ONE of Scotland’s most celebrated buildings is to receive a cash boost of £250,000 from Glasgow City Council.
The Willow Tea Rooms at 217 Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow have been closed since earlier this year while the historic building undergoes a £9m overhaul.
Opened in October 1903 to the precise Art Nouveau design specifications of the great Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the café is one of Glasgow key architectural assets, and was a tourist magnet for visitors from across the globe.
Originally designed for the entrepreneur Catherine Cranston, a leading figure in the development of ‘boutique’ tea rooms in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and a regular client of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s, the tea rooms proved to be immensely popular right from the very start.
In 1928 the fashionable tea rooms became part of Daly’s department store, remaining so until the early 1980s when The Willow Tea Rooms was reinstated as a separate business once more.
A report compiled by the city council determined that the building is currently in a “very poor state or repair” and that it continues to deteriorate, with significant water damage and dry rot present throughout the structure.
In June this year, it was announced that the Willow Tea Rooms would be moved permanently to the nearby Watt Brothers store, on the corner of Sauchiehall Street and Hope Street. The controversial relocation was deemed necessary in order to protect jobs while the 2-year restoration got under way.
The works are expected to cost up to £9m with more than £2m already spent. According to the council’s report, the Willow Tea Rooms Trust expects to gain funds from various sources, including around £4m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and £1m via a Scottish Government Regeneration Grant. It is hoped that an additional £2m will be raised from private philanthropists and other heritage trusts.
The Willow Tea Rooms Trust bought the premises at 217 Sauchiehall Street in 2014. As part of their long-term vision, the Trust plans to incorporate a Visitor Centre to “ensure that not only this building is celebrated, but other works of Mackintosh are included and enjoyed for generations to come”.