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Alex Glass

Glasgow Buildings - Buchanan Street

Buchanan Street

Glasgow’s finest individual street (even if Gordon and Hope Streets and the eastern halves of St Vincent Street and West George Street run it close). Successfully pedestrianised in 1978 to designs by the City Planning Department, it is very different now from 30 years ago, when the city’s main traffic artery, and home to each night to countless thousands of starlings, Begun as a street of mansions, it was completed as three- or four-storey commercial. By 1841 redevelopment had begun in earnest.  Great household stores concentrated at the south end and (with the exception of the Art Deco classical extravaganza of Burton’s, in 1938, by R I Pierce & N Martin), all still date from before 1900.

Buchanan Street commemorates Andrew Buchanan, a maltster turned tobacco merchant, who bought up land on Argyle Street in 1760 and erected a mansion at the south-west corner. In 1773, he built a large houseblock opposite, with an entry between. In 1777 Buchanan feued the land behind the entry into the street. James Johnston taking the first lot, No 42, and erecting a handsome pedimented villa with flanking pavilions. Further large pedimented houses were built at 30 and 54. By 1779, Buchanan’s firm had failed as a result of the American War of Independence, and his properties were bought by John & Alexander Gordon, West India Merchants. Buchanan’s house was only partially demolished, leaving a bottleneck at the south end which was not eliminated until 1900. Several exceptional houses were built, the finest being the pilastered house at 94, built in 1804, for Alexander ‘Picture’ Gordon (the first of Glasgow’s art collectors) to house his Italian and Dutch masterpieces; and Robert Dennistoun’s at 65-69, for which he obtained designs from Sir John Soane in 1798.
Alex Glass

Fraser’s, 21-61 Buchanan Street

Fraser’s, 21-61 Buchanan Street

Fraser’s comprises five buildings of which the southern four were Victorian department stores.

21-31, 1879, Macdonald’s by William Spence, is a design of supreme elegance: Corinthian pilastered at the uppermost floors, retaining its original ground-floor shop windows.

37 was Kemp’s shawl emporium, originally a three-storey iron front, built 1853-4 and the earliest of its kind; top floor later.

. 45 was Wylie & Lochhead’s. It may be that William Lochhead the architect member of the firm, was responsible for the original design: iron colonnades divided into three bays by masonry piers, with a giant Corinthian order. The magnificent four-storey cast iron saloon with glazed arched roof was built by James Sellars, 1883, following the latest American theories of structural fire protection. Sellars’ galleried saloon is high and spacious, with banded terracotta piers and a magnificent mahogany stair with dolphins at the entrance end. Sellars’ facade was more elaborate, with bows in the outer bays and much delicate early Renaissance detail, the entrance pedimented with figures representing Industry and Art.

, tall five-storey Renaissance with pilastered top floor, was originally three-storeys, heightened by Boucher & Cousland. The fifth Fraser building.

55-61, was built c. 1840 for the great lithographic and engraving house of Maclure & Macdonald. The ground floor is elegantly classical with consoled windows and a pierced parapet above.

William Spence

William Lochhead
Len Scaps

Thanks for posting that Alex, very interesting.

I have some info on the origins of the Argyll (not Argyle) Arcade, I'll try and remember to dig it out and post it here.
Alex Glass

Thanks LS

Look forward to seiing what you have on the Arcade.

Short fact - a couple of years ago, they rebuilt the pedestrian precint with new paving, lighting and street furniture. Before the plans went into action, the council contacted all the utility companies and told them to re-lay all the cabling/pipes as the work went on because from the point of completion, they will be forbidden to dig any part of the street up. A very good idea from the council and as far as I know, there has been no noticable digging work done since.

Got the Gillespie, Kidd and Coia A-listed building covered Alex? Or will I pop by and get a snap sometime
Len Scaps

I'll dig out the full details, but from what I remember the original Buchanan St. entrance to the Arcade ran through the lower level of the house of the man who owned it. I also seem to recall a story about someone riding a horse through the Arcade for a bet........

