Usherettes in gold braid and black Spanish hats; surroundings fit for the space age; the largest disco ball in Europe - the history of Glasgow's ABC venue is flecked with colourful details.

It was a circus, an ice skating rink, multiple luxury cinemas, a gig venue and a nightclub ... but now it sits in ruins, described by one of Glasgow's leading figures as a "blight" on the city centre.

Sauchiehall Street's ABC was collateral damage in the 2018 devastating Glasgow School of Art fire and, like the Mack, the building waits patiently for decisions to be made about its future.

But what of its past?

It opened in 1875 as the Diorama and three years later became the Glasgow Panorama where "pictorial representations" were shown with music and "noisy off-stage sound effects".

The Herald:

Panoramas were replaced with an ice rink in 1896 - Hubner's Real Ice Skating Palace - but Glaswegians were unconvinced by paying to skate indoors so to boost the take the owners gave the first commercial showing in Scotland of the Lumiere Cinematographe - thrillers like The Arrival of the Calais Express from Dover.

By 1902 the place was occupied by the Hippodrome - nightly cinematographe and variety shows - and Hengler's arrived in 1904.

While the crowds failed to be moved by skating, they were drawn in large numbers by the Hengler's Circus dramatic water spectacles.

Between 1904 and 1927 the Art Deco building housed Hengler's, a mixed-use affair of circus acts for much of the year and film screenings off-season.

Waldorf Palais de Dance took over the building as a dance house in the late 1920s but competition was fierce and the site then became home, in November 1929, to another picture house - the 2,359-seater Regal Cinema.

The building had been bought by John Maxwell, a Glasgow lawyer who had established Scottish Cinema and Variety Theatres Ltd in 1916, pioneer of the Associated British Cinemas, or ABC.

It was Mr Maxwell who commissioned the cinema architect James McNair to turn Hengler's into the Regal, a three-storey building with arched windows framing a portico clad in cream and black faience tiles and ornamented with neo-classical and art deco motifs.

The Herald:

This was a classy joint: the ushers and usherettes wore smart brown uniforms with gold braid, the women in Spanish hats, silk stockings and heels.

Every customer was escorted to their seat For later patrons, by the time the ABC became a gig venue and nightclub, the ABC2 was a smaller dance and music space but when it opened, in 1967, it was a 922-seat cinema.

The Evening Times newspaper said at the time it was "furnished to meet the high efficiency and comfort standards of the space age".

More impressively, the venue grew in 1979 to include a five-screen multiplex - a "quintuple"- with 2605 seats.

During the renovations, press reports said, builders continuously discovered features of the building's past used, such as the old stables and elephant traps from Hengler's Circus when they lifted the floor.

In 1999 the last of the five screens shut and the site remained empty until opening in June 2005 as the ABC music venue with the inaugural gig from Sum41.

For those who danced under what was Europe's largest spinning disco ball or who attended gigs in the C-listed venue, it is astonishing to think the night time fixture would have only 13 years of service before succumbing to fire.

It has lain derelict since 2018 with several plans mooted and dropped to refurbish the building.

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Donald MacLeod is a neighbour to the ABC; Mr MacLeod is the owner of The Garage nightclub just along the street and is a live music promoter who would put on bands in the venue.

"The ABC brought good bands," he said. "The club brought people into the area and a lot of bands.

"It helped create the vibrancy that was Sauchiehall Street, it would help flood the bars and that’s never been replaced.

"The loss of the Mackintosh building and the ABC really started the decline of Sauchiehall Street and it will take years to revitalise the economy.

"Far from it being a competitor it was a welcome boon to the area and is sadly missed."

Mr MacLeod remembers the date exactly, aided by the fact the second fire occurred on his birthday.

He was in Edinburgh, having dinner with his wife, and was well refreshed to the point that when he saw news of the fire on television he believed it to be old footage of the 2014 blaze.

Then reality struck.

He added: "It was a real double dunt, the second fire.

"There had been the first fire and then the Victoria’s nightclub fire, which closed both ends of Sauchiehall Street.

"Nobody could have foreseen the second fire, which had a more dramatic impact than the first. Garnethill was closed off, residents were getting moved out for months at a time.

"The loss of the ABC had such an impact and has led to long time doom and gloom.

"Far from being our rivals, I had a healthy respect for the place as they were doing 1000-capacity gigs that were too big for The Garage so I put a lot of bands on in there - Thin Lizzy, Black Star Riders.

"It made the Garage up our game and was part of a vibrant community of live music and dance. It is a great loss to everyone."

While the destruction of the world-renowned Mackintosh building was the main focus of concern, an argument has long been made that the ABC was felt more widely to be the greater loss.

The Mack was available for use to a select few while the ABC was an egalitarian centre for anyone who loved music and dance.

Liz Davidson had been appointed Project Director of the restoration of the Mackintosh following the first fire and went to see the owners of the ABC and their agents within 48 hours of the 2018 blaze.

"While our focus was our own building, the ABC was very much on our mind because it was so important to the people of Garnethill," she said.

"It was in a very soft spot in people's hearts.

"People would tell us that they met their other half there and students would go there - it was part of Glasgow's cultural life and a huge loss, "A lot of residents were as devastated, I think, by the loss of the ABC and what it meant to them as they were of the Mack, because to some people, the Mack didn't mean anything to them."

From its illustrious past, in January this year Stuart Patrick, Glasgow's Chamber of Commerce chief executive, said: "Sauchiehall Street has been identified as one of the biggest challenges we face, and the ABC is just one of the many current blights on this vital artery which highlight the scale of that challenge."

The "blight" currently looks set to be turned into student flats by the developer Vita Group but there is dismay from some quarters that plans show no intention to keep the building's famous Art Deco facade.

Plans state: “With extensive fire damage, retaining the building or its façade is not considered to be feasible due to the design, material condition, and strength validation challenges uncovered through a series of surveys and structural reports undertaken across the intervening period.”

In 1888 the building became one of the first in Glasgow to be fitted with electricity; eight years later it showed the city's first public film.

It has been the site of change and adaptation for around 150 years so it is, perhaps, time for the city to move on and welcome the site's new use, however much sadness that brings.

Read every story in the Glasgow School of Art Fires series here.