by the Salvation Army Museum:

“Hobart’s first Salvation Army home for women, was opened in April 1897, at 17 Lansdowne Crescent, West Hobart. Originally designated a Rescue Home called "The Delight", it occupied a prominent elevated site with a fine view of the harbour, and was within walking distance of the city. It was renamed Elam, which in the passage of time became Elim and primarily provided maternity and hostel care catering for 18 unmarried mothers. Owing to the declining numbers of unmarried mothers coming to Elim the Army’s adoption programme was discontinued and the maternity work closed during 1974. The maternity wing was turned into a women’s emergency shelter and was opened as such on 9 December 1978”.

Further information about the Landsdowne Road facility is provided by ‘Find and Connect’ a government resource that details the history of Australian orphanages, children’s Homes and other institutions:

“Elim opened as a rescue Home, that is, it accommodated young women and girls sent there because they did not conform to the sexual morality of the day. Since some of them were pregnant, it soon became a maternity hospital for single mothers. It had 18 beds. However, Elim also retained its original purpose. Parents, the police, courts, and the Mental Deficiency Board all placed young women and girls there for short or long term periods of time. Some of them remained at Elim for the rest of their lives. The Matron became the guardian of residents placed there by the Mental Deficiency Board.

In early November 1928, the Salvation Army Headquarters in Melbourne decided to close Elim so that they could open a Home for elderly women in the same building. It caused an outcry from women's groups in Hobart and the Salvation Army in Tasmania. The outcry appears to have worked. Shortly afterwards, the Matron received notification that the Elim would be retained as a rescue Home and maternity hospital.

In 1934, according to the Mercury, Elim accommodated 30 girls or young women and 12 babies. There were five members of staff, the Matron, the Sub-Matron, two Captains and a Sergeant. It was financed by revenue from the residents' laundry and fancy work as well as nursing fees for the babies taken out of their mothers' baby bonus. The Home also received a state grant of £80 year. According to Naomi Parry's PhD thesis, this funding arrangement, introduced in the late 1920s, meant that private institutions such as Elim 'became an arm of government services'.

Elim…opened a new custom built two-storey brick hostel and maternity wing with modern equipment in 1963. It was out of date almost at once. By the 1970s, the introduction of the Commonwealth Government's Supporting Mothers' Benefit and new attitudes to women's rights, meant that fewer pregnant women had to go to Elim. The number of births there declined with the last one taking place in 1973. Five years later, it became Elim Salvation Army Home and offered temporary accommodation to women and children”.

A record of the official opening of the building, which took place on Wednesday 31 March 1897, was recorded by the Hobart Mercury:

“Yesterday afternoon Commandant Booth opened the Salvation Army Rescue Home for Women at Lansdowne-crescent, a large number assembling to witness the proceedings. The Commandant was accompanied by his secretary (Adjutant McMillan), Majors Glover and Unsworth, and other prominent Army officials, whilst the local followers of the Army mustered in full strength".

"After a chorus and prayer the Commandant declared the Horne open. He referred to the work about to be initiated, and trusted it would meet with the same support, encouragement, and success as such Homes did in other parts of the world. The Home would be conducted on similar lines to those established in other colonies, and he felt confident good and lasting benefit would accrue His remarks were received with very hearty applause The Home is a two storey weatherboard house situate at the extreme end of Lansdowne crescent It has been renovated, and presents a neat and clean appearance The site is excellent, and commands a charming view”.

After the closure of Elim the building was sold and is now a private residence. The brick hostel and maternity wing have been converted into apartments.

"Elim" Salvation Army Rescue Home on Landsdowne Crescent. The photo was taken after 1928 when it became a Salvation Army Maternity Hospital. Photo: Salvation Army Museum


Parry, N, 'Such a Longing': Black and White Children in Welfare in New South Wales and Tasmania, 1880-1940 (2007) [PhD]

The Salvation Army Museum, Melbourne. Facebook post, 1 December 2018.

The Mercury, Friday 2 April 1897, page 2
Tasmanian News, Thursday 1 April 1897, page 4


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