In its heyday, the Ark produced a million meals a year for Edinburgh’s vulnerable and homeless
Adagio Edinburgh Royal Mile has been celebrating its wartime heritage by reflecting on memories, stories and photos of the former Old Sailor’s Ark on whose site it was built.
The aparthotel, which opened in December 2016, recently launched an appeal for locals to share their memories of the historic building, which once fed Edinburgh’s homeless, to help celebrate its legacy and the impact it had on the city.
In its heyday, the Ark, which was built in the 1930s, produced a million meals a year – turning out 600 an hour.
It was built on the instruction of Captain Charles Taylor, an old sailor, of the Merchant Navy whose dying wish was for the sum of money left in his will to be devoted to the welfare of the poor.
His instructions were for the money to be left to accumulate until it reached a ‘substantial’ amount – which it did in 1931. The £91,000 was then spent building the Ark on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile in 1936 for the sole purpose of providing cheap meals to the poor.
The Ark was built to house a restaurant and hospitality space to feed and shelter Edinburgh’s needy, with the ethos that the more people who used the facility, the less the meals would cost.
Adagio says this is, in some ways, replicated in its own pricing structure which promises that the longer you stay, the less you pay.
One report about the intention of the Ark said “if it makes it possible to live – and live well – on a shilling a day, then the gratitude of a great number of people who’d go hungry today will perpetuate the memory of an old sailor who could surely have wished no better memorial.”
Jose Gomez, General Manager at Adagio Edinburgh, said: “As a hospitality business, we were fascinated to look at the history of the Old Sailor’s Ark building and discover it was steeped in hospitality.
“In the Captain’s name, a million meals were served every year to families and those in need in the city. This was a tremendous achievement and one which resonates just as vibrantly today.
“We wanted to cherish and celebrate the legacy of this hospitality and are grateful to those who have taken the time to share their photos and memories of how the Old Sailor’s Ark impacted their lives and the city. We are honoured to share some of them with you today.”