Urban landscape — 02 June 2015
The Daimler Garage

Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building that you might have passed without noticing, in the past they have ranged from a modernist car park; a penguin pool; to a Hanoverian gatehouse.

This Art Deco building holds a certain resonance for the writer. When I first
became a London Cabbie this hugely restored building was an enclave of the taxi drivers.

Toilets, cafe, second-hand cab sales cab wash; you name it night and day you could find everything needed to work in London. Its use at the time was what it had always been – a garage.

As a further connection, when researching this iconic building I discovered it once was the London garage of Frames Tours, who I travelled with across Europe in the late Fifties.

The building has an impressive pedigree, designed by Wallis, Gilbert & Partners in the Streamline Moderne style or Miami Deco Style. The architect practice was better known for designing the Hoover Factory on Western Avenue, Victoria Coach Station, and the much lamented Firestone Tyre Factory demolished in an act of corporate vandalism.

The Daimler Garage in Herbrand Street is now the London offices of international advertising agency McCann Erikson.

Built in 1931-3 for the Daimler Hire who provided a luxury chauffeur-driven Daimler limousine hire service from Knightsbridge at £5 per week should the rich and famous not wish to own a car in London.

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On the right of the building is a ramp which cars would have driven up and been displayed in the glass-fronted showrooms on the first and second floors, while the basement was used as a car park, for privately owned cars, with a waiting-room, attendant’s office, lavatories and telephones. The ground floor would have been office space where another rising modern invention would have been prominent: telephones.

Each floor had an electrically operated pressure washing plant for the cars. The spiral vehicle ramp on the right, originally entered beneath the ‘McCann’ lettering, was one of the earliest of its type, and is probably the earliest survivor.

Grade II Listed more details can be found at Historic England. When new the building was not originally painted see picture 9 at BBC News: In pictures: Landscape or carscape?

Urban legend has it that the famous Fisher Price garage was modelled after the Daimler Hire garage. Unlikely but it’s a great story.

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