Renowned for its Victorian architecture and modern urban design, Buchanan Street is one of the main shopping streets in Glasgow, the spine of the city’s Golden Z. Originally the street was called Virginia Street, after a house called Virginia House which belonged to a wealthy tobacco lord Andrew Buchanan, whose wealth came from the tobacco fields of Virginia in the American Colonies. Buchanan Street was given its current name sometime between 1778 and 1786, when it was named for Andrew Buchanan, a leading merchant in the city, a proprietor of the grounds where the street grew, and nephew of the aforementioned Glaswegian by the same name.
Over the years the street stretched to connect with Argyle Street and became a major traffic artery in the city. Its ascension to becoming Glasgow’s main shopping street began in 1978, when the entire street was pedestrianized, save for where other streets cross it. Buchanan Street met the new millennium being repaved with high quality granite stonework and boasting blue neon lighting to light up the street at night.
Today many of the stores are high street and upmarket shops, especially considering the high rents in the many Victorian buildings. In addition to Buchanan Galleries, Buchanan Street is home to the House of Fraser, Princes Square, and Argyll Arcade, to name the larger department stores and the like. The first was mentioned on Saturday, the second will be featured in a few days, and the third is one of the UK’s oldest covered shopping arcades, having been built in 1827. Much of the street survived the most recent recession, although some shops packed up, most notably the Borders bookshop by the Royal Exchange Square.
The statue, seen int he photo above, where Buchanan Street meets Sauchiehall Street, was unveiled in 2002 and depicts Scotland’s first First Minister, Donald Dewar (1937-2000), a graduate of Glasgow University. Apparently the statue was placed on a raised plinth after it had been repeatedly vandalized, reportedly because of its ugliness.
Glasgow Trivia #17: Leading from Buchanan Street by St. George’s-Tron Church is one of many examples of Glasgow leading the world. In 1986 the Glasgow City Council renamed St. George’s Place to Nelson Mandela Place while the political prisoner sat in prison and apartheid was still ongoing in South Africa. The city had already given Mandela Freedom of the City five years earlier. There are numerous places around the world named in honor of Nelson Mandela, so what makes this one in Glasgow special? Because this renaming really upset one of the residents there who now had to list its address as being on Nelson Mandela Place. That resident was the South African consulate.
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