CHRISTMAS 1885 WAS ONE OF THE CITY'S BIGGEST RETAIL MOMENTS when the Adelaide Arcade, between Rundle and Grenfells streets, opened.
The arcade’s site had been decided by three serious fires nearby at the premises of “Messrs Gays, Tannerts and Barks & Chambers” who joined the syndicate that built the arcade.
Emanuel Cohen, a prime instigator of the Adelaide project, had seen arcades in Europe. Although Adelaide Arcade’s interior resembles Parisian arcades, the architects Latham A. Withall and Alfred Wells were more likely influenced by those in Sydney and Melbourne.
Adelaide Arcade, with its classical dome, has always been popular. As the first arcade built in Adelaide, with novel technology and design, it took only eight months in 1885 to complete. After the contract was signed with E. Pett & Son, the arcade was constructed simultaneously at both ends before the Adelaide Arcade Company owned an area within its centre.
While the Adelaide Arcade was planned during the city's biggest building boom, when it was opened during one of its worst recessions, the speculators gave shop tenants their first year rent free rather than go broke.
When the arcade was opened to catch the Christmas trade, as an added attraction, it was one of the first commercial places in the city to have electric lighting (along with Kither’s Butcher Shop in Rundle Street).