Kenneth Baxter from the University Archive Services tells us about the history of Park Place.
Today Park Place is surrounded by University buildings, but it was once a very different street. We are often asked why it is Park Place given that there is no park near it. The answer can be seen in Crawford’s 1793 plan which shows that the street was to run along the western edge of the parklands or gardens belonging to the old Hospital, which was located roughly on the site of the DCA.
The street was laid out in 1818, running north from the Nethergate between the 18th century Samule Bell designed home of merchant John Jobson and Whiteleys (on its west side, later the home of University College) and originally its east side consisted of substantial villas designed by David Neave which were some of the finest of their type in Dundee. Some more houses were later added further up the western side and the street expanded northwards. While the street had originally attracted the elite, the development of a sugar refinery and working-class tenements to the north stunted further development and some of the villas gained new purposes including as the Caird Nurses Home and a boy’s home run by the Dundee Industrial Schools Society.
Ultimately education was the future of the street. In 1882 Whiteleys and its grounds were purchased for University College which opened the next year. On the other side of the street two villas were knocked down to make way for Harris Academy which opened in 1885. It was the first secondary school in Dundee to be built and run by Dundee School Board, and its opening represented the start of modern secondary education in the city. Over capacity from its opening, it was quickly realised to be too small for its purposes, but it was not until 1931 that it moved to larger premises on the Perth Road. It was then refitted as St John’s Roman Catholic School.
The five villas to the north of Harris Academy , including the Nurses and Boys Homes and the residence of Professor J E A Steggall, were purchased for demolition in 1911 to make way for the new Dundee Training College. Its frontage was to be 123 yards long and a “Practising School” – which would soon become known as the Demonstration School – was to be connected to the College by a connecting covered bridge. The College was designed to house 600 students, with the adjoining school being intended to be suitable for housing up to 400 children. The Great War delayed progress, but the building was complete enough to be used from 1920. The formal opening came in 1921, but even then some parts of the building were still being finished.
On the other side of the street in 1914 Dundee Dental Hospital opened in the upper flat 6 Park Place in 1914. In 1917, the Rettie Family gave 2 Park Place as Dental Hospital in memory of William Philp Rettie who had been killed in Great War. The Dental School formally opened the next year Over time the School and Hospital have expanded to take over most of the Street. The Training College, by then Dundee College of Education, moved out of Park Place in the 1970s and it and the Demonstration School were taken over by the University of Dundee. The old Demonstration School became home to the University’s early computing services while the College, renamed the Scrymgeour Building, allowed Law to move onto the campus and out of Bonar House in Bell Street. A new Demonstration School had been built to the north of the original and was later renamed Park Place, eventually closing and being demolished a few years ago.
In the 1970s the University built Bonar Hall on the site of St Johns (the school having long moved out) and John Jobson’s home, completing the transformation of Park Place into a key part of the campus.
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