84 - 88 King Street, Hammersmith, London

Woolworth's Company Architect, Mr. B. C. Donaldson
Date Built
84-88 King Street
As you can see, this building on King Street in Hammersmith is in 2017 a mixed-use property.  It is home, on street level,  to an outlet of KFC and a Casino Gaming Shop.  The upper floors belong to a Best Western Hotel. 

However, this Art Deco building has a past.  In 1910, this site was home to the Hammersmith Cinematograph Theatre, a 490 seat venue owned and operated by Montague Pike, who had a fleet of cinemas across London.  Pike declared bankruptcy in 1915 and this cinema closed and was sold.  What happened next is best explained by Paul Seaton, the author of "woolworthsmuseum.co.uk" and 'A Sixpenny Romance, celebrating a century of value at Woolworths'.

"Woolworth opened at that location in King Street in 1914, days before the outbreak of the Great War in a rented property. It was the 41st to open in the country, and as such known internally as Store 41 Hammersmith. As one of the best performers and most loved stores in the Country, plans were laid in the early 1920s to systematically redevelop the site. The Real Estate team negotiated for the freehold and secretly bought up the neighbouring properties to achieve a much wider and deeper footprint. Once the land was secured, the Company Architect, Mr. B.C. Donaldson, set to work on an art-deco design to be finished in portland stone and marble, with art deco touches to create a more luxurious finish than on his other buildings. ....

....... The development must have been something to behold. The Board was determined not to allow any loss of trading during the development, so the new building was put up around the old one, with trade transferred into the new section midway through the project so that the old building could be pulled down and replaced before the Upper Floors, including a popular tea bar and restaurant, as well large stockrooms and comfortable staff accommodation could be added upstairs. The new premises were opened in stages through the 1930s, with neon signage added just before World War II as a response to a 'hated competitor, which I would be guess would be the British Home Stores branch which opened opposite at that time, run by a rival American consortium.

Weeks after the work was completed, the building was side-swiped by the Luftwaffe, causing minor damage to the facade but destroying the new fascia and breaking most of windows and damaged the polished brass window and door frames. These were hastily repaired/replaced to make the 'We're carrying on' picture, which had to be approved by the Censor before it was published in a special staff magazine for employees serving in H.M. Forces. It was among the first in the country to have a fascia without a reference to 'Nothing over Sixpence' or '3D and 6D stores', as the repairs came days after the chain was forced to drop its long-standing fixed prices by wartime inflation.

The branch continued to be profitable into the 1980s, but the exceptionally high value of its freehold made it an ideal candidate for asset-stripping when the business changed hands in 1982.

Mr Donaldson left the business in the 1950s. He had designed and overseen the building of more than 500 branches over a long career, including some very nice architecture in the prime locations (particularly in Church Street Liverpool, Kensington High Street, Listergate Nottingham (which is listed) and Hammersmith.  He had a huge influence on the British street-scape. A surprising number of his buildings have survived and been restored, despite most being mass-produced and built in under four weeks, exactly as you would expect from the retailer that once defined mass-produced goods at affordable prices."

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