Who would have thought being an architect was such a perilous occupation?

The Northern under construction. Note the Mackintosh-style typography used on the hoarding.  Picture: heritage.aviva.comCirca 1910. Picture: heritage.aviva.com90 St Vincent Street. toshiepix90 St Vincent Street. toshiepixDetail on front elevation. toshiepix

This magnificent building in St Vincent Street was the Glasgow HQ of the Northern Assurance Company.

It was designed by Scots architect John Archibald Campbell (1859-1909), who was a partner in John Burnet, Son & Campbell, having been invited by the great John Burnet and his son JJ Burnet.

The Northern Assurance Company was established in Aberdeen in 1836 as the North of Scotland Fire and Life Assurance Company. It was renamed the Northern Assurance Company in 1848. Its Glasgow office was at 84-94 St Vincent Street.

Now part of the Aviva insurance giant, the Northern had a run of extremely bad luck.

In the early part of the 20th century, the so-called 'curse of the Northern' was rumoured to affect architects who designed the company's buildings.

The architect appointed to design the company's London office died during building work and his replacement was seized by an illness from which he never recovered.

John Archibald Campbell (1859-1909), architect of St Vincent Street, also died during its construction, adding to the myth.

The architects of the company's buildings in Dublin, Manchester and Newcastle also died only a few years after the buildings were completed.

The company was also hit by a series of disasters worldwide.

They included:

  • The great fire of Yokohama, Japan, in 1866 cost the company £50,000 in claims, wiping out all but £5,000 of the previous 30 years' profit.
  • The San Francisco earthquake in 1906 cost the company $2,420,000, which included the payment of the largest single loss paid by any insurance company in the wake of the disaster.

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