Queen Street, number unknown, Edinburgh: unexecuted designs for a house for Dr Adam Ferguson, c1765-85, (5)
Dr Adam Ferguson (1723-1816), was born in Logierait, Perthshire, the son of a minister of the Church of Scotland. Following undergraduate studies at the University of St Andrews he went to Edinburgh University to study Divinity. Ferguson began his career as chaplain to the 42nd Regiment in 1744, but left the Presbyterian ministry in 1755 to become a scholar. With the exception of a two-year period working as tutor to the family of the Earl of Bute (1757-59), Ferguson worked at Edinburgh University, becoming acquainted with many of the leading figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, including Robert Adam. In 1759 he was made Professor of natural philosophy, and Professor of moral philosophy in 1764. His best known publications include Essay on Civil Society (1767) and A History of the Progress and Termination of the Roman Republic (1783). Ferguson retired from the university in 1785, and went to live in St Andrews.
It was presumably during his time working at Edinburgh University that the Adam brothers were commissioned to make designs for Ferguson's castle-style town house on Queen Street. The date of this design is not known, but the inclusion of relieving arches and tripartite windows suggest that it is not from the earliest years of their practice. This results in a probable date range of 1765-85. It was extremely rare for the Adam brothers to have designed a castle-style townhouse, and it was not executed.
Why Ferguson would have wanted or needed this house on Queen Street is not known. Queen Street is a terrace in the New Town, and according to the Buildings of Scotland, it comprises the longest sequence of eighteenth-century buildings in Edinburgh. Ferguson, however, lived at Sciennes Hill House, where his home, famously, became an important forum for the literati of the city.
Literature: A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, p. 207, and Index pp. 12, 70; J. Gifford, C. McWilliam, and D. Walker, The buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh, 1984, p. 317; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume II, pp. 158, 162