How Pickfords helped the Eagle land on top of the US Embassy in London

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The US Government has had an embassy located in Grosvenor Square in London since 1938. However in the late 1950’s the US Government decided to build a brand embassy on the other side of the Square. Its modern design was in complete contrast to the Georgian buildings in the rest of the Square and became the focus of much discussion locally and in the press at the time. It would be over 4 years before it was completed.

The architect Eero Saarinen had original planned to have a large replica of the Great Seal of the US Government placed on the front of the building. However, this idea did not find favour with the US Government. Instead they founded it to be more fitting to have a sculpture of a North American Bald Eagle resting astride the top of the building.

The commission for the Eagle was given to the Polish Designer – Theodore Roszak. His final design (based on a pre-independence carved wooden eagle in a New England Museum) for the Eagle consisted of an aluminium frame, which was then gilded in gold. The sculpture was built in a foundry in Beacon N.Y. and transported to the UK in sections.

The erection and delivery of the Eagle was entrusted to Pickfords, who reassembled the various sections at Pickfords Stratford Heavy Haulage warehouse.

The dimensions of the Eagle once assembled are quite staggering. Fully assembled it had a wingspan of over 35 feet and was over 9ft high. Yet despite its size it only weighed 2 tons mainly due to the lightness of its aluminium framework. The cost of the sculpture in 1960 was £4000 – today that would be around £80,000.

The day of delivery arrived and the eagle was transported to the Embassy from the Pickfords warehouse in Stratford, in a BMC 5 ton articulated unit and trailer. It would be no easy task to lift and place the Eagle on top of and astride the building. It would take a whole day to safely secure the Eagle in place.

Over the years the Eagle has become one of London’s tourist attractions and even though the US Embassy has since relocated to the Nine Elms area of London, the Eagle remains retaining its watch over Grosvenor Square.

There’s another interesting fact that is worth noting about the move. When the US Government decided to move to the other side of Grosvenor Square, it approached the owner of the site - The Duke of Westminster to ask if they could buy the land instead of leasing the site as it had done with its existing building. The US Government normally buys outright the land on which its embassies worldwide are situated. It is said that the Duke’s representatives informed the US Government that it would be happy to do so if the US Government returned the duke’s ancestral lands in the US (The City of Miami), which were confiscated during the American War of Independence. Needless to say the US Government decided to lease the site!
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