Alterations to 6 Florentine Terrace

M262 Alterations to 6 Florentine Terrace

Address: 6, Florentine Terrace, Glasgow
Date: 1906
Client: C. R. & Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh
Authorship: Authorship category 1 (Mackintosh) (Mackintosh)

Background

In 1906, like many middle-class Glasgow residents before them, Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonald moved to the city's developing West End. They left their rented flat at 120 Mains Street in the city centre for a house at 6 Florentine Terrace in the desirable West End suburb of Hillhead, adjacent to the University of Glasgow. 1

Residential development had begun in Hillhead in the mid-19th century. It became a burgh in 1869, before being incorporated into the city in 1891. 2 6 Florentine Terrace was built in the early 1860s. It was a typical terraced house of the period, with three principal storeys and an attic. There was a two-storey canted bay window to the right of the front door, and, since it was at the end of a terrace, there were windows in the S. gable wall. The Mackintoshes bought the property on 30 March 1906 for £975, and according to Margaret Macdonald, writing retrospectively in 1919, it was 'in a dreadful state – everything had to be renewed – drains plaster baths etc electric light had to be put in & so on ...' This work cost over £800, with a further £100 spent on fittings, although the Mackintoshes brought furniture and fireplaces with them from Mains Street to Florentine Terrace. 3

An entry in the Glasgow Register of Sasines records that Mackintosh had entered into a 'bond and disposition in security' (a secured loan) agreement to the value of £600 with Hugh Baird, a bricklayer and builder, who previously worked on the addition to 224 St Vincent Street. 4

Drawings

Five drawings showing Mackintosh's proposed structural alterations to the house survive in the collection of The Hunterian, University of Glasgow. A sheet dated March 1906, drawn by Mackintosh, shows the pre-existing floor plans in pen and the proposed alterations in pencil. 5 There is also a second, undated sheet of pencil elevations and sections, not drawn by Mackintosh, with annotations in several different hands. 6 A third set of plans for installing electricity, including the locations of lights and bells, was drawn by Mackintosh in April 1906. 7

A sheet of plans dated March 1906 and another sheet of elevations dated 2 April 1906 were submitted to the Glasgow Dean of Guild Court and approved on 12 April 1906. They were drawn by one of Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh's draughtsmen – possibly the same one who drew the pencil elevations and sections now in the Hunterian – and signed on behalf of the practice by John Keppie. The plans appear to be based wholly on those by Mackintosh in The Hunterian. Mackintosh must surely have overseen these drawings for the Dean of Guild Court application for his own house – his handwriting appears beside the N. elevation – so it is unclear why Keppie signed them, unless Mackintosh was not available. It is also surprising that a project submitted for planning approval under the practice's name did not then appear in the practice job book.

Exterior

New windows

Apart from the new front door, external alterations were confined to the windows in the S. gable. The most striking intervention was the long horizontal first-floor window of metal-framed casements with leaded glass. This was a key element in Mackintosh's interior scheme (see below), and it offered expanded views over the gardens of neighbouring Hillhead House (demolished between 1937 and 1939) and the University of Glasgow's main building designed by George Gilbert Scott. According to Desmond Chapman-Huston writing in 1926, Mackintosh created the new window 'for my wife, Mistress Margaret, so that she can watch the sunsets.' 8

B/W photograph of Florentine Terrace (Southpark Avenue) B/W photograph of S. elevation B/W photograph of view S. from 6 Florentine Terrace (78 Southpark Avenue)

On the ground floor, Mackintosh added a window in the hall with a fixed mullioned-and-transomed metal frame. On the first-floor landing window, the previously blocked-up window was opened, and wooden-framed casements inserted, with leaded glass in the lower lights. The drawings show that Mackintosh intended to reduce the height of this opening by 3 ft, inserting a new cement-covered lintel and fitting a metal-framed window with leaded glass.

B/W photograph of front door B/W photograph of 6 Florentine Terrace (78 Southpark Avenue) B/W photograph of W. elevation

Mackintosh also planned a new arrangement of windows on the second floor. The drawings submitted to the Dean of Guild Court show a new tripartite window corresponding to the intended internal changes and another, low and more horizontal in form, to light the stairwell. Neither was carried out. Annotations on the S. elevation drawing show that the new lintels were to be of iron covered in cement.

