For almost a quarter of a century the Reading Rooms has been one of Dundee’s most innovative and forward thinking nightclubs.
But at the weekend the venue’s owners stunned the clubbing community throughout the city and beyond by announcing Saturday night was to be its final event before closing permanently.
For thousands of loyal regulars, the decision marks the end of an era and closes yet another chapter in the colourful story of one of Dundee’s most iconic buildings, which first opened as a nightclub back in 1997.
The building originally opened as St Roque’s Library in 1910 and was designed by Dundee city architect James Thomson – the man behind Caird Hall and City Square.
It was one of the city’s Carnegie Libraries of Scotland, developed by local authorities throughout the country with financial assistance by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who wanted to provide book lending libraries for local communities. Reports from the time state the library was built in an attempt to upgrade what was described as a “sordid district”.
It was widely felt by many Edwardians of the time that by improving a district you could improve the people who lived there – and that one way of doing that was by providing a library.
Thomson, who had been appointed city architect in 1904, designed all of Dundee’s Carnegie libraries with the exception of Arthurstone, which had been started by his predecessor William Alexander.
Thomson produced a design with a Mediterranean terrace and garden as an integral feature, with a fountain as well as a sundial among the trees and flowers.
St Roque’s Library was built on vacant ground at Blackscroft, and was owned by the town council. The site was laid out as a landscaped garden in the Italian style.
The library was used as a “reading room” and delivery station for the 100,000 books held by the Dundee Central Library at the Albert Memorial Institute.
The library was opened on December 9 1910 by a Mrs Urquhart of Dundee.
The building remained a library for many years and became known as Blackscroft Library.
But by the early 1980s it had been converted into a disco venue called Rick’s, beginning the building’s long association with the city’s night life.
In 1995 permission was granted to Tayside Taverns for change of use to a nightclub and by December 1997 conversion was complete.
However a year later it closed down. In May 2003 local planners reported that though in use the building was at risk and by March 2010 it was again being used as a nightclub though its deteriorating condition was still a cause for concern.
Maryfield councillor and city planning convener Lynne Short said the building had held a special place in the hearts of many Dundonians over a long period of time.
She said: “It was perhaps surprising that its change of use from a library to a nightclub was granted in the first place. Normally the council keeps these buildings very much a part of their stable.
“I would hope the future of this iconic Dundee building can be safeguarded and I am sure the council could work with the current owners to figure out what comes next.”