The White House Niddrie.

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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.

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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

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4 thoughts on “The White House Niddrie.

  1. Pingback: The White House Niddrie – Reposted from Unregarded Edinburgh Blog | Henry Robb's Shipyard

  2. Franz

    Wonderful, I love this style of architecture, even if the construction and original materials place it with that style of kamikaze buildings destined to self-destruct or (viz) needing millions to keep them upright. Should I ask acquisition as to why this building was preserved – my memory, if a little hazy, seems to recall a good number of Deco buildings in the Colinton area, all in good repair when I last visited. As to roadhouses- were they an English import? The brewers built loads of them down here in a sort of mass produced red brick merrie england style, complete with half timbers, wainscoting and electric grate in the inglenook fireplace. But did you remember that The Merlin was built as a roadhouse, presumably so that you could seek gentile refreshment in that former prohibition stare that ran from Tolcross to Morningside. Surely it merits an article of its own?

    Reply
    1. David Macadam Post author

      Thank you! As to why the White House was granted this reprieve from death was probably down to a combination of a requirement on the part of developers to contribute some tangible benefit to the community, and the wishes of the locals to preserve about the only building of merit left in the area.

      As to the Merlin? Now that would be the local Morningside pub famously said to be the watering hole of the doctors from the local mental Hospital – the patients having more sense and drinking at Bennets? Its not Art Deco, but as a type yes certainly worth a post of its own. Thank you for the thought.

      Reply

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