Adam Street, WC2N

Place name

Robert (July 3, 1728 – March 3, 1792) and John Adam (March 5, 1721 – June 25, 1792) were the ambitious – possibly over ambitious – Scottish architects who developed the area between Strand down to what was then called York House Water (now Victoria Embankment). Their Adelphi project (Adelphi means brothers in Greek), built nearby between 1768 – 1742, was London’s first neoclassical building. The pair had taken out a 99 year lease from the Duke of St Albans. Robert, the more gifted of the brothers, took his principal inspiration for this new development from the ruined palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian at Spalato (modern-day Split, in Croatia). The pair had envisaged a mix of several sizes and classes of homes arranged in a grid of streets, along with shops, coffee houses, a tavern, hotel, Coutts’ bank, and a new Adam-designed headquarters for the Royal Society of Arts on John Adam Street – all underpinned by cavernous wharves and warehouses. But the warehouses flooded and such was the extent of the project that they had badly over-stretched themselves and were forced to sell-off some of the properties below their intended value. This credit crunch was compounded by the Scottish banking crash in the summer of 1772 which tipped them to the verge of ruin and they were forced to sell off the entire scheme via a lottery. The completed building was largely demolished in 1936. However Adam House (previously Alliance House), at 7 Adam Street, with honeysuckle plasters and lacy ironwork survives.

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