The S. elevation before and after Mackintosh's alterations is visible in photographs taken from the University tower by Thomas Annan in 1905 and 1937. 9

B/W photograph of S. elevation B/W photograph of S. elevation

Proposed bedroom

The drawings also show the intended addition of a second-floor bedroom above the rear wing, but this was not built. It would have been of brick, roughcast like the floors below, and with a hipped roof. The drawings show three windows in the S. elevation and one in the N. The N. wall was to be supported by a steel I-beam resting on four iron columns footed in concrete, described on the drawings as 'upstarts or 'iron cheeks'. An annotation in Mackintosh's hand says that the beam and columns were to be 'covered with cement plaster'. At a later date the Mackintoshes renewed the roughcast on what Macdonald called the 'kitchen wing'. 10

Interior

Inside, Mackintosh made structural alterations on each of the four floors. Furniture and fittings, including fireplaces, were brought from Mains Street, and wall decoration closely followed that of the interiors there. With a few exceptions, the decorative schemes had not followed developments in Mackintosh's style in the intervening years. 11

Computer assisted drawing of ground, first and second-floor plans

Ground floor

As well as inserting a new window in the hall, Mackintosh remodelled the area around the entrance. He removed the inner door and widened the architrave around the new front door. The hall now opened directly out from the entrance. Dark-stained panelling was applied at the door, and strapping on the N. and S. walls. 12 Neither set of plans shows these alterations, which would not have required Dean of Guild Court consent and may have been designed later. The plans do show the addition of a partition wall to the ground-floor rear room in the main part of the house, and the introduction of a new doorway to create a maid's room and a cloakroom.

There is no evidence that Mackintosh created a scheme for the narrow rear garden or made alterations to the washhouse at its far end.

First floor

The most striking alterations were on the first floor. As well as inserting a new window into the S. wall, Mackintosh made bold changes to the layout and detailing of the two principal rooms. Prior to his intervention, there was a large front room lit by the canted bay window and an adjacent narrow window overlooking the street, and a smaller room behind looking out to the garden. Each had a separate door from the landing. Mackintosh knocked the two rooms into one, inserting three steel beams as a lintel above the new opening ('slapping out partitions', mentioned in the Dean of Guild Court building inspector's register for 17 April 1906, probably refers to this work). The height of the new opening matched that of the new S. window and the original doorways. The front-room door was filled in and the rear door replaced with a new one designed by Mackintosh. The resulting L-shaped room had three distinct areas: a study or studio area at the W. and, to the E., a sitting area around the fire and at the new window. The front and rear portions could be curtained off from each other, like the Waerndorfer Music Room and dining room, or the rooms with movable partitions in the House for an Art Lover.

At the height of the new window and wall opening, Mackintosh introduced a flat picture rail extending round the whole room, cutting across the bay and the other windows. In the drawing room at Mains Street and the dining room at Hous'hill he had run picture rails across pre-existing window openings. At Florentine Terrace, however, he also infilled above this level, so the height of these openings was made to correspond to that of the new S. window. The sense of height was essentially altered: the picture rail created the illusion of a lower ceiling, reinforced by the lamps suspended from long wires to the same level. In the E. section of the room all cornice and architrave mouldings were removed ; in the rear, they were retained. 13

B/W photograph of drawing room, front section B/W photograph of drawing room, front section, S. window B/W photograph of drawing room, looking from front through to back section B/W photograph of drawing room, back section B/W photograph of drawing room, front section, treatment of bay windows

Second floor

On the second floor, Mackintosh made further substantial alterations. Here, there were two bedrooms to the front of the house, a third overlooking the rear garden, and a small bathroom with W.C. He removed the wall between the two front bedrooms and blocked up the doorway to the larger one. The other doorway was repositioned and a new door designed by Mackintosh fitted. The result was another L-shaped room. The four-poster bed designed for the Mains Street flat was positioned in a recess not visible from the doorway. The remaining adjoining bedroom was transformed into a large bathroom, while the small bathroom on the landing was removed, leaving its window to light the landing and stairwell (where Mackintosh had covered over the skylight). The splayed reveals of the windows on this floor were squared off. 14

B/W photograph of main bedroom, N.W. corner B/W photograph of main bedroom, S.E. corner B/W photograph of second-floor landing

Attic

The removal of the small bathroom improved access to the narrow, winding attic stair. Mackintosh decorated its walls with black and white stripes, either painted or papered – a decorative scheme he would repeat ten years later at 78 Derngate, Northampton. 15 The attic room was extended E. and W. under the hipped roof, and the fireplace from the Mains Street studio installed. 16 The S.-facing dormer was fitted with a glazed door, or full-height window. The external railing appears to have been a later addition.

