The Prime Minister's House Is A Memorial To Pollution
Britain's prime minister lives at 10 Downing Street in London. The building's famously black, much like America's White House is famously white. The White House's color goes back to the whitewash used to protect the exterior all the way back in the 18th century, while 10 Downing Street's color goes back to filthy London's air pollution.
The building's older than the Industrial Revolution, though, and originally, it was yellow. It was built in the 1680s (no one's sure exactly which year; people weren't too good at keeping records back then), and incorporated a mansion that was another 150 years older still. In the 1700s, politicians started living there, and it became the prime minister's residence from the start of the 20th century.
During World War II, it took on damage, with bombs falling practically next door. So it was time for a renovation, or even a total rebuilding. Just deciding to get around to the job took decades, which seemed appropriate for a place so old that houses people who are so slow. To start with, they estimated the project would cost £400,000. It ended up costing almost 10 times that, and it might have been cheaper to knock the place down and start from scratch.
Part of the renovation included getting a close look at the brickwork for the first time in centuries. The building had been black for as long as anyone could remember and in all the old illustrations we had of it. But now, they discovered the bricks were really yellow, beneath a thick layer of muck from hundreds of years of British smog.
They cleaned the bricks so they appeared yellow once again. But then they painted right over the yellow again, because everyone was used to the black. London's no longer quite so disgusting as it once was, but 10 Downing Street will always remind people how the city used to be.
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Top image: Tom Robinson