The Strand is also a 19th century shopping arcade
, between Pitt and George Street. When it opened in 1892
, it was the fifth and last of the arcades built in Victorian
Sydney, and is the only one remaining in its original form. In its early period, it was referred to as the 'City Arcade,' or 'Arcade Street.' It was not named after the famous street that linked London
. In the early 1900s, the Strand was London's smartest hotel, theatre, and shopping street.
The Strand was designed by J.B. Spencer in the Classical Revival style. It fell into two hands from the 20s to the 70s, when both ends were bought by the Prudential Assurance Company. It was nearly destroyed by fire in 1976, and it was fortunately renovated. It had survived two depressions: one in the 1890s and another in the 1950s; as well as the threat of a second, earlier fire.
Rent controls were imposed in the mid-20th century, which meant that tenants - milliners, artisans, glove- and shoe-makers, etc. - had protected low rents. Little money was spent on the building through the years. The basement of the arcade, now occupied by duty-free shops, housed Ambassadors - a grand restaurant with separate dining saloons. Ambassadors transmogrified into Sydney's first ballroom/nightclub in the 1930s.
It has four levels:
- Downtown Duty Free, on the lower ground floor.
- The ground floor, with Sydney Vintage Watches, Strand Hatters, a cafe or two, tourist shops, Past Present Future for Alessi homewares, and, my favorite, The Old Coffee Shop, a tenant since 1892, which still serves coffee from a beautiful, authentic Bezzera machine. Most of their customers of almost of the same vintage.
- Level One is the designer fashion gallery, with Alannah Hill, Farage, etc. There is also Dinosaur Designs, with Flintstones-esque resin homeware, and Love+Hatred, for (mostly) medieval-inspired jewelry.
- Level two is the specialty gallery, with jewellers, shoe repair, customer shirts, and alterations.
It's a lovely place, more intimate and considerably cooler than the massive Queen Victoria Building
, or QVB
, which has its own history behind it.
Pitt Street Mall
Sydney: biography of a city, Lucy Turnbull (1999)