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What is polites?

G31st August 2006

C12 Comments

Tart, environment, heritage

An Adelaide mystery is solved.

I was visiting Adelaide recently and a strange thing came to my attention as I walked the city streets. In every direction I looked, I could see ‘Polites’ signs mounted on city buildings. The longer I looked, the more of them I could see. All sorts of buildings from small shops to office towers, motels, night clubs and warehouses were adorned with those blue-and white Polites signs. What did Polites mean? I had to find out….

Polites signs in Adelaide

A little bit of research revealed that Polites was the name of Adelaide’s most successful property tycoon. Whenever he purchased a city building, Constantine George Polites would immediately erect a sign to indicate the building’s ownership. The end result was a city emblazoned with hundreds of blue and white Polites signs. In particular, Hindley Street can boast the greatest concentration of this unusual form of signage. It all goes to demonstrate the dominance of one man on the South Australian capital.

Polites signs in Adelaide

Con Polites was born in 1919 at Port Pirie to Greek farming parents. After growing up in poverty, he left school and set up a deli-snack bar at the age of 16. He then moved to Adelaide at 19 and worked as a general hand at Woolworths in Rundle Street before starting a number of businesses in Adelaide. After moving to Sydney for a few years to get married, Polites returned to Adelaide and made his first real-estate purchase in 1959. It all just ballooned from there, apparently.

But what was the motivation for the signage?

In 1992, Con Polites told The Advertiser that he had always wanted to have his name up in lights, but that it was not an ego thing. “It’s to do with a feeling of satisfaction that one has achieved success…I just feel proud that I have achieved these things…And you let people know that you are around. That’s all” he was quoted as saying.

Polites signs in Adelaide

After a lifetime of buying property, making money and erecting as many blue signs as he could, Con Polites died in 2001 at the age of 82. He was fondly remembered as a generous man, keen to help the needy. His son now manages the real-estate business, called the Polites Princes Group. Several dozen blue and white Polites signs survive him.

References and Further Information

Hackett, P. (1992) Making a name. Adelaide Advertiser, 8 August.
Lloyd, P. (1995) How to make millions by Con Polites. Adelaide Advertiser, 14 January.
Pengelley, J. & Kemp, M. (2001) From pauper to king of the Princes Group. Adelaide Advertiser, 25 September, p.19
Turner, J. (2001) Con farewelled in style. Adelaide Advertiser, 28 September, p.23

You can see some more Polites signs on Belinda Bohlken’s website.

__________________________________________________

Apology to George Polites

I am the webmaster of this site. Unfortunately, certain reader comments were recently posted on this page which were false and misleading and gratuitously offensive. Those comments were also defamatory of Mr. George Polites.

I have removed those comments and have taken steps to ensure that neither those comments nor any similar comments will be published in the future. I would like to sincerely apologise to Mr. Polites for any concern or damage caused.

Adam Dimech, 25 July 2009

   

Comments:

12 responses to “What is polites?”

  • Written by frank on 11 December 2008:

    A GREAT STORY CAN YOU TELL ME MORE. i AM AMAZED HOW 1 PERSON CAN DO SO MUCH?

  • Written by david on 24 December 2008:

    thanks for that, we’re just visiting adelaide and i was intrigued about the meaning of these signs… they really are everywhere in the town centre!

  • Written by bec on 6 January 2009:

    I live in Adelaide and see them all the time. Thanks now i know why they are there =]

  • Written by robert sangster on 22 February 2009:

    I was recently at a major city hospital with my wife as our daughter was suffering from cancer. She was treated by a brilliant young surgeon who was not only highly respected in the hospital but gave very generously of her time. Her care and consideration was very kind we will always be indebted to this angel. We later learned that she is the granddaughter of Polites.

  • Written by sue on 22 February 2009:

    I was wondering what all the Adelaide signs were about thanks for clarifying that.

  • Written by Jewelz on 24 February 2009:

    Wow! This is a cool story. It’s good to know more about my city 🙂
    Thanks

  • Written by sue on 9 March 2009:

    Recently on holiday in Adelaide and always interested to learn all there is about a city’s history. Found your information inspiring. Good to see that if you work hard you can achieve anything. (A pity some people have to make dark of another person’s success,though) Thanks for your story.

  • Written by zarbicore on 12 March 2009:

    Thanks for posting this. I visited Adelaide recently and wondered wtf was going on with these signs.

  • Written by Josie, Bron, Willy, Doug & Cath on 6 April 2009:

    A rather intriguing mystery solved. Thaks for the information, how cool?

  • Written by Christopher on 16 July 2009:

    Con is an inspiration to many, god bless his soul

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