As you wander around Port Adelaide and in particular the area around the National Maritime Museum you could be forgiven for asking yourself if the buildings have at some stage sunk into the ground as you see tops of windows jutting out just above the current street level.

In fact the buildings (the Port’s oldest) have not sunk but rather the street has risen. Rising street levels as opposed to rising sea levels!

Let me explain, noting that the best place to see the impact of what has happened is within and without the National Maritime Museum, formally a bond store. I have a separate review on the museum itself.

30As you wander around the basement level of the museum, the floor you will walk on was at street level (picture 2) when the building was built in 1856. When outside the building look at the lower layer of “windows” (Picture 1). These were once full windows. You will how the street level has risen like this on many of the older buildings in this area.

If you have read my ‘Water for the Port‘ review you will recall that this whole area was mosquito infected mangrove swamps and was regularly flooded during high than normal high tides. This problem was addressed, around the 1870s, by dredging the Port River to increase its ability to carry away water and enhance its navigability and the dredged material was used to raise the land area. As a consequence of this work many ground floors were turned into basements or had to have steps build down into them. As the tidal mangrove swamps were reclaimed, the ground level was raised by up to 3 metres in some parts.


The ground floor of the Port Admiral Hotel (derelict when I visited but fully restored and reopened in November 2017) was fully subsumed below ground and became its basement. While not noticeable from outside (picture 3) you can certainly see the top of what was originally the ground floor window in the adjoining building.

Address: Various
Directions: In particular the National Maritime Museum in Lipson Street

For my next PORT ADELAIDE review click HERE.
To start reading at the beginning of my PORT ADELAIDE reviews click HERE.


3 thoughts on “Have The Buildings Really Sunk?

  1. That sounds like an amazing undertaking. Is there any photo’s of the dredging or the relocating of the dredged material? This is an amazing part of South Australia’s history thanks for sharing.


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