28 January 2013

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Demise Of The Firestone Building

The iconic Firestone building in London was demolished thanks to a bureaucratic blunder in 1980. Read here all about one of the biggest planning blunders ever..


The Great West Road in London was once referred to as the Golden Mile. The road was lined by factories built in the 1920’s and 1930’s and many were beautiful examples of Art Deco architecture. American companies dominated the area and had chosen to build there as the buildings fronted a main artery into London from the West and so afforded great visibility and an opportunity to advertise their brands. One of the iconic factories along the route was the elegant Firestone Building owned by the American Tyre manufacturing giant.


The Company
The Firestone Tyre and Rubber Company was established in 1900 in Akron, Ohio By Harvey Firestone to supply tyres for horse drawn carriages and then became the official supplier to the Ford Motor Company when they began producing the Model T Car. Over the years the company diversified and supplied artillery shells to the Government during World War II and then in 1980 moved into the roofing industry using its experience in rubber based polymers to produce EPDM membranes, modified bitumen and adhesives. This development was soon followed by the production of water proof membranes for ponds and reservoirs. Across the 20th century Firestone was one of the most recognisable and highly regarded brands in the world but by 1979 had run into financial trouble that resulted in a drastic restructuring which saw nine manufacturing plants closed including the London plant. The company was sold to Japanese giant Bridgestone in 1988.

The Factory
The Firestone Building was a striking Art Deco edifice designed by Wallis, Gilbert and Partners and built in just 18 weeks. These architects were renowned for their beautiful industrial buildings and were also responsible for the famous Hoover Building on the Western Avenue, The Beecham Building in Brentford and Victoria Coach Station. The Firestone factory was set back from the road and was fronted by extensive lawns and had the company’s sports grounds to the West. The architects themselves saw the buildings as temporary structures and purely functional but their buildings were a greatly appreciated feature of the landscape and became a fundamental part of the history of the areas they occupied.

Demise
When the Firestone factory closed the building was purchased by the Trafalgar House Company in August 1980. In the same week an inspector from the Department of the Environment had visited the building and decided to engage the emergency procedure of spot listing the structure to protect it from any demolition plans. Sadly no official was available to sign the papers and over the weekend Trafalgar House proceeded to demolish the main features of the frontage, namely the ceramic tiles, white pillars, lamps and the pediment above the entrance. It was a sad day for West London and the local people felt bitter about the destruction of the most attractive building in the area. Conservationists bemoaned the fact that the haste of the demolition had prevented any salvage of significant features from the site. 
Happily the same fate did not befall the Hoover Building which was listed and remains standing to this day.

Arguments
In the aftermath of the destruction the local council and the Department of the Environment blamed each other for failing to save the structure, both feeling that the other should have used emergency measures to save the factory. Whatever the truth was about who was to blame London lost one of its most iconic buildings over that bank holiday weekend.

Today
Today Firestone is one of the largest and most advanced suppliers of roofing products and adhesives, however there's no doubt that the companies heyday still rests with those iconic art deco buildings dotted around the globe...

Featured image:
 
License: Creative Commons image source 

About today's Guest Writer:
Sally Stacey is a blogger, and business owner who remembers the iconic Firestone building well. Find out more about Sally on her Google+  page.