The RSA was established in an enlightenment coffeehouse in 1754 by a group of people who came together with a shared vision for a better tomorrow.
The 21st century is presenting us with challenges of increasing scale and complexity. To tackle these challenges, the RSA is creating a new space dedicated to fostering creativity and innovation - a 21st century Enlightenment coffeehouse.
A history of RSA House
The RSA was established in 1754 in an enlightenment coffeehouse called Rawthmells. The first meetings of the RSA took place in various coffeehouses around London.
1774 - RSA House built by members Robert, William and James Adam
1922 - Freehold purchased for site and buildings for £42,000. Money raised through appeal to Fellows
1957 - Lease granted in 1957 for Nos 2 and 4 John Adam Street and 18 Adam Street
1977 - Freehold No. 2 and 4 John Adam Street and 18 Adam Street purchased under the terms of the 1957 lease for £158,000. Funds available due to the unprecedented large increase in income from the Society’s examinations and printing department
1982 - Sichel wine merchants gave up their tenancy of the vaults at -3 and the RSA took them into their ownership
1987- Succesful appeal to Fellows to raise a third of the necessary £3m to convert the vaults. Conversion was completed in 1990
1984/87- Ron Gerard FRSA (Honorary Benefactor) contributed to the restoration of the Great Room Barry Paintings
2008 - Donation from Ron Gerard FRSA to refurbish the cafe for Fellows, the Gerard Bar
2012 - Restoration of the ground floors, and Great Room of RSA House, part funded by Fellows. New technology fitted allows events in the Great Room to be broadcast all over the world, and the House becomes commercially successful through the hiring of rooms.
2018 - Redevelopment of the lower floors of RSA House to create a coffeehouse dedicated to creating a 21st century Enlightenment
The Future - The coffeehouse becomes a place where great ideas are born and disseminated around the world, creating fulfilling lives and a flourishing society
How will the RSA coffeehouse deliver a 21st century Enlightenment?
What were the Enlightenment coffeehouses like?
Would you go up to a stranger in a coffee shop and ask them for the latest news? Dr Matthew Green takes us back to the 17th and 18th centuries when London's original fleet of coffeehouses were very different from the current crop of branded cafes.