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Adelaide Arcade

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by Gary (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Adelaide, South Australia. Hope you enjoy my writing. Contact me at
Published October 12th 2013
or why you should look up when you walk along Rundle Mall
Source: Dinkum / Wikimedia Commons

The best piece of advice I received from my instructor in Tour Guide College was this: when you're walking, look up. Why? Check for rain? Point out the birdlife flying overhead? Plane spotting? No, no. It's so you can see the tops of the buildings, of course.

My instructor was right about looking up. We miss so much interesting stuff by keeping our peepers at the level of doors and shop fronts. In a city as interesting as Adelaide, we can see so much more that is lively and interesting if we engage in a little ocular elevation.

Try it out. Take a walk through the Adelaide CBD -down Hindley Street, or Grenfell Street, King William Street or North Terrace. How much more did you notice about this beautiful city by occasionally glancing up?

Take Rundle Mall, for example. Take a mental walk with me down Rundle Mall to Adelaide Arcade. It's on the southern side of the Mall, near the corner of Twin Street. It is my favourite building in the Mall. In fact, it was the original Mall. Built in 1885, it was the modern shopping centre of its day, with 50 shops, each with an individual staircase from the shop on the ground floor to a workshop on the first. The original promenade, which, alas, has been overlaid, was black and white Carrara marble. The architecture has a definite Greco-Roman theme which would have reflected the confidence colonial Aussies were feeling at the time.


Now I'll show you what I mean about looking up. Look at the base of the magnificent dome.

What do you see? The Australian Coat of Arms, right? Look again. The Australian Coat of Arms has the emblems of the six states on its shield, not the symbols you see here. On the Australian Arms the positions of the kangaroo and emu are reversed, and it doesn't have a sunburst above it, but a star. But perhaps most telling of all, the six states did not federate into the wonderful nation we call the Commonwealth of Australia until 1901. Remember, Adelaide Arcade was built in 1885.

So what's going on? Well, as I mentioned, Australia was feeling pretty good about itself in the 1880s. There was an economic boom and things were going great for the Empire. And people were starting to think, 'wouldn't it be fantastic if all the Australian colonies were one!' Competitions were held for the flag and coat of arms that this new nation should have, and the Adelaide Arcade Arms is the winning entry of one such competition. So the Arcade is really a monument to the hopes and yearnings of colonial Australians.

See what I mean about looking up?

Do go along to see this beautiful building. Check out the magnificent colonial ironwork. There is a museum on the balcony of Gay's Arcade, which leads off Adelaide Arcade to Twin Street. You'll learn a lot more about the colourful history of Adelaide Arcade. You might even hear 'The Adelaide Arcade Polka', played for the official opening.

Oh, and you might even notice the presence of the ghost. Yes in the early 1900's, the Beadle, or caretaker, came to a grisly end. He was attending to the electricity generator (where the laundromat is now) and was killed in a machinery accident. Shop staff and shoppers have since born witness to strange sounds, sights, and eerie goings-on. Ask the staff at the museum to tell you about them.

Keep walking! Keep looking up!
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Where: 111A,Balcony Level/Adelaide Arcade, Adelaide SA 5000 ‎
Your Comment
A fascinating article with some good advice, thanks Gary.
by Dave Walsh (score: 4|11307) 2596 days ago
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