In February 1877 the University Council announced South Australian architect James McGeorge as the winner of a competition to design the university's first building. However, his submission proved highly contentious. The Council then approached the second prize winner, Michael Egan of Melbourne. Egan completed a design and working drawings but the Council decided that it was too costly. William McMinn of Woods & McMinn architects, who acted as advisory architects to the university, was asked to review and amend the design. Despite Egan’s objections, McMinn’s amendments were accepted. He was given credit for the final design, even though it was similar to Egan’s. 
The building was built by Brown and Thompson between 1879 and 1881, the amount of the contract being 24,736 pounds . With St Peter’s Cathedral it is the best example in Adelaide of the Gothic Revival from the second half of the nineteenth century. 
The marble foundation stone of the ‘University Building’ was laid by Governor Sir William Jervois on 30 July 1879. Sir Walter Watson Hughes and Sir Thomas Elder, founding benefactors of the university, were two of the 2000 people who attended the ceremony. Parliament adjourned so that members could take part in the event, which was noted in the South Australian Register as being ‘of exceptional importance’. 
University/Mitchell Building - Laying of the Foundation Stone (Ref: UA-00006127/ S1151-0021)
The partially completed building was occupied in March 1881. Classes and examinations were held there while building work continued for another year. 
The building was officially opened by Governor Jervois on 5 April 1882.  It initially provided all teaching and administrative facilities as well as housing for the University library, professors’ offices, Council meetings and Commencement ceremonies. 
Over the next 50 years less and less teaching occurred in the University's first building: music transferred to Elder Hall in 1900; chemistry, natural sciences and engineering relocated to the Prince of Wales Building (now demolished) in 1902; physics left in 1926; the library transferred to the Barr Smith Library in 1932; and law shifted to its own premises in 1960. By 1960 only university administration was carried out in the building. 
In Gothic revival, its main walling is of Sydney white stone and it is faced with freestone from Tea Tree Gully.  The entrance porch, with its carved stone ornamentation, stood out from the façade to provide a balcony above. The red stone pillars of the porch and first floor windows were from Dumfries, Scotland. Large wooden double doors led to the interior from the porch. The stone carving of the interior and exterior of the building were sculpted by William James Maxwell (1842-1903) who had migrated to Adelaide from Glasgow, Scotland in 1878. The high-pitched slate roof was decoratively laid in alternating bands and surmounted by decorative iron casting. An ornamental ventilating turret stood up from the roof ridge. 
The heritage-listed building features the restored foyer with its ornate pillars, elegant staircase, stained glass windows and vaulted cedar ceilings. Fine stonework is a feature of the Mitchell Building, a landmark building on North Terrace boulevard. 
The building, originally known as University Building, was renamed in 1961 in recognition of the centenary of the birth of Sir William Mitchell  and to commemorate his services as Professor of Philosophy 1894-1922, Vice-Chancellor 1916-42, Chancellor 1942-48, and benefactor. 
A statue of Sir Walter Watson Hughes, who with Sir Thomas Elder provided funds to establish the University, is located at the front of the building. 
Mitchell Building continues to house the administration and the governing bodies of the university. 
1. Adelaidia - https://adelaidia.history.sa.gov.au/places/mitchell-building - Accessed 12 January 2021.
2. The University of Adelaide, 1874 - 1974: A Statement of the Case for Supporting the University's Centenary Appeal. 1972
3. Adelaide City Heritage - http://www.adelaideheritage.net.au/all-site-profiles/the-university-of-adelaide-mitchell-building/ - Accessed 12 January 2021
4. Adelaidia, op cit.
7. Adelaide City Heritage, op cit.
8. Adelaidia, op cit.
9. Adelaide City Heritage, op cit.
10. Adelaidia, op cit.
11. North Terrace Campus - Landmarks and Public Art - Self Guided Cultural Tour brochure, University Collections, 2018
12. Adelaidia, op cit.
13. Adelaide City Heritage, op cit.
14. North Terrace Campus - Landmarks and Public Art, op cit.
15. Adelaidia, op cit.