February 26, 2015
Athens of the North
Adam Smith, David Hume, Sean Connery, J.K. Rowling and Alexander Graham Bell are but a few of the world-shaping figures who have called Edinburgh home. The breadth and depth of talent produced by this small city in Scotland undeniably owes something to its unique character.
Going back to Neolithic times people have lived on the crag that dominates Edinburgh, the crag that is now itself dominated by the castle. Until the early 19th Century a small loch on the north side of the crag prevented the city's further expansion, meaning things became very cramped within the city walls. People from every social class mingled in gigantic tenemtents that may have towered fifteen stories. Sometimes these are called the world's first skyscrapers. This close mingling of the orders promoted an egalitarian spirit that caused men and women to fearlessly probe difficult social questions, while the challenging geography necessitated an ingenuity in engineering beyond that of other cities.
Grassmarket in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle.
An engraving by John Clark looking towards the Old Town from Princes Street. Obviously a lot has changed in the last 201 years. At the time of the engraving Nor Loch had only been partially drained, though the Northern Bridge had been built. Today this is where Waverely Station sits.
Another view of the Old Town from posh Princes Street. The tall solidly built structure on the right is the City Hall Chambers.
Looking down George Street we see St. Andrew's Church, completed in 1784. The column in the distance is the Grand Melville Monument built in honour of Henry Dundas, the Viscount Melville. He was often called 'the uncrowned King of Scotland' for all the power he had amassed during his stint in government. It's no surprise then that his statue looks down upon George Street, which was named for his sovereign, George III. The column hasn't moved, by the way, I just got the perspective slightly off.
A cabinetmaker and undertaker's business on Chambers Street. Shortly after this photo was taken all the buildings in this area were demolished and redeveloped into what would become the National Museum of Scotland.
A view of Scott Monument and Princes Street at a much less busy time.