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Port Adelaide is a port-side region of Adelaide, approximately 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) northwest of the Adelaide CBD. It is also the namesake of the City of Port Adelaide Enfield council, a suburb, a federal and state electoral division and is the main port for the city of Adelaide. Port Adelaide played an important role in the formative decades of Adelaide and South Australia, with the port being early Adelaide's main supply and information link to the rest of the world. Its Kaurna name, although not officially adopted as a dual name, is Yartapuulti.
Prior to European settlement Port Adelaide was covered with mangrove swamps and tidal mud flats, and lay next to a narrow creek. At this time, it was inhabited by the Kaurna people, who occupied the Adelaide Plains, the Barossa Valley, the western side of the Fleurieu Peninsula, and northwards past Snowtown. The Kaurna people called the Port Adelaide area Yartapuulti, and the whole estuarine area of the Port River Yertabulti (Yerta Bulti), meaning "land of sleep or death".
The entrance to this creek, the Port River, was first reported by Europeans in 1831. It was explored by Europeans when Captain Henry Jones entered in 1834. The creek's main channel was then fed by numerous smaller creeks, and was 2–4 fathoms (4–7 m) deep. The navigable channel was narrow and the creek soon faded into swamps and sandhills. At low tide the channel was surrounded by mudbanks. Dry and solid land ended near present-day Alberton.
Colonel William Light began closely exploring the area in late 1836 while deciding on a site for the colony of South Australia's port. After initial trepidation, he reported to the Colonisation Commissioners that the location was a suitable harbour. By this time it had acquired the name "the port creek". Light's choice of separating the port and Adelaide was strongly opposed by a few merchants, a newspaper and Governor John Hindmarsh. This opposition was largely based on the distance between them. The division of power in the colony meant that the final decision was Light's alone. He kept Adelaide and the port separate principally due to the lack of fresh water at the port.
The effective foundation day of Port Adelaide was 6 January 1837. On this day the first harbourmaster, Captain Thomas Lipson (Royal Navy), took up residence with his family on the edge of Port Creek. The new port was used for shipping later that month, and passengers began disembarking the next. At this point the site was known as The Port Creek Settlement.
When founded, the port's land was just higher than the surrounding tidal flats; at high tide the port could be rowed around. The port had a significant problem—reported in letters from Light and complaints to the Governor from ship owners—of a lack of a fresh water supply. At first the river was not used for larger ships. They had to land at Holdfast Bay until the port was charted. This early port was plagued by mosquitoes, was a comparative long distance from Adelaide, had few amenities and had a risk of inundation when the tide was very high. By 1840 it had acquired the name "Port Misery"; the name was widely used in news reports. It was first coined in a book credited to T. Horton James, probably a pseudonym, and comes from a line stating:
The original drawings of Adelaide City Plan by Light show that he envisaged a canal (sea communication) between Port Adelaide and the City of Adelaide. The canal was not built; it would have required a massive investment that was not available at the time. A plan of a proposed "Grand Junction Canal" between Adelaide and the North Arm, by engineer Edward Snell was produced in 1851, with an exhibition of his "A Bird's Eye View of the Country Between Adelaide and the North Arm", showing the proposed canal.
By early 1838, large vessels could only get as far as the end of Gawler Reach (near the current Birkenhead Bridge). Arrivals had to use smaller boats, traverse the mangrove swamps at low tide and climb sandhills to reach the road to Adelaide. A canal for the loading of sailing ships was constructed in 1838, and town acreages nearby surveyed and sold. By the years end deficiencies of the canal were clear. The canal was dry for most of the day and cargo movement very slow. Seagoing ships had to stop some distance from the settlement due to the mudbanks. Cargo and passengers covered the remaining distance in ships' boats. All had to traverse 2–300 m of swamps after landing to reach sandhills, and eventually the road to Adelaide. The new port's first maritime casualty was the migrant ship Tam O'Shanter that ran aground on the outer sand bar. Later a small waterway in the port was named after the ship; the waterway later became the Port Adelaide Canal.
The port's initial location was intended to be temporary. The location for a proper port was chosen by Governor George Gawler, between the original settlement and the Governor's preferred location at the junction of the North Arm and the Port River. One reason for the chosen site was Gawler's instructions on leaving England to limit expenditure; the North Arm site would have required more transport infrastructure and reclamation work. Gawler awarded a tender allowing the South Australian Company to construct a private wharf, again partly to limit government expenditure. Along with the wharf they were to construct a warehouse and roadway. The roadway was to be a 100 feet (30 m) wide and run from the port to dry land, a distance of approximately 1 mile (1.6 km). This first wharf was built near the end of the modern Commercial Road.
The wharf, known as McLaren Wharf, was finished in 1840 and named after David McLaren, company manager of the South Australian Company. McLaren Wharf was 336 feet (102 m) long and 15 feet (4.6 m) deep at low tide. Contrary to usual practice, it was allowed to be built at the low water mark, which made construction simpler. The wharf, warehouse and road were opened by Governor Gawler in October 1840. The opening procession from the old port to the new included over 1,000 people; then the largest assembly of colonists to date. The procession included 600 horsemen and 450 vehicles, almost all of the colony's wheeled transportation. At the opening a parcel was ceremonially landed from the barque Guiana. Upon opening, the port could accommodate vessels up to 530 long tons (539 t). In May 1841 John Hill became the original holder of the land grant for all the land south of St Vincent Street, reaching to Tam O'Shanter Creek (later the Port Canal), comprising 134 acres and known as Section 2112. Much of this land was a tidal mangrove swamp, being reclaimed by successive owners over many decades.