There is a song called "The Gallant Hussar" that used to be sung in the Gallowgate on Saturday nights, which must have been made about a young lady who dwelt in one of these houses about the time the 15th Hussars were in Glasgow, who drilled in the King's Park, Glasgow, opposite these mansions. This regiment was banished to India from Glasgow for bad behaviour. Sir Walter Scott's son was their Colonel. It was the officers who were the most frolicsome. One of them for a wager rode through the Argyle Arcade on horseback, and another rode into Duncan's, in Buchanan Street, and ordered a glass of wine at the counter.

From 'Once Upon A Time In Glasgow' by John Watson.
Len Scaps

Cheers for that, HH. Now all I need to do is find that pic of Reid's house on Buchanan St when it had the arcade entrance running through it.
Alex Glass

Thanks Guys great stuff.

Stu if you can get a picture that would be great. I have photos of most of the buildings to the south.But it would be good to see other shots.
Len Scaps

A bit more about the Argyll Arcade.

It was opened in 1828, having been built on the site of John Reid's timber export business which had suffered fire damage the previous year. The building was fashioned along the lines of the new shopping arcades that Reid had witnessed on his travels in Europe, it's L-shape design (by John Baird) being a constraint of having to mould the arcade around an existing building in Morrison's Court.

The arcade linked two properties that Reid already owned - a tenement in Argyle St and his family home in one of the original Buchanan St mansions. The Buchanan Street entrance was, as I mentioned in a previous post, simply driven through the front door of the mansion, with the ground floor rooms being converted into shops and Reid moving his family home to the upper level.

At the time it was built the arcade was seen as a risky venture as Buchanan Street was then little more than a country road at the outskirts of the city's then west end. Luckily for Reid the gamble paid off and the success of the Argyll Arcade was the main driving force behind the expansion of Buchanan Street into the bustling shopping area that it is today.

Hi guys, this is the old entrance to the Argyll Arcade early 20th century.

Can you also please let me know if this is actually ok to post, should I add the title of the book or quickly remove it altogether?
Thanks, your guidance would be appreciated.


Len Scaps

Ahhh....that's the pic I was looking for, cheers!    
Alex Glass

More great buildings on Buchanan Street

Alex Glass

Buchanan Street

Robert Pool


It's been a pleasure to see the photographs and learn the history contained in this thread.

My great grandfather John was a stationer and moved his business from Queen Street circa 1858 to 130 Buchanan Street where he stayed until circa 1866 when his wife died and he moved back to another premises in Queen Street.  

As somebody has already mentioned, Glasgow businesses struggled to survive during the American Civil War due to the North blockading the Southern States.   In 1875-ish John's oldest son joined many a Scots salesman and sailed to South Africa looking for business - four years later he was dead aged 27, the death notice was signed by his pregnant widow who returned back to Scotland with their only child, John.

Alex Glass wrote:
More great buildings on Buchanan Street


Lovely photo!

I worked in the building that is now the Mappin and Webb when it was Wylie Hill.  On the first floor, and I think it was in the room directly behind where it says Argyll Chambers.

It was a Christmas job in the toy dept when I was a student.  Either 1968 or 1969.  



Doog Doog


I've got a few 19th century news items copied from both the Glasgow Herald and the Caledonian newspapers which have helped me get the background of my ancestors.  I thought you might like to see who was at No.9 Buchanan Street in 1844. I've attached a George & James Burns 1844 shipping advert which shows how easy it was for the Highlanders to get down to Glasgow by sea rather than trek overland.  My own ancestor was a Donald Mackenzie born circa 1776 on the Black Isle who I found was working as an engineer at the Clyde Ironworks, Old Monkland in the 1820s - but he might have served his apprenticeship there.


Buchanan Quarter (16/02/13)

A busy shopping day

New information centre

Taking a wee break from being the living statue (16/02/13)

Alex Glass

Fantastic photos Hawick

you have been very busy and covered most of the city centre


buchanan st

great pics and lots of info that could be forrgotten over the years i semm to recall that an experamental rubber surface was tried at the top of buchanan st but became tracherous in wet weather can anyone confirm regards bob Forum Index -> Urban Adventures, Exploration & Photography
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