America and Grosvenor Square

By: Elizabeth Hunt

Developed early in the 18th century by Sir Richard Grosvenor, Grosvenor Square has always been seen as a very picturesque location to visit. With a wonderfully grand garden square as its centrepiece, surrounded by big townhouses - some designed by neoclassical architect Robert Adam - it became a popular location for aristocracy.

Now, though, Grosvenor Square is primarily recognised as being the home of the United States Embassy. Its connection with America is one that dates back hundreds of years. The origins can be traced back to John Adams, the first vice president and the second president of the United States.

Whilst serving as an ambassador to the Court of St James's, Adams occupied a property on Grosvenor Square. Standing today, no. 9 Grosvenor Square is adorned by a gold plaque commemorating, what was, one of the country's most important political figures. On a trip to the Square, you could stop off and take a closer look at the plaque and the property itself.

In more recent history, Grosvenor Square was also the location of an American military headquarters during World War II. The headquarters was set-up by future American president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who, at the time, was in the role of Commander in Chief of the Allied Force, and later Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force.

As a result of Eisenhower's presence, a statue was erected in his honour. Unveiled back in 1989 by American ambassador Charles Price and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the bronze statue is a popular amongst tourists. Rather fittingly it stands opposite the former building of the American military headquarters he played a role in setting up.

Shortly after the end of World War II, a Franklin Roosevelt Memorial was created. Sculpted by Sir William Dick, the statue was funded entirely by the British public; they paid through the purchase of a memorial brochure produced just a year after he died - in 1945. Held in high esteem by the British public, the money was raised in just six days.

Unveiled back in 1948, the memorial can be seen today in Grosvenor Square.

The aforementioned American embassy has occupied two separate buildings during the past 70 years, in Grosvenor Square. The first is now occupied by the Canadian High Commission in London, and is now known as MacDonald House. The building currently occupied by the United States Embassy is positioned on Grosvenor Square's west side.

A spectacular building designed by renowned Finnish American architect, Eero Saarinen, the building is nothing short of spectacular. It was finished in 1960 - just a year before Saarinen died during a brain tumour operation.

Grosvenor Square is also the site of permanent memorial to those who died during the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Taking the form of a garden, opened on September 11 2003, the memorial is visited by people from all over the world looking to pay their respects.

Although the United States Embassy is set to move to Vauxhall, London, at some point in 2017, the American ties to Grosvenor Square will always be remembered.

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The American presence in Grosvenor Square has been significant over the past two hundred years or so. It's currently the home of the United States Embassy. This article looks at America's other ties to the square.

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