Virginia Street and ‘The Virginia Mansion’, which was situated on the site of the modern-day Corinthian in Ingram Street, were a testament to the wealth and influence of successive generations of the same Glasgow merchant family. Andrew Buchanan (1690- 1759) and his two younger brothers had, by 1730, established a firm, Andrew Buchanan, Bros & Co, which was the largest tobacco importer in Glasgow. Both the tobacco trade and the West Indian sugar trade, in which the family also had interests depended on slave labour.
Andrew, appointed Lord Provost twice in 1740-42, was one of the consortium of merchants which founded the Ship Bank, Glasgow’s first bank, in 1750. He began to lay out a new street called Virginia Street in 1753, although he died before his son, George Buchanan of Mount Vernon (1728-62), built the opulent mansion. Buchanan Street, laid out in 1780, was named in 1756 after Andrew Buchanan (1725-83), another of his sons.
The mansion was sold in 1770 to another tobacco merchant connected with the same family. Alexander Speirs of Elderslie (1714-1782), sometimes called ‘the mercantile god of Glasgow’, married Mary Buchanan in 1755. Speirs began his career in Virginia as a plantation owner and returned to Glasgow in the 1750s, already a rich man. Another Tobacco Lord, he was involved in the West Indian sugar trade, banking, printing and the iron industry. Unlike many in the Buchanan family, he died with his fortune still intact.