309–313 Sauchiehall Street

M242 309–313 Sauchiehall Street

Address: 309–313, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3HW
Date: 1903–6
Client: James Simpson
Authorship: Authorship category 4 (Office) (Office)

Phtograph of 309-313 Sauchiehall Street

This large block on the corner of Sauchiehall Street and Pitt Street was designed as a furniture shop for James Simpson & Sons. The firm previously occupied premises at 102–108 London Street, in Glasgow's East End. John Honeyman & Keppie, who in 1894 had made alterations to James Simpson's house, The Knowe at Crosshill, made a survey of the London Street shop in 1901. 1 A few years later, it was decided to take the business up-market by moving it to the W. end of Sauchiehall Street. Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh's plans for the new shop were approved by the Glasgow Dean of Guild Court on 25 February 1904, and by the following summer the interior was being finished. The move westward coincided with the death in 1904 of James Simpson, son of the firm's founder, and the succession of Herbert and Kenneth Muir Simpson, James's sons. 2 .

The exterior of red sandstone (from Corrie, on the Isle of Arran) 3 is relatively plain up to the level of the main cornice. Pairs of canted bay windows frame each facade, supported by exposed cast-iron beams and brackets, and the windows between the bays have classical columns as mullions. Only at attic level does the building spring into life, with pedimented windows elaborately framed between pairs of blocked columns. The distinctive, sinuous architraves of these attic windows are also found in Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh's contemporary building at 518 Sauchiehall Street for the photographers T. & R. Annan & Sons. They hark back to a group of mid-1890s buildings for which Mackintosh was either wholly or partly responsible: the Glasgow Herald Building, the Queen Margaret College Anatomical Department and Martyrs Public School. It has been argued that the Sauchiehall Street buildings (along with a third building for the Trustees of Dr Walker at 137–143) were designed by John Keppie, who chose to revive here the Scots Renaissance-derived vocabulary that he and Mackintosh had developed a decade earlier. 4

The drawings for 309–313 Sauchiehall Street approved by the Glasgow Dean of Guild Court are certainly signed by Keppie (on one sheet he even appears to have started signing with the old practice name 'John Honeyman & Keppie' before realising his mistake and signing with the current name instead). Ronald Harrison, an early student of Mackintosh's architecture, included the attic windows of Simpson's on a list of Mackintosh's works he compiled in the 1930s, while working in Keppie's office, but no corroborating evidence for this attribution has so far come to light. However, the sectional drawing submited to the Glasgow Dean of Guild Court shows some interior details which suggest Mackintosh's influence, if not his direct involvement: chief among these is the lift enclosure, comparable to the unexecuted design for the same feature at 137–143 Sauchiehall Street.

Inside, the fireproof concrete floors are supported on steel beams. Simpson's occupied the entire building – six principal floors, plus basement and attic – most of the space being used for displaying furniture. A notable feature was 'The Model House', mentioned in Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh's job-book entry. This building-within-a-building had a roughcast exterior of 'quaint rustic beauty', with lattice windows and a veranda. Inside, each room was decorated and furnished in a different style, including Adam, Sheraton and 'the more arrestive effects of the early Victorian chintz period'. 5

On 26 October 1905 Honeyman Keppie & Mackintosh paid Alexander McGibbon six guineas for a perspective of Simpson's building. 6 This may have been the drawing of 'Business Premises, Sauchiehall Street' which they exhibited at the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts in 1907 (802).

Simpson's was illustrated and briefly described in a wide-ranging review of recent Glasgow architecture in the Builders' Journal and Architectural Engineer in November 1906. 7 Like H. E. Clifford's warehouse for Fraser, Ross & Co. at 70 Ingram Street and P. Macgregor Chalmers' Neptune Chambers at the corner of Argyle Street and Pitt Street – both illustrated in the same article – it shows a move away from the exuberant corner towers and broken rooflines favoured in Glasgow around 1900, towards a simpler, squared-off shape.

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Notes:

1: Glasgow City Archives Collection: Glasgow Dean of Guild plans, TD1309/A/115.

2: Glasgow To-Day, Glasgow: Henry Munro, 1909, p. 83.

3: Builders' Journal and Architectural Engineer, 24, 28 November 1906, pp. 261 and 273–4.

4: Dictionary of Scottish Architects, 1840–1980, www.scottisharchitects.org.uk [accessed 25 January 2012].

5: Glasgow To-Day, Glasgow: Henry Munro, 1909, p. 83.

6: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: John Honeyman & Keppie / Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh / Keppie Henderson cash book, 1889–1917, GLAHA 53079, p. 95.

7: Builders' Journal and Architectural Engineer, 24, 28 November 1906, pp. 261, 273–4.