8 structures from the London that never was – 7. Selfridges’ Tower…

January 21, 2015

Selfridges’ flagship Oxford Street store has been an institution for more than a century.

Selfridges_nameboardCredited as being the second biggest store in the UK, the now Grade II-listed neo-Classical premises was opened in 1909. It was designed by US architect Daniel Burnham and features five above ground stories, three basement levels and a roof terrace (a western extension, designed by Sir John Burnet, was added between 1924-29).

Less known is that there was at one stage a proposal to build a massive 450 foot high tower on top of the building. Selfridges’ founder, Harry Gordon Selfridge, backed the plan for the tower – drawn up in 1918 – and apparently spent years lobbying for permission to build it before, eventually successful in those efforts, he commissioned architect Philip Armstrong Tilden and Burnet to draw up plans (you can see some of the designs on the Royal Institute of British Architects’ website here and here and a picture of a plaster model here).

Selfridge apparently didn’t like any of the plans, however, and eventually dropped the idea, his attention instead coming to focus on building the “largest castle in the world” in Dorset (another plan which didn’t go ahead).

The tower was among a number of proposed London buildings that were never built which featured in a gingerbread display in Selfridges’ famous windows in 2013.

PICTURE: Anuradha Dullewe Wijeyeratne

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