I’d somehow completely forgotten about this building, so it was a real pleasure to stumble upon it again in Chelsea the other day. Here’s a potted history from Wikipedia:
On 20 January 1911, Michelin House was officially opened. The building offered everything the motorist of the time required. Fitting bays at the front of the building allowed motorist to have their tyres speedily changed by Michelin fitters from the stock of over 30,000 stored in the basement. Tyres were brought up on a lift and rolled to the front of the building along the purposely sloped floor. To the left of the front recipient, a ‘Touring Office’ provided maps and writing implements for the keen motorist to plan his or her journey.
Within a year of opening, work started on an extension to the building to provide additional office space and included a second floor. The extension was built along the Lucan Place side of the building. A further extension was built in 1922, ten years after the first. Located where a garage had stood, it reached three floors.
In 1927, Michelin built a factory in Stoke-on-Trent using the firm of Peter Lind & Company of London. The factory started producing the first British made Michelin tyres and in 1930, the company moved their head office to Stoke-on-Trent. Michelin continued to use the basement and the ground floor of the building, but over two-thirds were left empty. Between 1933 and 1940, the upper storeys were let as a furniture warehouse, a workshop and offices for the Air Ministry.
In 1940, because of the risk of bombing, Michelin removed the three stained glass windows. They were carefully packed into wooden crates and sent to the Stoke-on-Trent factory for safe keeping. After the war, Michelin returned its headquarters to London. The reduced staff meant only the front original part of the building was occupied, while the rest of the building was leased. In 1950, a long term lease was signed by a new tenant which consisted of the space created in the 1912 and 1922 extensions. In 1952, an extension was added for the tenant. A steel frame construction, it extended part of the second floor and added a third floor along the Lucan Place side of the building.
In 1960, Michelin and their tenant began a modernisation programme for the interior of the building. The programme went along with the general taste of the time. Although the work concentrated on the interior of the building, the possibility of update the exterior of the building with a cement rendered facade was one option considered. The modernisation involved splitting up the open plan office and the heavy use of wood panelling.
On 15 April 1969 the original front section of the Michelin Building was given a Grade II listing. Despite this, outline planning permission was granted to demolish all but the listed part and build a ten storey office block. Michelin instead decided to spend the money on a new factory in North America.
I’m thankful for that, because it’s restored and still there. I think it might be my favourite building in London.