Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see 'About Listed Buildings' below for more information. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site


Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Group Category Details
Date Added
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NJ 94383 6305
394383, 806305


Archibald Simpson, 1819-1822. 4-storey and attic, 11 x 5 bay, impressive classical former reading room and tenement building with shops with round-arched openings to ground, altered following a fire in 1973. Prominently positioned at crossroads with distinctive ionic columns to former reading room rising through 1st and 2nd floors of 5-bay section. Smooth granite ashlar. Base course, band course, cill course to 3rd storey. Blocking course. Rounded corner with bowed glazing to NW.

To E: symmetrical elevation with slightly advanced central 3-bay section with central timber door and with 4 tall Ionic columns with attic above, separating 3 large windows. Decorated wallhead panel above. To N, slightly advanced central 5-bay section with swagged wallhead panel.

Multi-pane round-arched timber windows to ground with fanlight glazing pattern. Predominantly 12-pane timber sash and case windows to upper floors. Some plate glass to shop fronts. No 17, former tobacconists, with round-arched timber mouldings. Grey slate. Mansard roof.

INTERIOR: comprehensively altered (2006), see Notes.

Statement of Special Interest

One of the early classical buildings to be built on Union Street this large and impressive building was designed by the renowned local architect Archibald Simpson and is situated at a particularly important junction in the city. Its Ionic columned elevation provides a dominant terminating vista to the West of the Castlegate. The grand Ionic columns on the East elevation originally indicated the position of the former library. The simple classical style is typical of granite buildings of this period before sophisticated cutting techniques were developed. Planned as the major thoroughfare in an increasingly wealthy and confident city, Union Street was a bold and confident project which required major engineering to complete.

The 3-bay section to the West (nos 17-21) was the first to be built in 1819, followed by the rest in 1822.

Originally called Union Buildings, and then The Athenaeum, the Eastern section of the building was known for its large and sumptuously decorated Reading Room, positioned behind the Ionic columns. Converted into 'Jimmy Hay's' restaurant in 1888, it remained as such until a fire gutted the building in 1973. The building was restored in 1979-80.

Union Street developed after 1794, when a town council meeting asked the engineer Charles Abercrombie to find a way to connect the original steep, muddled Medieval streets of Aberdeen to the surrounding countryside. His plan was for two streets, one of which would run from Castlegate to the Denburn and the other which would run from the Castlegate to the North of the town. The former became Union Street. This was a particularly difficult project to complete as the street had to cut through St Katherine's Hill at the East end and be built on a series of arches culminating with a large bridge at the Denburn. The street was to be lined with classical buildings, but the initial idea of having a long, uniform classical design that each new house would have to conform to was abandoned, as it was realised that different purchasers would require some control over the design Some variety was therefore conceded to. This variety had, however, to conform to the 'uniformity and regularity of the street' and that between each crossroads, the houses had to be the same height, the same number of storeys (4) and have the same pitch of roof.

Archibald Simpson (1790-1847), along with John Smith, was one of the major architects involved in designing the expanding nineteenth century city of Aberdeen. A native of Aberdeen, he practised predominately with the North East of Scotland. He designed many of the important works in the city including St Andrews Cathedral, The Music Hall and 29 King Street (see separate listings).

Part of B Group with Nos 5-53, 67-89, 95-139, 143-153 (odd nos) Union Street, Nos 26-42, 46-62, 78-106, 114-144 (even nos) Union Street and St Nicholas Churchyard.

Previous list description used references: Chapman and Riley p 148. G.M.Fraser, Archibald Simpson and his Times. Elevation dated 26th January 1822 and plan for E. part of building (undated). Aberdeen Public Library.

Category changed from A to B, 2007.



John Wood, Plan of the Cities of Aberdeen 1828, NLS. 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map 1866-69. W A Brogden, Aberdeen, An Illustrated Architectural Guide 1998 p91. Ranald MacInnes, The Aberdeen Guide, 2000 p42. Diane Morgan, Lost Aberdeen 2004 p166. Cuthbert Graham, Archibald Simpson 1990.

About Listed Buildings

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Listing is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for buildings of special architectural or historic interest as set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings which are found to be of special architectural or historic interest using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Listed building records provide an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building which has been identified by its statutory address. The description and additional information provided are supplementary and have no legal weight.

These records are not definitive historical accounts or a complete description of the building(s). If part of a building is not described it does not mean it is not listed. The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site which is known as the statutory address. Other than the name or address of a listed building, further details are provided for information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland does not accept any liability for any loss or damage suffered as a consequence of inaccuracies in the information provided. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing. Even if a number or name is missing from a listing address it will still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing also applies to buildings or structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage (or land) of the listed building as long as they were erected before 1 July 1948.

While Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating listed buildings, the planning authority is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing, including what is listed through curtilage. However, for listed buildings designated or for listings amended from 1 October 2015, legal exclusions to the listing may apply.

If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the 1997 Act. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect subsequent legislation.

Listed building consent is required for changes to a listed building which affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest. The relevant planning authority is the point of contact for applications for listed building consent.

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