The churches significance was enhanced by the association with the Order of the Dominican Fathers of South Australia, who arrived in 1898.
The building itself is a distinguished if simple design by Wright, Woods and Hamilton. The first section was erected by the builder Michael McMullen, who was responsible for the design and erection of many Catholic buildings.
The foundation stone of the church of St Laurence Martyr was laid on March 10, 1867, by Bishop Shiel.
The plan was to build a cathedral-like structure. Financial difficulties curtailed the original £12,000 scheme and contributed to the lengthy construction period. The church dedication was performed on January 10, 1869, again by Bishop Shiel.
The South Australian Register of January 11, 1869, commented upon the reduced scale of construction, observing that “the nave only is finished, the portions which remain to be added being the transepts, chancel or sanctuary, tower, and sacristy. When entirely completed the church will be a good specimen of the early Gothic Order of architecture”. The cruciform included a tower that would contain a complete belfry. The walls were of rubble Glen Osmond stone with Tea Tree Gully stone dressings. The new building occupied about a third of the area of the originally designed building. A temporary gallery was constructed for the choir. “The windows are alternately plain and coloured. The latter, we understand, being the gift of the clergy and others who have interested themselves in the undertaking.” The altar, designed by the architects, was of polished cedar. The roof principals were supported by stone caps, “which, when funds permit, will be carved for the purposes of embellishment”.
Despite this rather kindly description of the church as it might have become, it remained unfinished for several years. The Dominican Fathers next erected the priory and then completed the church, although not in the form originally intended. In 1909 plans consisted of a double porch with a large arch in the centre, six confessionals thrust out between buttresses on the eastern and western elevations, and from the north wall a completely new complex of sanctuary, side chapels and sacristies. Electric light was installed and the pipe organ was built below the large south-facing window. The completed church was blessed in February 1910. Edward John Woods was the architect and the contractors were Ligertwood and Park.
The present altar was erected in 1926, and to mark the Golden Jubilee of the order in Australia two side alters were set up in 1948. In 1948-49 the church was consecrated and renovated.
The building is an excellent example of a parish church consistently detailed and constructed, and although lacking the grandiose scale of the original design, its impact is impressive. The rock-faced sandstone dressings provide a pleasing foil to the bluestone walling. The building, divided into buttressed bays, is dominated by the substantial and steeply pitched roof. The interior is spacious, the high hammer beam roof and diagonal matchboard ceiling being a notable feature. The nave is impressive, but the stone truss supports remain uncarved.