The Eyre family, local landowners, was always anxious to promote building and in 1794 a plan was drawn up on the model of Bath, with a crescent, circus, and square. The plan was never executed but from 1802 development on the Eyre estate was directed by John Shaw, a young architect inspired by the town-planning ideals of the late 18th century. In 1803-4 he exhibited views of a projected circus and in 1807 building began on the Marylebone portion.
In 1819 Col. Eyre began the first of several attempts to promote the construction of a public road through his estate, ultimately successful in the Finchley Road
Act of 1826. Finchley New Road and Avenue Road
, the southern part of which existed by 1824, thrust northward into the Hampstead portion of Eyre’s land and were built by 1829. The Swiss Cottage tavern was built at the apex of the two roads by 1841.
Building spread northward in the salient formed by the Finchley and Avenue roads. A building agreement was made in 1838. Several houses, called Regent’s Villas, stood in the Hampstead section of Avenue Road
by 1842. Between 1845 and 1852, 33 houses were built in Finchley Road
, 13 in the road parallel to it, St. John’s Wood Park, 16 in Avenue Road
, 28 in Boundary Road
, the east-west road joining them at the southern boundary, and 13 stuccoed terraces with iron balconies built by W. Wartnaby, in College Crescent
to the north.
The buildings included the school for the blind, built in 1848 at the southern junction of College Crescent
and Avenue Road
and enlarged in 1864, 1878, and 1912; of brick with stone dressings, it had an Italianate central block with two wings.
The North Star public house was opened at the northeast tip of the estate in 1850 and, enclosed by the curve of College Crescent
, the New College of Independent Dissenters, for training ministers, was opened in 1851 in a building designed in an early Tudor style by J. T. Emmett. He also designed the college’s Gothic chapel, opened soon afterwards to the south, at the junction of Avenue Road
and Adelaide Road
In 1871 F. J. Clark had suggested a new road direct to Hampstead and in 1872 Spencer Maryon Wilson was hoping to create a ’truly imposing road’. In 1875 he contracted with John Culverhouse, who since 1871 had been the tenant at will of the two main demesne farms, to make Fitzjohn’s Avenue
, from College Crescent
off Finchley Road
Road, and to plant ornamental trees.
Originally the street has three names along its length. From the North Star it was "College Villas Road". The following section was "College Terrace". Only the final section near to the Blind School was it "College Crescent
Samuel Palmer, of the biscuit firm, lived at no. 40 College Crescent
, a large house called Northcourt built in 1881.
New College and much of College Crescent
were pulled down in 1934 and replaced by Northways, two concrete blocks of flats and shops by London & City Real Estate. The whole of the Swiss Cottage site between Finchley Road
and Avenue Road
was redeveloped with the building in 1937 of the Odeon cinema and, after 1938, of Regency Lodge flats by R. Atkinson.