137–143 Sauchiehall Street

M226 137–143 Sauchiehall Street

Address: 137–143, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3EW
Date: 1903–5
Client: Trustees of the late Dr Walker
Authorship: Authorship category 4 (Office) (Office)

Photograph of trusses, 137-143 Sauchiehall Street

Commissioned by the trustees of Dr David Walker (c. 1808–c.1887), a Glasgow surgeon, this was a speculative development of shops, tea rooms and offices in the then flourishing commercial thoroughfare of Sauchiehall Street. Little is known of the trustees, but they included a 'Wm. Paris Junr.', possibly the William Paris Junior listed in the 1887 Glasgow Post Office Directory as assistant manager of the Glasgow Iron Works. 1 The Wellesley Tea Rooms Ltd, incorporated on 10 June 1905, took a ten-year lease on part of the building, but in October 1906 this short-lived enterprise was sold to Messrs Cranston's Tea Rooms Ltd. 2

Exterior

The imposing red sandstone facade is baroque in style, five bays wide and five storeys high to the main cornice, with an attic above. A door on the left gives access to the offices; another on the right originally led to the tea rooms. The outer bays break forward slightly, emphasised by canted bay windows running from first to third floor. Above the cornice, they are crowned by big dormers with curved pediments and blocked columns: they read almost as short towers because the middle three attic bays are lower and entirely glazed. The third-floor windows have banded architraves and big keystones supporting a fourth-floor balcony with wrought-iron balustrade. Carved decoration by William Kellock Brown includes heraldic shields above the first-floor windows and panels with fleshy cartouches in the spandrels of the bays.

Photograph of 137-143 Sauchiehall Street

Interior

Plans for the tea rooms dated March 1905 show them spread over three floors. 3 At basement and ground-floor level they occupy the right-hand third of the front of the building, widening out to two thirds at the back; on the first floor, they fill the whole of the rear. The basement is given over to toilets and a 'ladies' room'; the ground floor to the main tea room itself, plus a lounge; while the first floor is occupied by a smoking room, which communicates with the main stairs serving the offices above. The drawings are not in Mackintosh's hand, and they show none of the spatial inventiveness of his recently completed Willow Tea Rooms, a short distance away on the same side of Sauchiehall Street.

The left-hand door from the street leads to a staircase on the E. side of the building, with a lift rising through the stair well. A drawing dated May 1903, known through a copy made in the 1930s by Ronald Harrison, shows the lift shaft surrounded by a wrought-iron enclosure in the style of Mackintosh. On each floor the design incorporates a different motif of organic or botanical derivation. Notes indicate a different combination of colours at each level – green and purple, mauve and lemon green, green and gold, gold and purple – but it is not clear if the ironwork was simply to be painted in these colours, or if another medium – possibly stained glass – was to be introduced. On the three lower floors, the drawing shows panels of curvilinear ornament in the doors leading from the landings to the offices and tea rooms, possibly also to be executed in stained glass.

Why the design was abandoned is not clear: Dr Walker's trustees may have decided that in a speculative office building such costly elaboration could not be justified on commercial grounds. Instead, a simpler and much less unusual lift enclosure was made by George Adam & Son, and the staircase walls were given a plain white tiled dado with a black border.

Photograph of lift enclosure at 137-143 Sauchiehall StreetPhotograph of railings on landing at 137-143 Sauchiehall StreetPhotograph of stairs with tiled dado at 137-143 Sauchiehall StreetPhotograph of roof over stairs at 137-143 Sauchiehall Street

The attic floor at the back is occupied by a single large room, lit from above by skylights in the open timber roof. It was used as an exhibition space by the photographer Saul Langfier, listed as one of the first occupants of the new building in the 1906 Glasgow Post Office Directory.

Photograph of studio of Louis Saul Langfier

The trusses are of a type found widely in the practice's buildings, and show no evidence of Mackintosh's individuality. The fireplaces have minimal classical details.

Photograph of top-floor room at back, 137-143 Sauchiehall StreetPhotograph of trusses, 137-143 Sauchiehall StreetPhotograph of truss and corbel, 137-143 Sauchiehall StreetPhotograph of chimneypiece, 137-143 Sauchiehall Street

In the front room on the same floor, which may have been Langfier's studio, the N.-facing slope of the roof is completely glazed and curves downwards to fill the vertical space between the flanking dormers.

Photograph of glazed roof at 137-143 Sauchiehall Street

As well as having windows to Sauchiehall Street and Sauchiehall Lane, the offices look onto a central light well faced with reflective white-glazed brick. Each floor is provided with toilets on the staircase landings. Their ceiling height is lower than the rest of the floor, so they appear as enclosed bridges spanning the E. side of the light well. The arrangement recalls the toilets adjoining the main stairs at the Glasgow Herald Building.

Photograph of light well at 137-143 Sauchiehall Street

On 16 April 1904 Alexander McGibbon was paid nine guineas by Honeyman Keppie & Mackintosh for a perspective drawing of 137–143 Sauchiehall Street. 4 This may have been the drawing of 'Business premises, Sauchiehall Street' shown at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1905 (410). An elevation of 137–143 Sauchiehall Street was shown at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1906 (334), and again at the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts in 1907 (802) 5

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Notes:

1: Glasgow City Archives Collection: Glasgow Dean of Guild Court, Register of Inspections, D-OPW 25/64, pp. 108, 113.

2: Glasgow City Archives Collection: Minutes of the Wellesley Tea Rooms Ltd, T-AF 287, 12 June 1905, 14 November 1906.

3: Glasgow City Archives Collection: Glasgow Dean of Guild plans, B4/12/1/9955.

4: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: John Honeyman & Keppie / Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh / Keppie Henderson cash book, 1889–1917, GLAHA 53079, p. 83.

5: Academy Architecture, 30, July 1906, p. 67; Academy Architecture, 31, January 1907, p. 54.