South Australia’s first port was declared as Port Adelaide in 1837 and the ensuing 178 years have seen changes in position and fluctuating fortunes.
Port Adelaide grew from the construction of Commercial Road across the tidal flats to join the “Road to the Port” at Alberton which connected to the McLaren Wharf (named after the manager of the South Australian Company) and what was the deeper water which would become Port Adelaide’s Inner Harbor.
Running from this wharf was a bridge (the first in the Colony) that connected to North Parade and the Government wharf named Queen’s.
North Parade became the early shopping precinct of the town and, as the levels were raised the original levee became known as St Vincent Street. The name was taken from Admiral John Jervis, Earl of St Vincent, who defeated the Spanish navy in 1797 off Cape St Vincent on the south west tip of the Atlantic coast of Portugal. Matthew Flinders gave the name St Vincent to the gulf that became the major seaway to Port Adelaide.
The two streets cross and became over the years the town centre and represented the commercial heart of the Port. Lined with Government, banking and business buildings the intersection grew with the port and acquired the name of the “Black Diamond Corner”, which grew from the 1878 opening of the Black Diamond Hotel, so named because of the licencees connection to Captain Henry Simpson’s coal-carrying ships that were distinguished by a black diamond on the smoke stack. Coal was for many years piled on the wharves near the intersection.
As the port grew, particularly between and after the World Wars the corner became a traffic nightmare that saw the installation of traffic control control known as “silent cops” (a painted pillar at the centre of the intersection to direct traffic around). Erected in 1924 and renewed until 1929 when advertising boards were erected on it.
Replacement was made in 1939 with a permanent concrete “cop” painted in black and white with “Keep Left” marked on it. It remained in place until 1968 when traffic lights were installed to control the ever-increasing vehicular traffic.
It was moved to several sites and today sits on the footpath at the intersection of Commercial Road and North Parade.
This 1939 concrete “silent cop” became a target for Australian Rules Football rivalry when, in 1946, it was painted during the night in the opposing colours of a long-time opponent of the Port Adelaide Football Club, the Magpies.
Busy, busy always busy!
The pandemonium created at the busy peak hours around the Black Diamond corner. The last “silent cop” (1939-1968) stands in the centre of it all as a Leyland bus jostles with various car models of Holden, Ford, Austin, Vauxhall and Chevrolet
stream around to wend their way.
Buildings from the left are the Commonwealth Bank, Post Office and the southern wing of the Police Station.
Photographed in 1964 by PAHS member Bob Thorjussen.
At rest . . . at last!
The final (?) resting place of the Black Diamond “silent cop”, on the corner of Commercial Road and North Parade on the footpath in front of the old Customs House, after at least seven moves from its original site on the intersection.
Over a period of 36 years and many changes in position and value it has become an unusual attraction rather than the proud emblem of Port Adelaide.