A cluster of timber-framed buildings including a dormitory, wash-house and fumigation room were built on Torrens Island in 1856. The makeshift station fell into disuse and suspect passengers were isolated on a series of leaking hulks tethered in the Port River. Internees often ran the gauntlet. The Quarantine Act of 1877 tightened regulations and a government report recommended the construction of a more permanent facility.
The new station was completed in 1879. It comprised an iron-fenced enclosure on the western shore with a jetty, dormitories for singles, cottages for married couples, hospital wards, disinfecting rooms, staff quarters, kitchens, dining rooms and a mortuary.
In 1909 the Commonwealth Government took over all Australian quarantine stations. A boiler house and giant autoclave were added. Offloaded on the jetty by the quarantine launch Cheopis, passengers were directed to the bathing blocks for carbolic showers while their luggage was fumigated in the autoclave. Torrens Island admitted its last passengers in 1966. Following the declaration by the World Health Organisation of the eradication of smallpox in 1979, the site closed as a human quarantine station and many of the buildings were auctioned off and relocated. In 1993 the remaining structures were entered into the South Australian Heritage Register.
"It seems a little ironic that some of the once disinfected Quarantine Station buildings are now their complete antithesis… dust covered, decaying, moth and snake infested… but as such, they are now seen in their most poignant and fragile state. These images remind us of the once harsh isolated everyday living conditions of patients and staff at the Quarantine Station, and also of the ravages of time… before they are changed forever due to the ongoing restoration of the site."
Danica Gacesa McLean