In 1876 land on North Terrace was vested in the University of Adelaide. On the portion of land near the police barracks were powder magazines that caused much concern as a danger to life and property until a new one was built in the west parklands in 1882. Both the university and the City Council put pressure on the government for their removal.
Throughout the dispute colonial commandant M.E. Downes was adamantly opposed to the removal of the two existing powder magazines as he believed they had “moral protection by their proximity to the Police Barracks and on the new site they would be devoid of all protection, and any evil-disposed person could readily break into them to carry out the purpose he had in view”.
A site was selected on part of the gaol area under Act No. 247 of 1882, The Adelaide Gunpowder Magazine Act. Tenders were duly called for in 1882 for the erection of the new powder magazine and keeper’s cottage.
The two buildings within a stone-walled enclosure were to serve as a merchants’ magazine in place of the one abandoned on North Terrace, and the other for artillery powder by the military force. At some distance from the boundary walls a substantial stone cottage was erected for the magazine keeper. The builder was William Camens. The powder magazine with its buttresses was constructed from “best approved slate building stone” on the exterior, with the internal walls being “best machine made brick”.