Grosvenor Square

Grosvenor Square is a metonym for the Embassy of the United States in London
The north side of Grosvenor Square in the 18th or early 19th century. The three houses at the far left form a unified group, but the others on this side are individually designed. Most later London squares would be more uniform.

Grosvenor Square /ˈɡrvnər/ is a large garden square in the Mayfair district of London, England. It is the centrepiece of the Mayfair property of the Duke of Westminster, and takes its name from their surname, "Grosvenor".


Sir Richard Grosvenor obtained a licence to develop Grosvenor Square and the surrounding streets in 1710, and development is believed to have commenced in around 1721. Grosvenor Square was one of the three or four most fashionable residential addresses in London from its construction until the Second World War, with numerous leading members of the aristocracy in residence.

The early houses were generally of five or seven bays, with basement, three main stories and an attic. Some attempt was made to produce impressive groupings of houses, and Colen Campbell produced a design for a palatial east side to the square featuring thirty Corinthian columns but this was not carried out and in the end most of the houses were built to individual designs. There were mews behind all four sides.

Many of the houses were rebuilt later in the 18th century or during the 19th century, generally acquiring an extra storey when this happened. Number 23 (later 26) was rebuilt in 1773–74 for the 11th Earl of Derby by Robert Adam, and is regarded as one of the architect's finest works and as a seminal example of how grandeur of effect and sophisticated planning might be achieved on a confined site. It was demolished and rebuilt again in the 1860s. Nearly all of the older houses were demolished during the 20th century and replaced with blocks of flats in a neo-Georgian style, hotels and embassies.

The central garden, which was originally reserved for the use of the occupants of the houses as was standard in a London square, is now a public park managed by The Royal Parks. At the eastern end of the garden there is a small memorial dedicated to the British victims of the September 11 attacks. The memorial includes an elliptical granite block engraved with the names of the victims and the poem For Katrina's Sun-Dial, by Henry van Dyke.

In the 1920s, four of the Bentley BoysWoolf Barnato, Tim Birkin, Glen Kidston and Bernard Rubin – took adjacent flats in the fashionable south-east corner of the square, where their day-long parties became something of social legend. So common was the sight of their large, green sports cars parked ad hoc outside their flats, that for many years London cab drivers referred to the spot as "Bentley Corner".

American presence

Grosvenor Square has been the traditional home of the official American presence in London since John Adams established the first American mission to the Court of St. James's in 1785. Adams lived, from 1785 to 1788, in the house which still stands on the corner of Brook and Duke Streets.

During the Second World War, Dwight D. Eisenhower established a military headquarters at 20 Grosvenor Square, and during this time the square was nicknamed "Eisenhower Platz". Until 2009, the United States Navy continued to use this building as its headquarters for United States Naval Forces Europe. A statue of Franklin D. Roosevelt, sculpted by Sir William Reid Dick, stands in the square, as does a later statue of Eisenhower and later one of Ronald Reagan.[1]

The former American Embassy of 1938–1960 on the square was purchased by the Canadian government and renamed Macdonald House, and was part of the Canadian High Commission in London until 2014, when all the functions of the Canadian High Commission were transferred to Canada House in Trafalgar Square.

In 1960, a new United States Embassy was built on the western side of Grosvenor Square. This was a large and architecturally significant modern design by Eero Saarinen but at the time it was a controversial insertion into a mainly Georgian and neo-Georgian district of London. In March and October 1968, there were large demonstrations in the square against US involvement in the Vietnam War. On both occasions, the protest became violent.[2] Since 2001, a series of anti-terrorist devices have been installed around the embassy, and the road running along the front of the embassy has been closed completely to traffic. In 2006, the Grosvenor Square Safety Group residents association took out advertisements in The Washington Post and The Times, accusing the Metropolitan Police and local government of a "moral failure" for not closing two other roads adjacent to the embassy.[3]

In 2008, the United States Government chose a site for a new embassy in the Nine Elms area of the London Borough of Wandsworth, south of the River Thames. Construction of the new Embassy of the United States in London is expected to begin in 2012 or 2013, with relocation completed by 2017. In October 2009, following a recommendation by English Heritage, the building was granted Grade II listed status.[4] The listing means that the new owners will not be allowed to change the facade, which includes the 35-foot-wingspread gilded-aluminium eagle that hovers above the main entrance. In November 2009, the Grosvenor Square property was purchased by the Qatari Diar investment group.[5]

Adlai Stevenson

On 14 July 1965, walking with Marietta Tree, then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson suffered a heart attack, later dying at St George's Hospital. His last words were reportedly "Do not walk quite so fast...and do hold your head up, Marietta."

Marietta Tree recounts: [After leaving the Embassy]

"We walked around the neighborhood a little bit and where his house had been where he had lived with his family at the end of the War, there was now an apartment house and he said that makes me feel so old. Indeed, the whole walk made him feel very not so much nostalgic but so much older. As we were walking along the street he said do not walk quite so fast and do hold your head up Marietta. I was burrowing ahead trying to get to the park as quickly as possible and then the next thing I knew, I turned around and I saw he'd gone white, gray really, and he fell and his hand brushed me as he fell and he hit the pavement with the most terrible crack and I thought he'd fractured his skull."

Oscar Wilde

The writer Oscar Wilde lived in Grosvenor Square between 1883 and 1884[6] and references to the square appear in four of his works (see section below).

9/11 memorial

In 2003, a memorial garden in Grosvenor Square was dedicated to 67 British victims of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.[7] A poem by Henry van Dyke was chosen for inscription on a memorial stone, underneath which is buried a piece of the steel wreckage.

Diplomatic property sell-off

The former US Navy building, 20 Grosvenor Square, was sold in 2007 to Richard Caring for £250m, who planned to turn it into 41 residential apartments. The Abu Dhabi Investment Corporation and property developer Finchatton then bought the building for the same amount (£250m) in April 2013, with planning permission to convert the building into 31 luxury apartments.[8]

In September 2013, Canada announced its intention to sell its High Commission building at One Grosvenor Square and "consolidate its diplomatic activity in the UK in a single, central location in Canada House on Trafalgar Square".[9]

Notable buildings

See also


  1. Video: Britain's Roosevelt Memorial at Grosvenor Square, 1946/11/28 (1946). Universal Newsreel. 1943. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  2. "On This Day – 17 March – 1968: Anti-Vietnam demo turns violent". BBC News. 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2015.
  3. "Embassy neighbours 'sacrificed'". BBC News. 27 July 2006. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  4. "United States of America Embassy, Grosvenor Square". English Heritage. 22 October 2009. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  5. "Qatar buys the American Embassy in London". The Daily Telegraph. 3 November 2009. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  6. Wilde, Oscar; Bristow, Joseph (2005-01-01). The complete works of Oscar Wilde 3. 3. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. p. 419. ISBN 0198187726.
  7. Grosvenor Square Memorial Garden
  8. "Navy Deal Sealed: Finchatton and Abu Dhabi complete on £250m Grosvenor Square". 4 June 2013. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
  9. "Canada to sell One Grosvenor Square". 6 September 2013. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
  10. "The London Diplomatic List" (PDF). 14 December 2013.
  11. "The London Diplomatic List" (PDF). 14 December 2013.
  12. "The London Diplomatic List" (PDF). 14 December 2013.
  13. Wilde, Oscar; Bristow, Joseph (2005-01-01). The complete works of Oscar Wilde 3. 3. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. p. 419. ISBN 0198187726.

Coordinates: 51°30′41″N 0°09′05″W / 51.51139°N 0.15139°W / 51.51139; -0.15139

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/2/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.