One of the stories from the 2012 project: Who were they? People who shaped Victor Harbor and for whom our parks and reserves are named.

Summerlea Reserve

Summerlea Reserve is located on Swains Crossing Road, Lower Inman Valley and includes a section of the Inman River. It is named after the Summerlea Guest House.

This is the story of the guest house which stood between Ocean and McKinlay Streets with frontage to Coral Street, its part in Victor Harbor’s history and some families who managed it.

Summerlea started off as a two-storied Boarding House/Guest House with 16 large lofty rooms and spacious balconies built by William Stevenson Reid in the 1890s. It was just two minutes’ walk from both the beach and the railway station. The first advertisement in The Register appeared on 16th October, 1896.

At this time Victor Harbor was described by a journalist as “the most popular watering hole in the colony”, with Pt Elliott vying closely for that position.

In 1901 William Stevenson Reid’s wife, Caroline passed away, and within a very short time Summerlea was advertised for sale and/or lease.

It appears that it was leased, as another advertisement appeared in The Register stating that Summerlea had undergone thorough renovating and would be reopening for visitors from October 20th with Arthur J. Humberstone as proprietor.
Within 12 months, there had been yet another change and by the 29th October 1902 the proprietress became a Miss Mayfield, another well known name in Victor Harbor history. Interestingly, William Stevenson Reid’s second wife was a Mayfield.
The next change happened in 1905, when the Misses Mayfield announced that Summerlea was being handed over to the Misses Trewin, from Angaston.

Summerlea continued to receive visitors for the next three years under the management of these ladies, until W. S. Reid decided to put the building up for auction, advertised as the “Ideal Gentleman’s Seaside Residence”.
The Advertiser 9th April 1908

On WEDNESDAY, April 29, 1908, at 3 o’clock p m.
A. H. LANDSEER, Ltd. have been favored with instruction from the Executors of the late W. S. Reid, to sell by auction at the
That ideal Gentleman’s SEASIDE RESIDENCE. so delightfully situated in the very best position in the township of Port Victor – the acknowledged leading seaside resort of South Australia, immediately opposite the Grosvenor Hotel, close to Railway Station and Post Office, also Beach, so well and favorably known as “Summerlea”, at present in the occupation of the Misses Trewin, and successfully conducted by them as a select and high class boarding house, comprising Allotments 45, 47, and 48, Part Section 16, Township of Port Victor, Hundred of Encounter Bay having a frontage of 116 ft, or thereabouts to Coral street with a depth of 154 ft or thereabouts bounded by Ocean and McKinlay streets, respectively, whereon is erected a most substantially built, up-to-date, two-storied Residence of 17 rooms, with halls, balcony, verandahs, outhouses, tanks. etc. replete with every modern convenience, gas and water laid on, together with the whole of the superior and up-to-date Furniture, beds, bedding, linen, cutlery, crockery, carpets, etc. etc. The whole to be offered as a going concern, just as it now stands, subject to the above tenancy, the lease of which expires on the 1st of October, 1909
Title, R P A.
For further particulars, terms, catalogues and cards to view, apply to Auctioneers, Grenfell street, Adelaide and Port Victor
Train leaving Adelaide at 7 27 a.m. on day of sale gives intending purchasers ample time to inspect before property is offered.
Immediately following; the above
A.H. LANDSEER, LTD. will sell by auction at the Residence of the late W S Reid, “Guildford”. Ocean-street. Port Victor
LAND-Part Section 16. Allotments No 6o and 61, Township of Port Victor, Hundred of Encounter Bay having a frontage of 116 ft or thereabouts to Eyre-terrace, and 41 ft or thereabouts, fronting Ocean and McKinlay streets, enclosed separately by post and wire fence.

Within 12 months the Trewin sisters announced they were moving to their new residence, Angelsea and this was when Summerlea became very much a centre of social life in Victor Harbor.

New era for Summerlea

New owners Alfred Douglas and Ruby Emmeline Stock took over, although Douglas Stock was only to live another four years before leaving Ruby a widow with four young children.

Initially, the Stocks renovated Summerlea again and within a few years advertisements in the papers went from stating stabling was available to offering garaging for motor vehicles.

Before Douglas Stock passed away, it appears he had come into possession of a Macaw parrot which he thought might be an attraction for the guests. Little did he know when he purchased it that it had a vocabulary learnt in earlier life on board ship!

After Douglas’s death, Ruby continued running Summerlea for approximately 40 years.

Newspaper articles tell of tea parties, balls and dances, musical evenings, bridge and card parties, button days, and a variety of fund-raising events for local clubs, such as the Golf Club and other charitable organisations. Wedding receptions were also held there.

There are fascinating stories in newspaper articles about these events, and the guests attending. Prominent people from all over the state are listed in papers for well over 40 years as holidaying there. Many of them are names known throughout South Australia that we readily recognise today.

1914 saw extensive additions made to the building. Bathrooms, bedrooms, lounges and a spacious dining saloon were added. More additions occurred in 1922, this time with a Jazz Room and Roof Gardens as well as more bedrooms.

In 1928, a chemist named Larking opened premises in Summerlea Buildings. From that time on, advertisements appeared in regards to the renting of premises in Summerlea Buildings.

During the Great Depression, rates were reduced in an attempt to attract guests to what was now known as Summerlea Mansions. By 1932 it seems the accommodation had been converted into flats containing the latest modern conveniences.

Summerlea Mansions continued to flourish during the 1940s. During the years of WWII Mrs Ruby Stock managed to raise over one thousand pounds for war charities with the aid of her small terrier dog, Kitchie. One report in The Advertiser on the 9th May 1941 tells the story of Mrs Stock and Kitchie.

“With a small Union Jack on his back, and a flat tin hanging on each side this little mite did a marvellous job to handle all those copper coins. He developed a knowing trot of his own so that be could hear the money jangle. Kitchie, when out on his collecting rounds at Victor Harbor, would see people on the lawns, pull Mrs. Stock across to them, sidle up to them, and then look round to see what they were putting in the tin. Twice, starting with a halfpenny in each tin, he went out on his own and returned to ‘Summerlea’ with 7/2 and 9/- respectively. Mrs. Stock has refused several lucrative offers from people to purchase Kitchie but she says money would not buy him.”

By 1947 Summerlea Mansions had been converted into two- and three-bedroom self-contained flats, each with a private balcony and all modern conveniences. Life was changing.

Sadly, on 27th May 1953 the special era of Summerlea came to an end when Mrs Ruby Stock passed away, although the holiday flats continued to be available for some time after that.


  • Settlers Around The Bay, Anthony Laube
  • Victor Harbor: From Pioneer Port to Seaside Resort, Michael Page
  • Trove digital newspapers
  • Digger database