Mr. Beit’s House

I will take a wild stab in the dark and guess that you’ve never heard of Mr. Beit either.  I hadn’t until I was reading an essay by Max Beerbohm on the topic of what he would do were he the town planner of London.  A humourist, he is commenting on the fashion for improving London.  The essays were published in1899, so be mindful of the century; Queen Victoria is still on the throne.

“If, for instance, I had been Aedile in ’94, and the plans of Mr. Beit’s house in Park Lane had been duly submitted to me, I should have passed them readily.  I know that the house looks rather absurd, now that it is finished.  On dirait some little bungalow wafted by an evil magician from the shores of Bexhill-on-Sea.  But in its way it is interesting — who could ever have fancied that a millionaire would be so unassuming? And, in a hundred years, it may even look pretty.  Nor does it spoil the aspect of Park Lane, whose charm, indeed, depends on variety.”

Park Lane is, of course, famous for anyone who has suffered through a game of Monopoly.  Mr. Beit, it appears, was someone rather talented in the real-life version of the game, having made several fortunes in real estate and in gold and diamond mining in South Africa.  It occurred to me that I was curious what Mr Beit’s house looked like now.  Then it occurred to me that, as I lived in Mr. Beerbohm’s future, I could do quite a lot to find out from my location in Nova Scotia, by means of that wonderful invention, the internet.

I have discovered a few things: the original building was torn down and replaced, as so many of the great houses on the street were, by a collection of flats, one of which is for rent — 2500 pounds a week, unfurnished.  (It does appear to be some 2300 square feet in extent and has lovely views of Hyde Park.)  One is for sale, but you need to sign in to find out how much it costs; quite a lot, I should think.  Flats tend to go for around a million pounds on this road. 

Google Street View has a picture of a building covered in scaffolding, so I am stuck with the old photographs from the British History website (which also has a history of the housing development in the street, a very cool feature I shall have to make use of when I write some stories set in London’s past):

On consideration, I think Mr Beerbohm was right: after a hundred years, it does seem rather pretty.

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