Buildings lost to time
In previous weeks, we have discussed roofs upon which you can stand and look out over a magnificent view, or impressive building projects to be completed in the future. In today’s article, however, we will be discussing buildings which don’t exist anymore. Whether destroyed by natural disaster, war, accident, or demolition order, none of the structures covered in this list have stood the test of time.
The Crystal Palace
The Crystal Palace was a marvellous museum complex stretching one million square feet, built almost entirely of glass and steel. It was originally built to house the first ever world’s fair, the Great Exhibition of 1851, a massive international showcase of new inventions and wondrous treasures by all the empires of the world. After the exhibition, the palace was moved to Penge Peake, where it stood until 1936, where a fire ripped through the structure and left only two water towers standing. Winston Churchill was one of 100,000 who turned out to watch the fire, and was quoted afterwards as saying, “This is the end of an age.” The first water tower was removed after the fire, as it was so badly damaged that it could fall and ruin nearby houses, and the second was blown up in 1941. The reason for its destruction was never given, but many suspected that it was done to prevent German bombers from using the landmark to navigate their way towards London.
And by the way, yes – the football club is named after the palace!
The Waldorf Astoria Hotel (original)
Opened in 1893 by William Waldorf Astor, head of the illustrious Astor family, the Waldorf Astoria was once the centre of New York City’s high society. Its famed Empire Room hosted the introduction of numerous classy dishes, such as the Waldorf Salad, Thousand Island dressing, and the well-known Eggs Benedict. The hotel was built in the popular ‘German Renaissance’ style of architecture and was decorated with European antiques. The ballroom, often called the pièce de résistance of the hotel, could seat 700 people at lavish banquets and 1,200 for concerts. The whole building was designed to suit the New York elite and esteemed international visitors. Notably, it was the first hotel to offer electricity and private bathrooms in every guest room. It is also significant for holding the American Senate’s inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic, which claimed the life of the owner’s cousin (John Jacob Astor IV very nobly sacrificed himself giving his position on the rescue boats to two scared children). By the 1920s, the hotel was no longer fashionable, and so it was sold to the developers of the Empire State Building. It was demolished soon after its closure on 3rd May 1929.
The Globe Theatre
The Globe Theatre was built in 1599 by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the troupe of actors for which Shakespeare wrote his plays. Shakespeare himself held a single share of 12.5% of the theatre, which by the end of his career shrunk to 7% due to the addition of new shareholders in the theatre. It was built using timber from an earlier theatre (creatively named “The Theatre”) built in 1579. This old timber would mean the untimely end of the Globe in 1613 during a performance of Henry VIII, when a cannon misfired and set fire to the thatching. As with the Crystal Palace, the flames spread quickly through the Globe Theatre, setting beams and boards ablaze. The theatre was rapidly evacuated and nobody was hurt, although one man’s dignity was damaged when his trousers embarrassingly caught fire. Thankfully for him, someone else doused the flames with a handy bottle of ale. The Globe would be rebuilt, but it would not stand for long. After the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell ordered all theatres in the country to close in accordance with his puritan beliefs. The Globe was shut in 1642, and then pulled down in 1645.
There is a modern reconstruction of the Globe which currently exists in London founded by the American expatriate actor Sam Wanamaker. With a thatched roof, there was much demand for wind resistant demarcation during its construction. You can still go and see plays there, but bear in mind that the theatre is still made of timber – keep an eye on any cannons wheeled out onto the stage!