Edinburgh is a city bursting with grand buildings and monuments, many of which remain occupied or in use long after they were originally constructed. And many of these buildings were paid for by private finance - houses and banks which were funded by the wealthy figures who owned or operated them.
Other buildings - such as the National Monument on Calton Hill or the Scott Monument in Princes Street Gardens - were established by public subscription, and paid for by donations from the general public.
But there are also a tranche of buildings in Edinburgh which were created as philanthropic gifts from wealthy benefactors to the city - particularly from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Many of these survive as major landmarks in Edinburgh today, and show how important such philanthropy was for the general betterment of the city across the centuries.
Here's a selection of Edinburgh buildings established by wealthy patrons.
EDINBURGH CENTRAL LIBRARY
Possibly one of the greatest philanthropists ever to come out of Scotland - and a notable corollary to the stereotype of the Scots as misers - was Andrew Carnegie.
Born in Dunfermline, just outside Edinburgh, Carnegie became the richest man in America (possibly the richest man in history, if the value of his fortune is adjusted for inflation) and spent an estimated $70,000,000 establishing over 2,500 public libraries around the world - nearly 1,700 of them were in his adopted home of the United States of America.
In the 1880s, he offered Edinburgh £25,000 as seed funding to establish the city's first public library. (Subscription libraries, paid membership institutions, had existed since Allan Ramsay established the first circulating library in 1725, but Carnegie's libraries were to be free access to all.) The city initially turned down Carnegie's offer, and he was moved to double it.
Edinburgh Central Library opened in 1890, making it the last city in Scotland to offer a public library service. Today the building remains actively used as a library, on George IV Bridge in the Old Town.
Edinburgh's largest purpose-built concert hall opened in 1914, with £100,000 donated by Andrew Usher, a brewer and distiller in the city.
There had been discussion about the possible site of the Usher Hall, with some early suggestions that it should be constructed at the western end of the the Meadows public park, which had been the site of a huge exhibition in the 1880s. This suggestion was vetoed on the grounds that the Meadows had been set aside as public parkland, and so a site on Lothian Road was identified, where a school had been demolished. Construction began in 1910, twelve years after Usher's death.
The Usher Hall remains actively used for concerts, university graduations and other large events throughout the year.
Andrew Usher's hall had been established shortly after his commercial brewing rival, William McEwan, had given money to the University of Edinburgh to build a hall in his name, as a way of countering some of the public feeling that brewers were responsible for many of the social ills of the period.
McEwan had given the university £113,000 to build a hall on Bristo Square, which continues to operate as the university's graduation hall. The interior of the building is exceptionally grand, with the domed ceiling of the space decorated with mosaics representing allegorical figures of the kind of academic subjects studied by the students.
The McEwan Hall opened in 1897.
MODERN ONE AND MODERN TWO
A short walk from the West End of the New Town are the city's two modern art galleries - named, not very imaginatively, Modern One and Modern Two. Both were originally built to service the needs of disadvantaged children in Edinburgh, with benefactors who left money acquired through private business.
Modern One was formally John Watson's Institution, created with money left by a lawyer and Writer to the Signet (a Scottish society of solicitors) John Watson in 1762. The building was designed by William Burn, and served as an educational facility for disadvantaged children, surviving up until 1975 when the school was closed and the John Watson's Trust was created. The trust continues to award financial support to local families who need help covering costs of educating their children.
Modern Two had an even stronger philanthropic purpose originally. In 1727 an Edinburgh merchant named Andrew Gairdner helped to found a institution to support orphans in the city - at one time having around 200 children under its care.
In the 1820s the Orphan Hospital needed to be relocated, and found a home on the land at Belford, where the grand building which would house it was designed by Thomas Hamilton - the intention was to create a structure which didn't resemble the typical workhouses or similar institutions, the better to improve the experience of the children housed within it.
The Dean Orphanage, as it became, opened in the 1830s and was built with sandstone from the nearby Craigleith quarry, and features a clock from the original city gateway on the Royal Mile. In the 1990s the children's home closed, and in 1999 the building became the Dean Gallery, part of the National Galleries of Scotland.
SCOTTISH NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY
Another of the National Galleries' buildings was also established as a philanthropic venture - except this one was purpose-built as a gallery space.
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street was funded with around £70,000 of money from John Ritchie Findlay, the owner of the Scotsman newspaper, in the 1880s. Although he ended up covering the whole cost of the gallery, he withheld his name from the project until after it was completed. The building was the world's first gallery space to be constructed as a portrait gallery - today it charts the history of Scotland through the people who shaped the nation.
Ritchie was no stranger to philanthropic developments, and was responsible for several other projects in the city for the general betterment of Edinburgh's residents.
GEORGE HERIOT'S SCHOOL
Several of Edinburgh's private school institutions were established as charitable organisations, and probably the best known is George Heriot's School.
Heriot was a jeweller and goldsmith in the city, nicknamed 'Jinglin' Geordie' because of the sound of coins and jewels rattling in his pockets as he walked though the city! He became the official jeweller to James VI of Scotland, and on his death in 1624 his estate was divided up to established charitable trusts across Scotland.
Edinburgh was gifted nearly £25,000 - a fortune for the time - to build a hospital in Heriot's name. The hospital later became a school for disadvantaged children, and today is one of the most prestigious private schools in the country...
ST MARY'S EPISCOPAL CATHEDRAL
Another West End landmark, the three tall towers of St Mary's Cathedral dominate the skyline at this edge of the New Town. The building was established in 1874 and was designed by George Gilbert Scott.
It was built on land left to the church by two sisters named Barbara and Mary Walker, with money to construct a cathedral building dedicated to St Mary. The two slightly shorter towers were completed in 1917 and are nicknamed Barbara and Mary, after the sisters themselves.
One of my favourite guidebooks of the city describes St Mary's Cathedral as being "Worth seeing, but not worth going to see"...!
So there is a grand tradition of philanthropic gifting in Edinburgh, and many of the city's landmarks exist thanks to the generosity, vision and wealth of past residents who were generous enough to contribute such important institutions to the city they called home.
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