The original shareholders of Adelaide Arcade Pty Ltd were:
Lewis Henry Berens
Joachim Matthias Wendt
Robert Carr Castle
Hermann Koeppon Carl Wendt
The Arcade was considered extremely progressive at the time. With its response to design requirements and the use of new construction materials and techniques, it brought new and novel ideas to Adelaide.
When Adelaide Arcade was built in 1885, it comprised of 50 shops. The original shops would retail their wares from the ground floor whilst their workroom on the first floor was accessed from an internal staircase.
The Arcade was one of the first buildings in Adelaide to use electric lighting. There were sixteen electric lamps hanging throughout including one on the outside of the balcony at each end of the building which also aided in lighting the streets. The shops were also illuminated from the outside by ornamental gas lamps made by Messrs Strode & Co, London.
Adelaide Arcade Coat of Arms
Located at the base of the Arcade’s domes is the Adelaide Arcade Coat of Arms. At the time the Arcade was built, there was much discussion about all the states coming together and several competitions were held to design a coat of arms for a Federated Australia. The owners of Adelaide Arcade decided to decorate the building with the coat of arms that they believed would eventually be adopted for Australia. Whilst this design was not adopted by the Commonwealth of Australia in 1908, it still remains today proudly displayed below the domes as the Adelaide Arcade Coat of Arms.
The Adelaide Arcade’s Coat of Arms is still similar to Australia’s official one in a few respects. It has a Kangaroo and Emu on each side, although opposite to the final Australian design. Above these symbols you will note the sun rising over the ocean. Australia has often been referred to as the “Land of the rising sun”. Below the design is situated a scroll in which are written the words “Advance Australia”. Next to the Emu and Kangaroo are sheaths of wheat and below them are grape vines, symbolising Australia as the land of opportunity. The Coat of Arms was produced by Messrs W Pett & Son, however the castings have been unable to be traced.
One of the most exotic features of Adelaide Arcade was the Turkish Baths which occupied the south eastern corner of the Arcade. The front entrance to the Turkish Baths was off Grenfell Street.
The Turkish Baths were lavishly fitted out with Carrara marble,enameled iron baths and white tiles giving it a clean and elegant appearance. Both ladies and gentleman had a choice of warm baths for a shilling and Turkish baths for four shillings.
An original design feature of the Arcade was the inclusion of a spacious underground chamber that was accessed via an ornate ironwork entrance in the centre of the Arcade.
It is believed to have first been occupied by The Arcade Café Refreshment Room. It is likely many other businesses occupied the basement including PJ Brady Billiards who also managed the popular Palace Billiard Hall that was also located within the Arcade. It is believed the entrance to the basement was covered over during the 1968 renovations, but the entrance was recently uncovered to reveal the original ornate ironwork staircase and basement.
Naturally, like all old buildings, Adelaide Arcade is believed to own a resident ghost! Francis Cluney, the Adelaide Arcade Beadle (Caretaker) in the early years of the 1900’s came to a nasty end, having his head mutilated in the electricity generator. The newspaper report of the time was quite graphic in every detail. There have been intermittent reports over the years of sightings, strange footsteps, objects being moved from where they belong, and other strange phenomena which cannot be explained.
Since the grand beginning in 1885, Adelaide and Gay’s Arcades have seen some major changes in appearance.
In 1935, alterations were made in an attempt to boost trading. This saw the advent of the central booths in the modern style of the thirties and also box electric lighting above the shops.
In 1968, extensive alterations occurred with the addition of a balcony walkway at the first floor level, which doubled the number of shops in both Arcades. This also led to the disappearance of most of the internal stairways. To increase the space in the some of the downstairs shops, mezzanines were added.
On 3 August 1980, the building caught on fire. Gay’s Arcade, where the fire originated, was completely gutted and Adelaide Arcade was extensively damaged. Both Gay’s and Adelaide Arcades were closed for trading for over a week and the repairs cost was two million dollars.
Over the years, renovations have been undertaken to restore the Arcades to their former nineteenth century glory. Whilst heritage laws prohibit exact replication, a sensitive and considered interpretation of original features has been implemented.