Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Adelaide Arcade: Part One - " A History"

The Adelaide Arcade
Part one: A History

In 1885 Adelaide was a bustling city, boasting numbers upward of 150,000 residents in the only “free” colony of Australia ( South Australia was not settled by Convicts, rather it was seen as a “Utopia” of sorts, for the wealthy and free settlers). 

The sealed streets were lined with Gas lamps, there was a postal service, newspapers, theatre and horse racing. 

On December 12th 1885 Adelaide Arcade was opened on Rundle Street, boasting 50 stores, with 50, 000 square feet of space, Turkish Baths, electric Lighting, upper and lower floors, ventilation and a unique parcel delivery system. 

The stone entrance was built from marble quarried and carried from Kapunda, and ornamental cast Iron was bought from Fulten & Co. Panels of glass were transported from England, and special ornate tiling was used to line the floors of this grand structure of, what was at the time, a progressive and very modern design of architecture. 

The idea for the shops was to have a ground floor area displaying wares and goods and an upstairs room for working and or storage. At the time, each shop had its own internal staircase. 

Governor Sir William Robinson
The building was officially opened on the 12th of December 1885 by Governor Sir William Robinson. 

Adelaide Arcade was one of the first buildings in Adelaide to be lit totally by electric light. In 1885 it was also announced that “Gays Arcade” would be joining Adelaide Arcade to Twin street, the design was drawn by architect James Cumming. 

The opening day of the arcade caused quite a flutter in the city streets, 60, 000 pounds had been spent to build the Arcade, in a time of high unemployment, many of the lower classes were not accepting of this, and thought to cause an uproar at the opening ceremonies. 

The gates were locked at either end as dignitaries and officials dined, hungry people and the unemployed lined the gates, watching the officials eat and drink Champagne, a stir was beginning through the hungry crowd, but before a riot began 70 officers from the Adelaide police force arrived and moved the potential rioters on, this, however, did not stop the Governors car being pelted by stones as he drove away after the function. 

The electricity used to power the lighting of the Arcade came from an on site power generator, a large engine, located in what is now The Manhattan Dry Cleaners at shop 9. Each shop was also fitted with a gas lamp for emergencies, and had heating a cooling ventilation 

There is also an underground section which is currently closed off, that was used as a tea room. 

The building was lit by sixteen lamps hung along the centre of the promenade, and one at either end, over the entrances. 

Of the gas powered electricity generating machine this was stated in “Adelaide observer, 19 December 1885, p. 33 ” 

“The engine Room is well worth the visit. Here there is the dynamo which works the electric light. In the centre are the soft-iron magnets and the thousands of coils of wire so beautifully placed in relation to each other that the slightest current engendered in the wire shall immediately accumulate over and over almost ad infinitum. The soft Iron magnets do their part by reason of the positive and negative poles in their mutual attractive force creating electricity. The current before passing on to the insulated wires branching off to the sixteen lamps has to pass over a little bridge of thin platinum.” 

This kind of technology was brand new at the time, with no electricity available on demand like we are used to in modern times. 

The wheel of the gas burning engine turned at 121 revolutions per minute whilst the body of the engine was bolted to the hard floor. 

Some of you may be wondering why I am describing this engine in such detail, it is because of a death which occurred within the engine room two years after installation, a death we will be looking at in part two of this blog next week, entitled “ The Beadle”, a man who could well be haunting the Adelaide Arcade!

© 2012 The Haunts of Adelaide
written and researched by
Allen Tiller

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