During reclamation work, the ground level was raised by approximately 9 feet (3 m), with mud and silt from dredging work. Early houses had their ground floors below the now raised ground level; some had steps built down from road level. The Port Admiral Hotel's original ground floor now forms part of its basement. The last major reclamation was of the Glanville Reserve in 1892.
By the mid-1840s, with increasing trade, the wharves proved insufficient and some more private wharves were constructed. During the late 1850s the state of the dry and dusty plain, between Adelaide and Port Adelaide, led to the pejorative terms "Dustholia" and "Mudholia" in summer and winter.
Gas street lighting was erected by the local council in 1881. The town received its first electric lighting in January 1889, lit with the colony's first town supply from a powerhouse in Nile Street. During the rest of the 1800s harbour facilities expanded and the town grew. It gained an impressive range of commercial and institutional buildings. Many have survived, resulting in Port Adelaide having one of the best concentrations of colonial buildings in South Australia. Their significance was recognised in May 1982, when a sizeable part of the town centre was declared a State Heritage Area.
The construction of the Outer Harbor took place at the beginning of the 20th century, accommodating larger ships and reducing the time needed to sail up the Port River to the inner harbour. In the 1920s and 1930s the first wharf was removed or disappeared and the Port Adelaide wharves underwent a significant reconstruction programme, changing the face of the inner harbour's waterfront.
The introduction of containerisation in the 1960s had a major impact on the Port, changing cargo handling methods and significantly reducing the size of the local workforce.
Compounding the effect of a declining workforce on business activity, competition for shoppers arrived in the form of regional shopping centres. Up until the 1960s the Port had been second only to Adelaide as a shopping and commercial precinct. The opening of shopping centres in nearby suburbs led to a general decline in retail turnover. Activity in the suburb has declined significantly from its heyday, leaving parts empty and derelict. Historic buildings are closed and sometimes vandalised, shops in the main streets are empty and boarded up.
Redevelopment of the waterfront was first publicly discussed in 1975. Over the following years, plans and costs were proposed and discussed but most lapsed without action.
By 2002, the "Newport Quays" consortium was the government's preferred bidder for a $1.2 billion project to cover 51 hectares (130 acres) of under used land. The development was unveiled in 2003 and land sales began two years later. This development was stated to be worth $1.5 billion and would comprise 2000 homes, construction of which would create 4000 jobs.
In 2004 Premier Mike Rann announced that a dolphin sanctuary would be established in the Port River and Barker Inlet covering 118 square kilometres, the first "urban" dolphin sanctuary in the world. In 2005 the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary Act was enacted.
By 2006 Newport Quays was being criticised for its poor planning for a residential development, criticism that continued with each stage of the project. By early 2007, two stages of the now $2 billion development were under construction, or nearing completion, and the third's plans submitted; The plans included provision for a 100-berth marina and one building built over the water. By 2008 reports showed the resale value of some properties in the developments were under the initial cost. The local council estimated that less than half of finished properties were occupied.
In October 2009 it was named, by the National Trust of Australia, as one of the country's most at risk heritage sites. A lack of people living in, and travelling to, Port Adelaide is seen as the major cause of this decline.
In February 2010 Premier Mike Rann opened the $400 million Techport naval construction hub at Osborne (next to the Australian Submarine Corporation's facility) to underpin the development of the Navy's $8 billion Air Warfare Destroyer program and other naval construction projects. Techport features the largest ship lift in the Southern Hemisphere.
In 2015–16 Quest Hotel Consortium built a $25 million apartment building on the corner of McLaren Wharf and the Birkenhead Bridge.
In 2016 it was announced that Starfish Developments and Cedar Woods had won tenders to develop 23ha of vacant waterfront land in the inner Port Adelaide harbour with total investment exceeding $1 billion. The development was later renamed Fletcher's Slip after a nearby historic landmark.
In 2016 the Federal Government announced that DCNS had won the tender to build 12 submarines for the Royal Australian Navy in a $50 billion deal, with construction taking place in Port Adelaide.
In 2016 the South Australian State Government indicated it is interested in re-establishing the tram network from the City to Port Adelaide, with links to Outer Harbor and Semaphore.
In 2017 developer EPC Pacific began construction of a $38 million office tower on Nelson Street in Port Adelaide that will house public servants.
In 2017 the Port Admiral Hotel was reopened after a $1m redevelopment. It is one of the oldest buildings in Port Adelaide built in 1849.
In 2018, Pirate Life Breweries announced it would be relocating in Port Adelaide into a $15m refurbished warehouse.
In 2018, Precision Group began the redevelopment of the Port Canal Shopping Centre as Port Adelaide Plaza.
In 2019, The Banksia Tree Cafe and Corner Store opened on the site of the Brunswick Pier Hotel.
In 2020, the first residents moved in to new townhomes constructed as part of Starfish's Dock One development. Once completed, Dock One will comprise approximately 650 new homes.History info courtesy of Wikipedia