When Adelaide and Gay's Arcades opened in 1885, they were hailed as the most modern shopping precinct in the Southern Hemisphere. Located between Grenfell Street and Rundle Street (now Rundle Mall), to this day they remain one of Rundle Mall's leading arcades with an exciting and colourful history.
During Adelaide Arcade's construction, Gay's Arcade was announced. It would adjoin Adelaide Arcade and create a 30.5 metre frontage on Twin Street.
Completed in 1885, the Arcades were praised as the most modern —and the largest— shopping precincts in the Southern Hemisphere. Each of the 50 retail spaces featured large windows and roof skylights with the ground floor used to retail products and the first floor acting as a workspace, accessed via an internal staircase. The Arcade was also one of the first buildings in Australia with electric lights.
Then-Governor, Sir William Robertson, officially opened Adelaide and Gay's Arcade on the 12 December 1885. The surrounding streets were closed and crowded by the public, all hoping to catch a glimpse of the opening ceremony. Signor R Squarise composed 'The Adelaide Arcade Polka' especially for the occasion.
Over the years, both Arcades have seen significant changes in their appearance. In 1980, a fire completely gutted Gay's Arcade and caused extensive damage to Adelaide Arcade resulting in complete closure for over a week and a repairs bill in excess of $2 million.