Were You Aware Of It? (Glasgow Edition) #3
The Pavilions in the Park
Let’s kick things off by dispelling a Glaswegian urban myth. It is often claimed that the architect of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum was so distraught when he realised that he had inadvertently built the Spanish Baroque building the wrong way round that he threw himself from one of the partially built towers.
Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense.
However, it’s not usually explained why this is nonsense (which it is). Many of you will likely be aware that there has been several large exhibitions in Glasgow over the years and one of the largest was the Glasgow International Exhibition in 1901.
As you can see from the first picture of the set, the Kelvingrove Museum (known at the time as The Palace of Fine Arts) has its grand entrance facing into the park as that’s where the exhibition was centred. The second photograph permits a rare view of the building before the construction of the Kelvin Hall (where the Machinery Hall stood in 1901, connected to the Exhibition by a large ornate bridge).
It’s worth mentioning the sheer scale of the site which covered 73 acres in the park. The pavilions ran all the way up to the bridge at the North end of the park (just after “the hill”) incorporating everything from lighting and gas to a series of Russian pavilions paid for by the Tsar himself (to the tune of £30,000). This was in addition to many restaurants, tea rooms and even a giant water slide designed to keep people entertained during the Exhibition.
The Eastern Palace, the giant white building next to Kelvingrove sat on the site of the modern bowling greens and the golden angel statue which you can see on the top in a couple of the pictures was supposedly equipped with an electric torch which illuminated areas of the park by night.
I think the strangest thing about the exhibition for us, more than a century later is the idea that the park which we spend time in and wander around at weekends was once full of spectacular buildings which were only ever designed to be temporary. To walk around in Kelvingrove now, you wouldn’t think that anything had ever been there.
If you find this as mind-blowing as I do then you’ll like this set on Flickr which has loads of great ‘Then & Now’ photos of the Exhibition.