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The History of Rundle Street

Home > Adelaide > Cafes | Fun Things To Do | Places of Interest | Shopping | Unusual Things to do
by Ann Lund (subscribe)
A writer keen to share knowledge of South East Asia and loves exploring and writing about the gems in the community, art and culture of Adelaide, as well as towns and cities further afield.
Published July 28th 2014
Adelaide's Rundle strip historic, contemporary and changing
People walk the paving stones of the Rundle Mall on a daily basis but do they really know the history of this iconic part of the CBD? The main pedestrian mall of Adelaide with its shopping precincts, trendy cafés, boutiques and restaurant strip, starts at King William Street and stretches down to the east parklands and on into Kent Town. This strip has history and has grown and changed over time just like the city, its surrounding areas and its people.
Rundle Mall, shopping precinct, history, John Rundle, Beehive, Rundle Street, Adelaide
Rundle Mall today 2014

Rundle Street, which actually extends to Rundle Road from East Terrace to Kent town, used to be a vehicle thoroughfare the whole way but the western section was closed to traffic to form a pedestrian strip named Rundle Mall, which was officially opened on 1 September 1976. The plans for the mall were instigated by the then Premier Don Dunstan and the architects awarded the project were Ian Hannaford Architects.

The street was named in 1937 after John Rundle who was a member of the House of Commons and also a director of the South Australia Company established in 1835 to promote settlement of the new colony that was later to become South Australia. The street's name was declared on 23 May 1937 by the Street Naming Committee. The street's positioning as part of the larger City of Adelaide plan as a whole was determined by the first Surveyor-General Colonel William Light and he along with eminent businessmen and some officials of the time set about naming the streets of the city, often after themselves.

In 1895 the Rundle, King William and Hindley Street intersection, the historical Beehive Corner, was the site where the first electric street lighting in South Australia was installed. The Beehive Corner site, originally owned by John Rundle, was also the much-coveted vantage point for viewing the Federation Royal Visit in 1901.
Rundle Mall, shopping precinct, history, John Rundle, Beehive, Rundle Street, Adelaide
Rundle Lantern comprised of 748 panels of LED lighting

Over one hundred years later in 2006 a different electric light project was proposed focused on the Rundle Mall, Rundle Street and Pultney Street intersection. Designers were looking to emulate and took inspiration from Time Square New York and Piccadilly Circus London. The successful design that we see in place today installed on the UPark Building above Hungry Jacks is called the 'Rundle Lantern' and is comprised of 748 panels of LED lighting that glow and change colour at night.

Rundle Mall has a rich history and you now have the opportunity to participate in the Rundle Mall Discovery Trail, which takes you through the historic and modern history of the mall and provides you with information about its many aspects including the Bert Flugelman Mall's Balls, more recent sculptures, the mall's architecture and its historic Arcades.

The arcades of Rundle Mall are particularly interesting if you are a bit of a history buff or a lover of old architecture.
Rundle Mall, shopping precinct, history, John Rundle, Beehive, Rundle Street, Adelaide
Regent Theatre Facade now the entrance to Regent Arcade

Regent Arcade is situated where the Regent Theatre used to be. Stand in the mall in front of the Regent Arcade entrance and look up and behold you will see the facade of what once was a magnificent down town theatre. The Regent Theatre opened in 1928 as the most luxurious theatre in the country. In 1930 a Wurlitzer organ was put in place and the orchestra pit could accommodate a full size orchestra. The building was modified in 1967 to include other shops but the cinema was removed in 2006.
Rundle Mall, shopping precinct, history, John Rundle, Beehive, Rundle Street, Adelaide
Entrance to Adelaide Arcade home to a resident ghost
Rundle Mall, shopping precinct, history, John Rundle, Beehive, Rundle Street, Adelaide
Adelaide Arcade interior

Adelaide and Gays Arcades adjoin and were completed in 1885 before the Regent Theatre. The arcades have roof skylights and shop windows that represent an 'Italianate revival style', super modern at the time. To this day the upper floors remain true to the original style. Interestingly there is said to be six ghosts in the arcade. Most famous and still haunting the roof is said to be the ghost of Francis 'Fred' Cluney, a former caretaker who died in 1887 after falling into the generator that powered the lights.
Rundle Mall, shopping precinct, history, John Rundle, Beehive, Rundle Street, Adelaide
Gays Arcade Interior with skylights

And if you don't have time to delve into the trail but do want to sample what the Mall has to offer check out what the Ten Things To Do In Rundle Mall itself suggests you do whilst there.

So when next in Rundle Mall and Rundle Street take a minute to stop, look up at some of the old and historic architecture, wander through the arcades and check out the Times Square inspired installation at the east end of the mall. Ten things to do in Rundle Mall inclusive of bronze pigs and chocolate awaits when you have the time!
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Why? There to discover
When: Any time of the year
Where: Rundle Mall Adelaide
Cost: Free access
Your Comment
Very interesting, thanks Anne.
by Dave Walsh (score: 4|11258) 1907 days ago
Great to learn about Rundle Street :) I didn't know most of this stuff! Will definitely keep this in mind the next time I get the chance to visit Adelaide.
by Sara Ikmal (score: 2|451) 1904 days ago
I love the Gladys Sym Choon shop/buiding in Rundle St., (can't resist their boots), exterior painted red with the balcony full of green/red flowers.
We need some individuality and colour in our lives. Very busy there today (Sunday), the trees in the mall - recently planted, shadeless so far - i preferred it as it was - sometimes change for the sake of it doesnt make it better.
by sandw (score: 1|58) 1741 days ago
I love the Gladys Sym Choon shop/buiding in Rundle St., (can't resist their boots), exterior painted red with the balcony full of green/red flowers.
We need some individuality and colour in our lives. Very busy there today (Sunday), the trees in the mall - recently planted, shadeless so far - i preferred it as it was - sometimes change for the sake of it doesnt make it better.
by sandw (score: 1|58) 1741 days ago
From 1878 until 1908 most of Adelaide's horse trams to the eastern suburbs, operated by the Adelaide and Suburban Tramway Co., travelled inbound via Grenfell Street and outbound along Rundle Street from King William Street and through Kent Town. When the horse trams were being replaced by electric trams in 1909, many wanted the electric trams to use Rundle Street - on a double set of tram tracks, but the Municipal Tramways Trust decided against that, instead sending them along Grenfell Street and North Terrace. In 1928 the City Council banned buses from using Rundle Street. Between 1937 and 1963, trolley (electric) buses used Rundle Street. They were so quiet (the only noise they made was from their tyres on the road) that some people called them "Silent Death". Then diesel buses used Rundle Street until moved out to make way for Rundle Mall.
by wilso (score: 0|2) 1611 days ago
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