B/W photograph of attic room B/W photograph of view S. from attic room

After Mackintosh

When the Mackintoshes left Glasgow in 1914, they let the house. By February 1919, however, they wanted to sell, and Margaret Macdonald corresponded with Jean and William Davidson over the following year in the hope that they would buy it. 17 They did so in 1920, and remained there until their deaths in 1945. 18 That year their sons Cameron and Hamish gifted the contents of the house to the University of Glasgow in memory of Mackintosh. In 1946, the house itself was bought by the University to provide accommodation for senior members of staff. 19

By 1962, the house was deemed to be under threat from subsidence and plans for demolition were made. Meanwhile, the redevelopment of the University campus had begun, including a new library and associated art gallery just 100 m W. of Florentine Terrace. It was the architect of these new buildings, William Whitfield, who proposed incorporating the Mackintosh elements from the house into the new gallery. 20

Andrew McLaren Young, then Professor of Fine Art and Honorary Keeper of the Art Collections, led the systematic documentation of the exterior and interiors. A photographic survey was carried out by Robert Cowper of the University Fine Art department in May 1962, and by January 1963 measured survey drawings of the interiors were complete. 21 The remaining furniture, fittings and other elements, including windows, were carefully removed to safe storage before demolition. Tantalising glimpses of the uninhabited house appear in a Scottish Educational Film Association documentary of 1965, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. 22

Colour photograph of Mackintosh House, Hunterian Art Gallery and University Library, 2012

The first phase of the glass and precast concrete-clad University library was completed by 1968, a dominant new feature on Glasgow's skyline and a counterpoint to the 100-year-old Gilbert Scott building. 23 Due to economic constraints, the Hunterian Art Gallery, linked to the library on the S. side, was not begun until 1973. From the outset, a dedicated space in which to reconstruct and display the interiors from 6 Florentine Terrace was integral to its design. Externally, this element of the gallery follows the proportions of the demolished house. It resembles a tower, echoing those of the adjacent library, and its partly roughcast facades distinguish it from the Brutalist concrete of the rest of the Gallery exterior. The front door, which is now almost a full storey above ground level, demonstrates to visitors that the house is a historical exhibit rather than a functioning dwelling.

Colour photograph of Mackintosh House, E. elevation, 2012 Colour photograph of Mackintosh House, S. elevation, 2012

Inside, the ground-floor hall and dining room, the first-floor studio-drawing room and the second-floor principal bedroom have been reassembled in their original interrelationship over three levels. They have the same S. and E. orientation and distribution of windows as the original house, so the effect of natural light within the rooms corresponds closely. The original furniture and fittings – supported by a few reproduction items, where evidence was available – have allowed a faithful reassembing of the rooms and an authentic evocation of the Mackintoshes' domestic world. 'The Mackintosh House' opened to visitors in September 1981. 24

A report on the condition of 'The Mackintosh House' was produced as part of the Mackintosh Buildings Survey, led by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society and carried out between 2015 and 2016. 25

top

Notes:

1: 6 Florentine Terrace first appears as the Mackintoshes' home address in the Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1906–7, p. 471.

2: Elizabeth Williamson, Anne Riches and Malcolm Higgs, Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow, London: Penguin, 1990, p. 333.

3: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: letter from Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh to Jean Davidson, 26 February 1919, GLAHA 52530.

4: Glasgow City Archives Collection: Register of Sasines, Glasgow, 30 March 1906, T-SA 5/1/51, p. 24, nos. 720–1. Nothing further is known about Mackintosh's association with Hugh Baird.

5: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: GLAHA 41833 (M262-001).

6: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: GLAHA 41832 (M262-002).

7: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: GLAHA 41834 (M262-006); GLAHA 41885 (M262-007); GLAHA 41886 (M262-008).

