Originally named Heerengracht after the canal which ran down its centre, Adderly Street is one of the CBD’s most well known streets used for retail, residences and navigation. This rolling main road – which initially served to connect the earlier Dutch settlement to the docks at the Foreshore – soon became the street du jour for the Cape’s wealthiest inhabitants. It was a sought-after address; a place where the affluent flocked to see and be seen, to shop and socialise and take in the fresh summer air. Once a residential street lined with large oak trees it became strongly commercial in character by 1850. Mayor Hercules Jarvis named it Adderley Street in 1850, to honour British Parliamentarian Charles Bowyer Adderley (elevated to the peerage as Baron Norton in 1878) who fought successfully against the plan for the British government to make Cape Town into another penal colony.
There’s an old South African saying that goes, “I’ll buy you a farm on Adderley Street”. It’s an expression of confidence – a bit like saying you’ll eat your hat if you’re proven wrong about something. The phrase attests to the prestige once associated with Adderley Street running from the Table Bay Harbour to the entrance of the Company Gardens at Government Avenue. And, while there may be far wealthier strips in the city these days, Adderley Street remains Cape Town’s most historic and renowned arteriole.
The inner-city restoration project, currently underway in Cape Town, has restored glamour and upmarket appeal to Adderley Street. Many of the structures on Adderley Street feature the original architecture of the 19th century, and indeed many are the same buildings that stood here when the street enjoyed its heyday a century ago.