Edinburgh has a number of Art Deco joys scattered through the city like pearls in gravel. However Art Deco seems an unappreciated style left to languish in odd corners to thole threats of demolition.
Not so The White House, an Art Deco roadhouse destined to be the centrepiece of a restored and rejuvenated Craigmillar. Sitting in a parade of undistinguished shopping outlets on Niddrie Mains Road this “B” listed focus of our attention was built in 1936 by William Innes and was one of a number of roadhouses popular at the time.
It has elements of the great transatlantic ships of its day and the shipbuilding traditions of Leith. The lounge window is thought by some to be reminiscent of the card room on board the Queen Mary.
A roadhouse was a sort of cross between a hotel and a pub where as the name implies one might journey out in this new fangled motor thing, to take tea and scones. Few now survive, the Maybury at the Gyle, the Wheatsheaf at Saughton, and the Hillburn at Fairmilehead, being the others.
The White House’s glory days swiftly passed. It became a pub famous for its “happy go lucky“ clientele who might offer the unsuspecting stranger “an evening to remember” and whose staff were expected to “handle themselves well”.
It closed, and sat unloved and unregarded for decades, until now it has been refurbished by PARC Craigmillar at a cost it is said of around two million pounds. Its role though is still undefined. It doesn’t seem likely to become a public house again and today hosts a rather long lived temporary exhibition, and several rooms with poor acoustics rented on an occasional basis as overflow meeting rooms to the Council building opposite.
Copyright David Macadam 2012