Join Strand Society

Sign up to Strand Society to stay up to date and in the know on all the insider news, latest trends, must-have arrivals, need-to-know designer names, promotions and exclusive invitations to events.

Design and Construction, 1891

When English architect, John Spencer unveiled his plans for the arcade in the mid-1880s he received a standing ovation. The plans were ambitious. The arcade was to be 340 feet (approximately 104 metres) long, and three storeys high, running between Pitt and George Streets. Magnificent cedar staircases at each end of the arcade led to the second and third floor galleries which were linked by a central bridge.

The arcade was one of the first Victorian buildings in Sydney designed to take into account the harsh Australian climate. The roof was to be made of glass, specially tinted to reduce glare, and the access gallery of the top floor was projected to shade the lower levels.

Spencer's plans were elegant. Delicate ironworks brackets to support the galleries and the railings, finely carved cedar balustrades and shopfronts, marble columns and richly tiled floor. The lighting was especially innovative, a combined gas and electric system was used in combination fittings designed by the architect, some of which still exist; the concourse was lit by two huge central chandeliers suspended from the crown of the roof trusses and having 50 gas jets and 50 electric lamps in each. There were also two Victorian state-of-the-art hydraulic lifts.

In the early period of its construction, the Arcade was referred to as the 'City Arcade' and sometimes known as 'Arcade Street'. In 1891, it was finally named after the famous London street that links the City of London and the City of Westminster. The Strand was London's smartest theatre, hotel and shopping street in the early 1900's.

When it opened on April Fools Day 1892 the Strand Arcade was regarded as the very latest in shopping centre designs and was described as: "The finest public thoroughfare in the Australian colonies."

One-hundred-and-twenty-five years, two depressions, two World Wars and two major fires later, it still stands, a little out of place, in the heart of modern Sydney's CBD.