baird hall

PORTRAITS OF HALL MONITORS

I.

Mrs. Maryland is posted at door four every day.
I like her. We know each other’s names. She has
stubborn sprayed hair. Her head moves but her hair
stays put. She smiles in intervals. Depression comes
and goes for her. Her eyes sink into their sockets,
tiny gemstones coaxed by quicksand. Sometimes,
when nobody is looking, she lets me in without
my ID. She tells me, Honey, I get it. It conflicts
with the fashion. Green and gold don’t go with
nothin’. I been there.

She just became a grandma. Her daughter let
her pick the baby’s middle name. She told me
three times. Trenton, because New Jersey was
home, home, home before this. Believe it or
not, when she was a little girl, she didn’t think
she was going to grow up to be a hall monitor.
The way she says this sounds like an apology
to her younger self. I wanted to be a pilot, but
here I am. Sometimes, ya know, things just
never work out, even if ya did good in class.


II.

Janet wears a peace sign necklace and lets us
call her by her first name. Once, she caught my
best friends older sister (a wild goose chase
of a teenager) smoking a joint in the parking lot.
She could have screwed her over, but she didn’t.
Instead, she flashed a peace sign of her own,
went on her merry little Janet way, humming
Baby Love by The Supremes. Ooh, baby love.

She says she’s been here since the dinosaurs.
I could never have babies, so you kids are
my moons, my beautiful flower children.


III.


Her name is Nancy, but everyone at this school,
including most of the teachers, call her The Tank,
even to her face. Last year, she told me she was
leaving soon. I want to believe it was because
she was older, because retirement was waiting.
We all know that is not true. She left because
we were too mean. We spat at her when she
asked us to put on our ID’s. We pretended that
we didn’t hear her. We ran away from her in the
lunchroom. I thought they called her The Tank
because she blocked troublemakers like us in
the hallway, but yesterday, I discovered it was
because of her size.

When she got real thin, everybody joked
she was finally taking our advice. When most of her
hair fell out, lingering in wisps around her head like
cirrus clouds, when suddenly she wasn’t in her usual
chair outside the main entrance anymore,
we had nothing to say.

—  PORTRAITS OF HALL MONITORS by Blythe Baird
4

The Brilliant Beresford

I’ve briefly mentioned The Beresford Hotel before and it’ll come as no surprise to most of you that this example of Streamline Moderne is one of my favourite buildings in the city.

It was originally built a year before the outbreak of World War II (that’s 1938, history fans) to provide accommodation for visitors attending the Empire Exhibition in Bellahouston Park. Unusually its architect was also the owner and managing director of the hotel, something which I’m sure your boy from Grand Designs would be furious about.

During the war it became a favourite haunt of American servicemen but it went into steep decline after the war and was sold off to Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) in 1952 and was converted to offices.

It was sold again in 1964 to Strathclyde University who reconverted it into accommodation for their students and renamed it Baird Hall, both uses a far cry from the glamour of its original purpose.

The Beresford was converted again in 2003 to private apartments and, speaking as someone who used to live on Sauchiehall Street, they must be lovely and quiet at the weekends.

Image Sources (Row-by-row L-R):

[1] The Beresford Hotel shortly after opening in 1938. (Source: Glasgow City Archives)
[2] Renovated Beresford Hotel c. 2007. The unit on the right is now a Tesco. (Source: seapigeon/Flickr)
[3] The Beresford during its stint as the headquarters of ICI c. 1955 (Source: Partick Camera Club/RCAHMS)

[4] Sir James Campbell in caricature. (Source: The Glasgow Story)
[5] The Beresford shown on the left in this Miller & Lang postcard. (Source: Miller & Lang Postcard Archive)

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Week 34 – Baird Hall, c.1965

[Archives reference: OP 2/19/1]

In 1964, the newly formed University of Strathclyde acquired this striking, Art Deco-style building on Sauchiehall Street as its first major hall of residence. Originally known as the Beresford Hotel, it had been erected to provide luxury accommodation for visitors to the Glasgow Empire Exhibition of 1938. The designer and proprietor of the hotel, William Beresford Inglis, was an architect who specialised in designing cinemas: as well as incorporating the Art Deco theme of the Empire Exhibition, he modelled the hotel’s façade on the distinctive lines and the scarlet and black colours of contemporary cinema theatres. 

The Beresford Hotel was requisitioned during the Second World War, and, after another brief spell of operating as a hotel, was sold to Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) in 1952 as office accommodation for its Scottish Headquarters. Twelve years later, the University of Strathclyde purchased the building from ICI and set about converting it into a residence with study-bedrooms for 320 male students. The new facility was named after John Logie Baird, pioneer of television and former student of Strathclyde’s antecedent institution, the Royal Technical College. In recognition of this connection, Radio Rentals Ltd, which had acquired the Baird Company name in 1960 and whose manufacturing subsidiary was known as Baird Television, donated a modern Baird Televisor receiver to the residents of Baird Hall. The company also offered to erect two permanent display cabinets of Baird memorabilia in the foyer: one containing a replica of the original Baird Televisor, rigged up as a working model, and the other containing a selection of papers and notebooks that could be changed periodically. The University gratefully accepted this offer, and Baird Hall was formally opened by John Logie Baird’s widow, Mrs Margaret C. Baird, on 25 October 1965. To mark the occasion, the University presented Mrs Baird with an inscribed silver cigarette case.

Compared to life in student accommodation today, the occupants of Baird Hall had to endure a startling degree of formality – up until 1978, for example, they were obliged to wear a dinner jacket and tie to the dining room each evening. The hall remained a male-only residence until the 1980s, when the President of the Baird Hall Students’ Association successfully lobbied for the admission of female students, who were accommodated on the top floor. By 2002, however, it was recognised that Baird Hall no longer met the requirements of the majority of students as a hall of residence. The University was also seeking to consolidate its student residences within the campus boundaries as far as possible. Consequently, on 8 October 2002 the University Court resolved that Baird Hall should be sold, with all the students transferred to other residences by July 2003. The building – which has reverted to its former name of the Beresford – is now divided into 112 private apartments. It remains one of the most important examples of Art Deco architecture in Glasgow, and is category B listed.