8: Desmond Chapman-Huston, The Lamp of Memory, 1926, p. 126, quoted in Thomas Howarth, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 2nd edn, 1977, p. 118. An early 1960s film about Mackintosh made by the Scottish Educational Film Association (SEFA) features the exterior and interiors of 78 Southpark Terrace (03:23–05:00) and includes the view at sunset out of the new window (04:55–9). Charles Rennie Mackintosh, dir. by Louise Annand & William Thomson, SEFA, 1965, http://ssa.nls.uk [accessed 13 January 2012], Edinburgh: Scottish Screen Archive, National Library of Scotland, no. 0090.

9: T. & R. Annan & Sons, 'Wellington Church, 1905' (OG 306) and 'Wellington Church, 1937' (OG 315).

10: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: letter from Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh to Jean Davidson, 26 February 1919, GLAHA 52530.

11: For the interior design and decoration of the house, see Alan Crawford, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, London: Thames & Hudson, 1995, pp. 140–4; Roger Billcliffe, Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings and Interior Designs, Moffat, Dumfriesshire: Cameron and Holllis, 4th edn, 2009, pp. 228-34; Pamela Robertson, The Mackintosh House, Glasgow: Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, 2011.

12: Roger Billcliffe, Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings and Interior Designs, Moffat, Dumfriesshire: Cameron and Holllis, 4th edn, 2009, p. 228.

13: Roger Billcliffe, Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings and Interior Designs, Moffat, Dumfriesshire: Cameron and Holllis, 4th edn, 2009, pp. 231–2; Alan Crawford, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, London: Thames & Hudson, 1995, pp. 141–2.

14: Roger Billcliffe, Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings and Interior Designs, Moffat, Dumfriesshire: Cameron and Holllis, 4th edn, 2009, p.233.

15: Roger Billcliffe, Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings and Interior Designs, Moffat, Dumfriesshire: Cameron and Holllis, 4th edn, 2009, pp. 233–4.

16: Roger Billcliffe, Charles Rennie Mackintosh: The Complete Furniture, Furniture Drawings and Interior Designs, Moffat, Dumfriesshire: Cameron and Holllis, 4th edn, 2009, p. 233.

17: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: letter from Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh to Jean Davidson, 26 February 1919, GLAHA 52530; The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: letters from Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh to William Davidson, 13 March 1919, GLAHA 52531; 25 May 1919, GLAHA 52532; 17 January 1920, GLAHA 52533.

18: Pamela Robertson, The Mackintosh House, Glasgow: Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, 2011, pp. 22–3.

19: Pamela Robertson, The Mackintosh House, Glasgow: Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, 2011, p. 23.

20: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: Hunterian Art Gallery draft conservation report 2011, p. 16; appendix II, transcript of Simpson & Brown architects' interview with Sir William Whitfield and Andrew Lockwood, 26 August 2010, p. 54.

21: Ironically the measured drawings were completed under the supervision of architect Frank Fielden, whose refectory building was constructed on the site of 78 Southpark Avenue a short time later. Pamela Robertson, The Mackintosh House, Glasgow: Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, 2011, p. 23; 'University Buildings', Builder, 6 January 1961, p. 37; 'University of Glasgow, refectory', Dictionary of Scottish Architects, 1840–1980, www.scottisharchitects.org.uk [accessed 16 January 2012].

22: Dir. by Louise Annand & William Thomson, Scottish Educational Film Association (SEFA), 1965, http://ssa.nls.uk [accessed 13 January 2012], Edinburgh: Scottish Screen Archive, National Library of Scotland, no. 0090

23: Elizabeth Williamson, Anne Riches and Malcolm Higgs, Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow, London: Penguin, 1990, pp. 344–5; 'Library at Glasgow University', Architects' Journal, 16 April 1969, pp. 1044–7; The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: Hunterian Art Gallery draft conservation report 2011, p. 16; appendix II, transcript of Simpson & Brown architects' interview with Sir William Whitfield and Andrew Lockwood, 26 August 2010, p. 54.

24: Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society Newsletter, 29, Spring/Summer 1981, p. 1.

25: A copy of the report (MBS42) is held by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, Mackintosh Queen's Cross, 870 Garscube Road, Glasgow G20 7EL. The Mackintosh Buildings Survey was funded by The Monument Trust.