I have walked along Store Street and past South Crescent many times without questioning whether, as there is a South Crescent, is there also a corresponding North Crescent?
Yesterday that thought struck and I turned my back on South Crescent to look up the road opposite which is Alfred Place. I couldn’t tell from there what was at its far, northern end.
Half way along it, I realised there was indeed something in the distance that could well be crescent-shaped, but it was partially hidden by a stubby white building that sat in front. As I got closer I could see it had the words “The Eisenhower Centre” written on it. And I could also see that behind this was another round road with a street sign indicating that it was called North Crescent.
Looking at google maps you can see that, from above, this little network of streets is like an urban crop circle in the shape of a weightlifter’s barbell. Alfred Street is the bar and the two Crescents look like the weights.
A little research reveals that these streets are owned by the City of London Corporation and a portion of the rent is used to maintain the upkeep of the City Of London School. Records as to when the City of London obtained the land are vague before the seventeenth century but it might have been as much as two hundred and fifty years earlier in the 1440’s.
The land was not built on until the present streets were laid out in the nineteenth century.
The large red brick building at the centre of South Crescent was originally a school and there were apartments and some houses in the development but these are gone now and nearly all of the buildings in Alfred Place and the Crescents are occupied by offices with a few shops.
Alfred Place is a wide pleasant street that remains quite quiet and untroubled by the hustle and bustle of nearby Tottenham Court Road.
The Eisenhower Centre is interesting as it was originally a deep level air raid shelter that burrowed under Goodge Street station. It was used by the US Army Signal Corp to plan D Day, although there is no evidence of a connection with – nor a visit from – General Eisenhower. Today it is more prosaically used as archival storage space and is not open to the public.
Minerva House on the North Crescent was built in 1912 by the Belgian Minerva Motor Company, to show its luxury cars. The company was traumatised by the Great Depression of the 1930’s and limped through the war before liquidating in the 1950’s. Now a media agency occupies the building.
Next door is the old Telephone Exchange, now converted to offices, most of which are occupied by modern media workers.
These streets may be relatively quiet but they hum to the sound of our world class media industry going about their trade.