The Strand Arcade was originally built in 1891, designed by John Spencer, and opened on 1 April 1892. It was the last of five arcades to be built during the Victorian era, and the only one to have maintained its original appearance without major alterations.
The building was named after the London street that links the City of London with the City of Westminster. It has survived two depressions, both World Wars, and two major fires in the 118 years since it was first opened.
It is the only arcade that was designed with the Australian climate in mind, as there were no awnings on buildings to escape heat and heavy rain at the time. The glass roof was designed to reduce glare for photographic studios in the upper levels. It was also one of the first to introduce electric light fittings in addition to the gas lamps of the day.
By the fifties, the Strand Arcade had become rundown. It was almost burned to the ground in 1976, halting restoration work started by Prudential Assurance, and left in ruins. The decision was made to continue restoring the building; the red cedar wood used in the shopfronts are almost exact replicas of the originals, bought from shipwrights, rather than painted timber. Upgraded fireproofing materials were added beneath the exterior following the fire.
The current owners, Ipoh Pty Ltd, who also hold the lease for the Queen Victoria Building, The Galeries, and No.1 Martin Place, are big supporters of heritage preservation, and continue to ensure that these historical buildings are restored and maintained.