45-03 Signals Station – Post and Telegraph site

Here on the Park Lands directly opposite Franklin Street is an important historical site, but there is no historical marker or any evidence of what was on the site. The site was used for communications – and its usage changed, over almost 150 years, as communications technology changed.

As early as 1841 there was a flagpole erected at the site to give the Adelaide business community shipping information. A “flagstaff keeper” would climb a tower, and using a telescope, could see whether a ship had arrived in the Gulf and what sort of ship it was, by observing the flags it was flying.

The flagstaff keeper would then raise certain flags and/or black balls on the flagstaff. If you knew the code, you could be aware of what type of ship had arrived and what, if anything, that meant for your business.

This was called a “signals station”. In addition to the signal tower there was also a flagstaff keeper’s cottage. The system of raising and lowering flags became obsolete after only 15 years. In 1856 the Signals Station was replaced with a telegraph station, which used Morse code, transmitted from the beachside suburb of Grange, where there was a good view of the shipping that was coming up Gulf St Vincent.

In the 20th century, the Commonwealth Government took over posts and telegraphs. The compound here became part of the PMG – the “Post Master General's” Department. The “telegraph station” as it was then known, included stables, and later (from the 1920's) it was known as the PMG Department's garage.

In 1956, the PMG Department set up operations nearby, in Grote Street. The operation is still there. It's a huge Australia Post building and compound that spreads between Grote street and Gouger street.

But despite its new premises across West Terrace, back in 1956, the PMG didn't want to surrender its building on the Park Lands. Even after the PMG's department was split up, in the 1970's, into the separate entities of “Australia Post” and “Telecom” (now Telstra) this land was still burdened with an old metal shed. By that stage it was just called a transport depot. When it was no longer needed as a transport depot, the shed was then reserved for the use of postal and telecommunications employees, as a recreation facility. It was known by that stage as the Post-Tel Institute building.

It took until 1987 for the metal shed to be demolished and the site returned to Park Lands. Now there is no record that a signals station or anything else, ever existed here.

From this point walk westwards, about 100 metres into the sporting field.

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