Nota bene: If 10 1/2 hours were not enough, I went back to the drawing board and discovered the Cross Street Building after all, by locating an additional newspaper item. See that information further down in the discussion.
Buckle your seat belts, this one is a bumpy ride. If you have been to London or are from London, you may want to laugh out loud at me, or at least chuckle, but remember Louis L’Amour said,
The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast and you miss all you are traveling for.
So yes, after hours of sleuthing, driving the great 3D London Google map, and looking up newspaper archives and British history, I do know where this building is, and its current use today. That is the easy part, so I will get to that first.
No longer The Trafalgar Hotel, it is currently owned and operated as the Trafalgar St. James in the Curio Collection by Hilton Hotels. Although extensively renovated inside, it retains the historic facade. Now is where the history of that historic facade gets murky, depending on which source. Since most online news items do not cite sources, one cannot check for accuracy of the information, and we all know that just because it is online does not mean it is accurate. Some sources proclaim this to be the former home of the Cunard Shipping Company, however Historic England includes a photograph of a portion of Cockspur Street (the area that extends toward the rear on the far right side, with portions of the building barely visible) that identifies the Cunard Shipping Company as occupying a building further up the block. Other reviews of Cockspur Street in those archives indicate Cunard Steamship AKA Cunard Shipping was located in several different buildings on Cockspur, but I did not locate any showing it in this location. A check of the Google maps street view shows the old Norway House (visible in the historic photo at the link above) as currently the home of Thai Square Bar and Club at the end of this block. Cunard occupied the building now holding Garfunkel’s Restaurant, Dent in the shorter building between Cunard and the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, which was labeled as the Cockspur side of the historic photograph.
This ad and photograph appear to be the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company’s new 1927 building, known as America House—but they are NOT. The news items located it at Cross Street in Manchester. A Google drive of Cross Street Manchester section shows no building that looks like this one, nor buildings with any similarities in the event it was renovated. It does however, look exactly like the building now known as Trafalgar St. James on the corner of Spring Gardens and Cockspur. Charing Cross is near Trafalgar Square, but this building is in Westminster, not Manchester. The headquarters were formerly located at Albert Square, near Cross Street Manchester. And aye, there’s the rub in this story!
I found a newspaper item describing the new Manchester offices (pictured above),
…which occupy a commanding position in Cross Street…a fine seven-storey structure, which, by its height, its design, and its facing with Portland stone, will form a conspicuous addition to the leading buildings of the city. It was acquired by the company from the Manchester Corporation in 1914, when the Cross Street widening scheme required the removal of certain buildings. The site has a frontage to Cross Street of 105 feet and to South King Street of 40 feet. The main entrance…at the corner of these two thoroughfares. The elevations have been designed upon the lines adopted for the Royal Mail Company’s office in Cockspur Street, London. (Royal Mail House, Nov 1, 1927, the Guardian, p. 13)
The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company was established in 1839 in Liverpool, with a location in London. By 1921, the London location was identified on Cockspur Street, which would match with the historic London photograph, but had to have been in a different building if this was completed 1927. A 1926 photograph shows this building as “A view from Cockspur Street showing America House, the premises of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company at the junction with Spring Gardens.”
The only architectural information were vague descriptions of Italian influences with Art Deco flourishes. The 1927 Guardian item indicates the architects as Messrs. Grace and Farmer of London. As to any connection with Cunard Shipping Co., I find nothing in the newspaper archives to support that. After the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company suffered financial losses that wiped out their capital in 1933, the company moved toward liquidation, completed in 1934.
And now, London and Manchester both are laughing, as am I. Nonetheless…it is the trail I have been on for so long, and enjoyed it along the way to the end of the trail…or at the end of the trail for now.