It was once one of the most splendid buildings of its day, created by a Glasgow tobacco lord to express his mounting wealth and growing position of power in the evolving city.
At Virginia Mansion in Ingram Street, vineries and peach houses embellished the smart stately home of William Buchanan, one of the original Merchant City inhabitants, known for his scarlet cloak and silver buckled shoes.
His family had made its wealth in the Virginian tobacco trade. Slavery was also part of the trade equation. On home turf, Buchanan and his fellow hard-nosed merchants were keen to promote their prosperity.
More than 250 years later and a new era of decadence is being formulated on the site of his old home, where the Corinthian restaurant and bar now sits.
The Grade 1 listed premises are undergoing a multi-million renovation as its owner, Glasgow-born club and bar impresario Stefan King seeks to create a new level of prestige destination venue in the city.
While the tobacco lords sealed Glasgow’s image overseas as a centre of international trade, Mr King’s G1 Group and his team of designers claim their venue will too make an impact beyond the UK when it reopens as the city’s newest casino, bar, club and restaurant venue.
“It won’t just be the best of the best in Scotland or the UK, we are talking about the best in Europe,” said Angus Lawrie, the G1 Group’s director of marketing.
If there was a building to reflect the so-called austerity era, Corinthian is not it. One room boasts 12 chandeliers and a mirrored ceiling with more than 1000 individually cast acanthus leaves studding one wall. Silver leather sofas and glass-top tables finish the look.
Over five storeys, 14 rooms will be used for eating, drinking and gambling. Several gaming areas will be scattered throughout the venue, but Corinthian does not want to be considered as just a casino.
Similarly, while eating and drinking will be central to the Corinthian experience, it will not just be a bar or restaurant.
According to the Corinthian team, it is hard to sum up what it will be – because there has been nothing quite like it before. “A chocolate box of entertainment,” a spokeswoman for the company offers.
Virginia Mansion was largely demolished in 1824, the site redeveloped as the Glasgow and Ship Bank, one of the city’s most richly decorated buildings. It was later to become the Union Bank of Scotland.
In an elaborate nod to the building’s former purpose, the head off an original Union Bank of Scotland bank note has been replicated on the floor of Corinthian in a mosaic of half-a-million marble pieces. In keeping with the hard cash theme that runs through the room, several heavy old safes line the wall.
Nichol Wheatley, who designed the mosaic, is one of four specialists working on the renovation, which has had input from Historic Scotland.
Mr Wheatley said: “What has been really heartening is seeing the investment in craftsmanship. Some of the work that is being done and the level that it is at, is just amazing.
There are not a lot of people out there investing in bricks and mortar in this way.
“I have just done the artwork for a large hotel chain and the attitude there is: how little can we make it for? With Corinthian, it is the other way round.”
Fittingly, Wheatley knew the building, which formerly also served as the Glasgow Sheriff Court and High Court building, in its previous life.
His father is retired judge Lord Wheatley and the last time the son visited the building before it became Corinthian was when he took lunch in the judges’ canteen on the top floor.